Friday, December 16, 2005
The Last Thread Of 2005
We're winding down the year here, then going on vacation. It's been a ride. It feels like this year has been historic. I really can't remember as tumultuous a year in over a decade. Not even last year.
In any case, barring something big--like we sign Frank Thomas or I actually get my act together and do a year-end best-of before January 1st--this will be the last thread of the year. It'll expand with more and more links and stuff. If it gets too big, I'll start topic headers. Anyway...
Best wishes for a peaceful 2006.
+ Mark Anthony Neal's Best of 2005.
+ Michaelangelo Matos's Pazz and Jop List of 2005.
+ Saha Frere-Jones's Best of 2006. Because 2005 is so last year.
+ Jordan Flaherty's latest piece: "Death, Abundance and New Orleans".
+ Clear Channel sells a news center's name to a bank. "'Now reporting from the Amcore Bank News Center, here's WIBA's Jennifer Miller.'" (Link courtesy Rock & Rap Confidential e-list.) I'm gonna start branding my own properties in 2006. Now sh-tting from my Amcore Bank Asshole...
+ Michael Krikorian on Raymond Washington, founder of the Crips.
+ Junichi's "Everything I Need To Know About Men and Women, I Learned From The Hit Songs of 2005.
+The FBI spied on Patsy Mink, and questioned her citizenship.
+ Ishmael Reed on Richard Pryor and "getting over".
+ A great NOLA music blog for anyone who isn't already convinced that New Orleans did it all, and anyone who believes it ought to continue to do it. Thank you, Steve Kiviat.
+ No Miggy for Manny, but Johnny is now Judas. Bosux fans sound off:
In what has become a sports rivalry of biblical proportions, do you find it ironic that Johnny Damon, aka Jesus, turned out to be, in fact, Judas? Can this rivalry between New York and Boston get any bigger? I know you can't bear to think of it but the only logical countermove by Red Sox management is to sign Clemens and instigate a brawl by having him bean Damon.
-- J. Wood, Natick, MA
Remember the SNL skit from the 90's labeled "Steroid Olympics" and that guy tries to dead lift 900lbs and as he jerks up, both arms rip clean off his shoulders and are still attached to the barbell on the floor and blood is spurting out everywhere from his shoulder sockets ... I hope Damon's arm comes flying off while he is trying to make a throw home and his hand and arm are still attached to the ball as it weekly (sic) lands in front of A-Rods foot and then A-Rod vomits and passes out and Joe Torre has to come out and give mouth to mouth to A-Rods bloated purple lips ... That would ease the pain of this trade
-- Mark Faselle, Dallas, TX
posted by Zentronix @ 11:10 AM
Sampling Junkies & Producers Take Note: Copyright Criminals Remix Contest!
Hey all you hip-hop producers/criminal sampling thieves/free culture frontline warriors/future Dangermouse industry pariahs, whatever you call yourself...
Ben Franzen and Kembrew McLeod are sponsoring a remix contest to go with their new movie, ,Copyright Criminals: This Is A Sampling Sport. I'll be one of the judges.
The idea is to make a 4-minute song from sound in the movie. Samples from the film include voiceovers from De La Soul, DJ Qbert, members of Public Enemy, Matmos, Coldcut, members of Negativland, and others. The best overall winner will be included prominently in the film and the top 11 other entries are to be included on a companion CD.
Press release is here. All the rules, relevant info, and access to the samples are here. Deadline is February 28, 2006.
Slice and dice!
posted by Zentronix @ 10:36 AM
Monday, December 12, 2005
Schwarzenegger: Tookie Must Die For George Jackson's Sins
In both cases, execution was the verdict.
The Terminator issued a statement today denying Stanley Tookie Williams request for clemency.
"It is impossible to separate Williams' claim of innocence from his claim of redemption," Schwarzenegger wrote in his statement. "Based on the cumulative weight of the evidence, there is no reason to second guess the jury's decision of guilt or raise significant doubts or serious reservatons about Williams' convictions and death sentence."
But he doesn't stop there. He goes on to rewrite the history of San Quentin in the late 60s and early 70s. And here's where he steps over the line.
I oppose the death penalty. But I have been an ambivalent supporter of clemency for Tookie Williams.
But in this statement, Schwarzenegger makes it clear that Williams is being executed for much more than the facts of the case. He is being taken for George Jackson's sins.
Rejecting Williams' efforts to end gang violence, Schwarzenegger practically blames Williams for it: "...(T)he continued pervasiveness of gang violence leads one to question the efficacy of Williams' message."
In the most telling paragraph, he notes that Williams dedicates his book to "Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronima Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and countless other men, women and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars."
He writes, "The mix of individuals on this list is curious. Most have violent pasts and some have been convicted of committing heinous murders, including the killing of law enforcement. But the inclusion of George Jackson on this list defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems."
Where did this come from?
It's an attempt to turn Williams' execution into an ideological attack on the broad-based movement to question the prison-industrial complex and push for more progressive approaches to rehabilitation.
Schwarzenegger won't just lose one on this decision.
Download Schwarzenegger's statement here.
Schwarzenegger was in such a rush to make an ideological point that he apparently didn't even try to get the facts of George Jackson's case correct. Here's the SF Chronicle:
"The governor's statement contained misstatements about Jackson, implying in a footnote that Jackson had been present and an accomplice during a 1970 court hearing when his brother stormed the courtroom with a machine gun and took hostages. Jackson was not at the hearing, and the administration later issued a correction.
And here is the original statement with the lying footnote on page 5.
posted by Zentronix @ 1:44 PM
Saturday, December 10, 2005
A Lot of Laughter In Heaven Tonight
"God made me funny."
December 1, 1940-December 10, 2005
Rest In Peace.
Richard Pryor :: Churches
Richard Pryor :: God Was A Junkie
Both from Supernigger, 1982
+ Mel Watkins in the New York Times.
+ Lynell George in the Los Angeles Times.
+ Greg Tate in the Village Voice, thanks to La Schmoove.
+ Margaret Cho in her blog, again thanks to La Schmoove.
+ Lee Ballinger from the October 2000 issue of Rock and Rap Confidential:
"You should not even get on stage and attempt to be funny," Chris Rock said recently, "unless you realize you're never going to be as funny as Richard Pryor."
Anyone who doubts the truth of that statement is referred to ...And It's Deep Too! The Complete Richard Pryor Warner Brothers Recordings (1968-1992), a nine-CD box set just out on Rhino. Especially on the three complete concerts included, Pryor is revealed as not just the funniest man who ever lived, but an actor, a mimic, and a student of American history with few peers as well.
All of this only partially explains why millions of people love Richard Pryor so much. The rest of the answer lies in Pryor's love of humanity, which he sends out both as explicit valentines and in the way he pokes savage fun at human foibles, always beginning with himself. If a guy as cool as Richard Pryor can be so fucked up and still love himself, that makes it possible for the rest of us to walk through that door with confidence, knowing that whatever private party our demons want to throw for us, Pryor will be there with us in spirit.
What gets lost in all the hoopla about Pryor's brilliant routines about sex and drugs is that he's also the most incisive political entertainer we've ever had. He started out as a Cosby clone, a regular guest on Ed Sullivan (thankfully, none of his early material is included on the boxed set) and was having considerable success until he decided that he was tired of being irrelevant in a world that was going up in flames.
Unlike today's phony "political" comedians like Bill Maher, Richard Pryor took sides. He was always with the poor against the rich. Above all, he hated the police, whom he saw as inherently vile and brutal. He could sum up complicated realities in a heartbeat: "The Japanese sent people to UCLA and UC Berkeley. There wouldn't have been no Pearl Harbor if they had sent people to the University of Alabama or the University of Mississippi."
Pryor's relentless spotlight on hypocrisy was presented as a challenge to be met, not just cynical poking in an open wound. On a disc of outtakes here, That African-American's Crazy: Good Shit From the Vaults, Pryor tells in hushed tones of a conversation with God, who has asked to see Emmitt Till. Pryor has to tell God that Till was lynched in 1957. God gasps, takes a step back, and murmurs, "But he was such a good young man."
"Well, then," God finally says, "I'd like to see my son. How's my kid doing?"
Whatever the subject, Richard Pryor told the truth. As he wrote in his autobiography, Pryor Convictions, "You start telling the truth to people and people are going to look at you like you was askin' to fuck their mama or somethin'. The truth is gonna be funny, but it's gonna scare the shit out of folks."
posted by Zentronix @ 5:07 PM
I'm Like A Shot Of B-12
Get me out of here!
The work continues, so the linkage continues... this will be an ongoing thread.
+ Miggy for Manny? I might have to start cheering for the Bosux.
+ Hip-hop journalist-turned-sports analyst Scoop Jackson waxes wise on R. Kelly's steppifyin' national anthem.
+ My man Paul called me about this story early this week. The surfing world has been rocked by the closure of Clark Foam, the biggest manufacturer of the blanks that are used to make surfboards. There's a huge run on boards developing, just at the moment big-surf season is starting. Owner Gordon Clark, who invented the polyurethane blank in the 1950s with Hobie Alter and transformed the sport, claims environmental regulations and workers' comp issues drove him out of business. Puzzled EPA officials say he's had a clean bill for over a year. Sounds like the O.C. cavemen right-wingers got to him.
UPDATE: OK. Sometimes complexity escapes me. So please read Ben Marcus of the LA Weekly on Grubby Clark's 7-page faxifesto and the environmental issues.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:12 AM
Friday, December 09, 2005
Gimme that shit!
Usually I'm too cool--naw, just straight too cold--for this kind of stuff. But hell, when your boy gets nominated for a Grammy, forget all that. You can't front. Even if he doesn't win, we'll pop some corks. Whoo hah!
posted by Zentronix @ 9:33 PM
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Chins To Reality '06
To Your Soul
While I'm consumed with launching a new book project, tracking A's trade rumors, and obsessing over the Meters, James Brown, hip-hop, the breakbeat, and the clavé for a longish, semi-smartish essay I'm working on, here's some other fun reading...
The list will grow the deeper all of the above gets:
+ The Source is homeless, and rappers are in danger with the new Bible of Hip-Hop blog. These bloggers are scarier than Benzino.
+ For something completely different, check Josh Clover on the genius of The Jaz and some guy he used to work with. They used to call themselves thuggita-the, the originators, word.
+ Our homie Jeff Yang--no relation!--breaks the story on the end of AZN TV. Here's his piece on the doomed Asian American themed network.
+ Juvie is like the opposite of PE. Remember how, early on, PE rapped about black nationalism and then put dark-lit pictures of their posse on the covers? Juvie always offers up progressive, subversive messages in his images (peep the videos for "Ha" and "Slow Motion" if you don't believe me) and then keeps it strictly gangsta in the music. I think that's why a lot of hip-hop progressives don't get him. How can you be political and gangsta if you're not Dead Prez? Ask David Banner. Topic for discussion: Folks have been talking about whether there's a generational rift within the hip-hop generation over this debate around rap images. But is there also a Northern, East Coast bias in the "anti-bling" movement, just as there was after NWA came out?
+ We killed rockists two years ago. But aren't you tired of highly intelligent critics acting dumber than they really are when they get the Billboard pop charts on Monday? We have new slogans for Oh-Sex: Down with relativism and post-relativism! Down with popists and post-popists! (Me loving "Laffy Taffy" doesn't count!) Anyway, here's Hua Hsu on Fergie's Heffalumps. An Awesomely Great essay (that will probably be excluded from the Da Capo Best of 2006 Music Writing--OK wait...we will not go back there) on a Horrifically Bad pop song. Great commentary from O-Dub and friends here. While you're there, check out O-dub's little bumper for the Great Day In Atlanta special coming up on MTV2.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:16 AM
Monday, December 05, 2005
Fight For Gulf Coast Survivors' Right of Return
Here's what you can do immediately...help get hurricane survivors to the meeting through the following efforts being organized by the People's Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition, KatrinaAction.org, and the Youth Media Council:
Shout Out for Hurricane Survivors’ Right to Return
Media Call-In Action
1. Mobilize hurricane survivors and those who care about racism and poverty in the south to participate in the Peoples Hurricane Fund December 9th National People’s Assembly in Jackson, Miss. and Dec. 10th March for Human Rights in New Orleans, LA.
2. Echo displaced survivors’ right to return and rebuild in targeted areas of the U.S.
Primary Audience: Hurricane survivors, poor people, people of color, and other affected groups in Atlanta, GA, Jackson and Biloxi Mississippi, Baton Rouge, LA, and Alabama.
Secondary Audience: Displaced hurricane survivors in Texas, Los Angles, and Chicago
Press List: 2-3 radio live call-in shows per target area (approx. 20), websites reaching folks in targeted areas.
We will reach people through email and websites in targeted areas who care about the right of Katrina survivors to return to and rebuild their home. We’ll ask them to make 1 shout out per day for 4 days to local radio stations with live call-in shows. We will ask callers to hit us back at a central email address to get a rudimentary count of how many calls were made. We will ask local orgs to monitor the stations so we can get a sense of the effectiveness of the action.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:48 AM
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Another Reason George Steinbrenner Is Like George W. Bush
Luny Tunes Sez: "¡En Billy confiamos en!"
Like Bush, Steinbrenner loves deficit spending.
Truth be told: if the financials in this article are on point, I guess, so do us small-market teams.
Thanks for being an idiot, George! (Boy I've been saying that a lot this year.)
The Flunkees--like the Republicans--are having such a pathetic offseason going into Winter Meetings that I feel confident putting money on this right now--they win less games than they won this year, lose more money than they lost this year, and end up firing Joe Torre, the smartest man in the organization.
You heard it hear first!
posted by Zentronix @ 8:35 PM
Saturday, December 03, 2005
The Fire In Oakland: Lessons From South Central
Our area has been abuzz with the trashing, burning and looting of two Muslim-owned liquor stores in West Oakland. First, twelve people--resembling members of the Nation of Islam because of their bowtie-and-suit dress--came into San Pablo Liquor and trashed the shelves with baseball bats. They told the owners it was not right for a Muslim to sell liquor. They did the same at New York Market.
The surveillance video from the San Pablo liquor store incident made headlines across the country. The owner of New York Market was allegedly then kidnapped and held while the store was burned down and looted. Two men of Yusef Bey's local Black Muslim organization--one his son, the other a longtime associate--have turned themselves in, and four more are sought.
(For the record, the late Bey separated from the Nation of Islam amidst some nasty allegations. His organization has no formal relationship with the Nation.)
Our boy Adisa Banjoko comments here on the controversy:
As a Muslim convert I feel that there is no legitimate reason that Muslim Arabs from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Palestine or Jordan should be selling products to black people that they would never try to sell in their own countries. However, I also feel that to vandalize and burn down these stores also reflects badly on Islam. The Muslim shopkeepers, vandals, arsonists, and kidnappers have all done wrong by their neighbors and by Islam.
Somewhere between tearing the building apart and doing nothing lies a non-violent solution that can be enacted by the community. The time for peace is now. However, unless and until the issue of liquor-store infestations of black ghettos are properly addressed, I fear we may see more of the opposite.
From my point of view, living not too far from where it all went down, the immediate trigger to last week's incidents probably had less to do with a political agenda than with some street-type business.
But if we want to go back to the early 90s in South Central Los Angeles as a model for lessons to draw, here's what I can say:
The lack of access to inexpensive, quality food in the inner city is an important part of the context for the fostering of immigrant-owned liquor-stores.
I wrote this in Can't Stop Won't Stop:
The bigger problem for the community was that liquor stores were poor substitutes for grocery stores. Since the 1965 Watts Riots, very few supermarkets had reopened, and even fewer were built in the area. Vons had three hundred stores in the region, but only two in South Central. Worse, study after study found that supermarkets in South Central were the most expensive in the county, with grocery prices up to 20 to 30 percent higher than those in the suburbs and exurbs. Politicians would not do anything about it. It was as if they figured liquor was more important to inner-city residents than food. Immigrant liquor-store entrepreneurs did not provide what people really needed, but they still filled a void that no one else was willing to.
As for public policy fixes, I think Karen Bass' work with the Community Coalition to create a multiracial front to convert liquor stores into other businesses and bring in real supermarkets was more empowering and community-building than Danny Bakewell's efforts to get the Korean American and Arab American storeowners simply to sell their stores to African American owners. One tried to push for businesses that the community needed, the other simply tried to change the face behind the counter.
In the end, however, the liquor store conversion push failed because the LA City Council allocated much less than a million dollars to resolve the problem. This, out of a promised $4 billion public-private Rebuild LA effort. Less than a dozen stores were actually converted--in most cases to laundromats. Nothing added up to anything like a real economic development plan.
In that regard, here's a good description of the community efforts going on Oakland around liquor-store closure. Still, there's little talk of conversion going on.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:40 AM
Free Culture: Pareles on File-Sharing & The Grateful Dead
Intellectual property, copyright, downloading, even the issue of sampling--there's a side to be taken on behalf of artists and audiences who aren't down with corporate manipulation.
Folks have taken to calling this the Free Culture movement, and whether the NY Times' Jon Pareles has intended to or not he's made a definitive, succinct statement of what Free Culture advocates are against in today's column on the controversy over the Grateful Dead's audio programs.
For some background, this week the Dead asked a third-party website Live Music Archive, a site which aggregates and makes available from free download countless jam-band concerts, to pull its music. This marked a shocking turnaround in the Dead's policy. For decades, the Dead had pioneered a free taping section at its own concerts, encouraging its fans to bootleg its shows. But initially the Dead asked Live Music Archive not just to remove its own official recordings but audience-made recordings as well.
After an outcry from Dead fans, it reversed its policy halfway, allowing the audience-made recordings back into the archive, while pulling its own. Presumably these official recordings will now be sold.
Here's the Pareles' piece. His argument below could be extended to the entire field of sampling law--which has often fattened both record label and publishing company at the expense of both the recording artist who has sampled and the recording artist who has been sampled.
"The Dead are thus the latest victims of the notion that digital copying is qualitatively different from every recording technology since the invention of music notation. Yes, digital copying is fast; it's exact; it's easy. For a recording business that has realized far too late that it is selling music, not discs, digital copying has destroyed the old monopoly on pressing and distribution.
Digital downloads can also provide numbers for accountants to tabulate and for statistics-mongers to misinterpret. (Just because 10,000 people download a concert doesn't mean 10,000 people would pay for it.)
Oddly enough, the numbers also seem to encourage visions of wringing every statutory nickel out of every recording ever made. In conformity to copyright law that was designed for sheet music and discs rather than the Web, visions persist of the Internet not as a cornucopia, but as a pay-per-play jukebox. The Deadheads' old trading network had looked back to an earlier model: music as folklore.
Suddenly, after all these amicable and profitable years, Dead representatives are talking about "rights" to those concert recordings. It's lawyer talk, record-business talk, and entirely valid on those terms; the Dead do hold copyrights and are entitled to authorize or withhold permission to copy their work. (So, incidentally, are those who own the copyrights to Dead concert staples like Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." )
Enforcing that permission on the Internet is another matter. Digital-rights management by technical means is iffy at best: widely circumvented by professional pirates and problematic for consumers trying, for instance, to transfer songs from their CD's to an iPod. Sony BMG Music, trying to limit copying of CD's, included software that created security hazards in its paying customers' computers and is now recalling some four million CD's and facing lawsuits. The next Windows operating system may place anticopying mechanisms beyond users' control.
The Dead's problem is more temporal than technical. Grateful Dead recordings, including soundboard recordings, have been circulating since the inception of the Internet and are not going to disappear by fiat.
The Dead had created an anarchy of trust, going not by statute but by instinct and turning fans into co-conspirators, spreading their music and buying tickets, T-shirts and official CD's to show their loyalty. The new approach, giving fans some but not all of what they had until last week, changes that relationship.
No doubt it will sell some additional concert downloads in the short run. But by imposing restrictions, it will also encourage jam-band fans - a particularly Internet-savvy demographic - to circumvent those restrictions, finding the soundboard recordings through unofficial channels. The change also downgrades fans into the customers they were all along. It removes what could crassly be called brand value from the Dead's legacy by reducing them to one more band with products to sell.
Will the logic of copyright law be more profitable, in the end, than the logic of sharing? That's the Dead's latest improvisational experiment.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:03 AM
Friday, December 02, 2005
Plan For Victory, Settle For Great Art
Bush has a plan. But Sacha Jenkins and Bill Adler are doin' it...
Here's the link to the Eyejammie site, and a direct link to the show. Plus, nothing says "You rock and you don't stop" like giving them a fine Eyejammie print. Hint hint.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:17 PM
Congotronics 2 Is Here!
Cop it exclusively at eMusic. The entire back story is here at Christopher Porter's site. Will post some more after I get a chance to dive in.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:51 AM
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