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seun kuti and egypt 80 in dakar June 19, 2008

Posted by KG in arts/culture, international, music, politics.
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if you’re in the l.a. area, see them @ grandperformances for free friday night…

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another great ?uestlove interview April 23, 2008

Posted by KG in arts/culture, comedy, design, hip-hop, interviews, legal, marketing, media, music, news, radio.
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onsmash:

With less than a week till the release of their 8th (!) masterpiece, Rising Down, OnSMASH linked up with The Roots mouthpiece and unofficial leader ?uestlove to talk about his legendary crew and the state of this art we call hip-hop.

I want to talk about Rising Down right now. From what I’ve been hearing, with the exception of one song [“Birthday Girl”], this record sounds very, very serious, very aggressive, and kind of dark. The last Roots record, I got that kind feeling from like that, was Illadelph Half Life. What was the intent behind this record?

Hip-hop is about as apolitical as it’s ever been. I guess there’s some sort of unsaid science to how we made this record. In order not to come off like we’re on our soapbox we knew that musically this album had to be bangin’. But of course the 2008 definition of bangin’ definitely varies from the 1996 definition of bangin’, but that’s the standard with which we feel most comfortable. So there’s this sort of boom bap element [on the album]. At the very most today when you get a hip-hop record you can only hope for that one cut that has that “boom bap element”, similar to how what the one radio cut was back in the day, like Brand Nubian’s “Tried To Do Me” or Diamond D “I’m So Confused” song. One token radio cut on a hip-hop record now turned into one Primo cut on a commercial record [in 2008].

Very true

We just wanted to put out an album of bangers because we kind of knew we had to sort of offset the heavy message. I guess if anything probably the hardest thing to do on this record was to put everything in first person perspective. Because normally whenever we did touch something political it was always from a very safe arm’s length third person perspective.

(more…)

bill cosby on black coservatism April 14, 2008

Posted by AP in arts/culture, race, speeches, talks.
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from the atlantic monthly, bill cosby preaches a message of anger, rage, and determination. powerful stuff:

From Birmingham to Cleveland and Baltimore, at churches and colleges, Cosby has been telling thousands of black Americans that racism in America is omnipresent but that it can’t be an excuse to stop striving. As Cosby sees it, the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities. Instead of focusing on some abstract notion of equality, he argues, blacks need to cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past. Driving Cosby’s tough talk about values and responsibility is a vision starkly different from Martin Luther King’s gauzy, all-inclusive dream: it’s an America of competing powers, and a black America that is no longer content to be the weakest of the lot.

It’s heady stuff, especially coming from the man white America remembers as a sitcom star and affable pitchman for E. F. Hutton, Kodak, and Jell-O Pudding Pops. And Cosby’s race-based crusade is particularly jarring now. Across the country, as black politics has become more professionalized, the rhetoric of race is giving way to the rhetoric of standards and results. Newark’s young Ivy League–educated mayor, Cory Booker, ran for office promising competence and crime reduction, as did Washington’s mayor, Adrian Fenty. Indeed, we are now enjoying a moment of national self-congratulation over racial progress, with a black man running for president as the very realization of King’s dream. Barack Obama defied efforts by the Clinton campaign to pigeonhole him as a “black” candidate, casting himself instead as the symbol of a society that has moved beyond lazy categories of race.

link roundup April 7, 2008

Posted by KG in arts/culture.
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1) “legal bondage: why we like restrictions on sex”

2) “a case of the blues” – nytimes mag story on the “recent struggles of the Republican party”…they are quite generous with their euphemisms

3) nytimes mag profile of david axelrod, “obama’s narrator”

4) “obama, mccain forged fleeting alliance”

5) ezra klein on health care

6) washingon post on the impact of howard dean as dnc chair

7) the erotics of investing

8 ) nytimes article on storing willpower

9) jonathan chait on hillary’s ridiculousness

10) the sting of poverty

11) vanity fair interview with ?uestlove about the roots’ new album and its political message

12) time.com’s first annual blog index

nice work if you can get it March 23, 2008

Posted by KG in arts/culture, immigration, international, interviews, media, news, politics, radio.
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i found act 4 pretty moving…

3/21/08 this american life:

Act Four. Just One Thing Missing.

Reporter Douglas McGray interviews a college student in California with good grades, an excellent work ethic, but no possible way to get a legal job. She’s lived in the U.S. since she was little, but her parents are undocumented; and she is, too. Most of her friends and teachers don’t even know. Douglas McGray is a fellow at the New America Foundation.

santogold – l.e.s. artistes video March 9, 2008

Posted by KG in arts/culture, film, music.
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sasha frere-jones:

A friend just sent me a link to the video for Santogold’s “L.E.S. Artistes,” with the question, “WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?” (I saw Santogold open for Björk last September, and still feel very positively about “Creator.”) These are my guesses as to what this video is about:

1. The traumatic switch from black-and-white to color in the movies, a long shift in preference that did not tip heavily in favor of color until the 1960s. It was hard to choose. They are both nice.

2. Artists being forced out of their lofts on the Lower East Side (even though there are more lofts in Williamsburg and SoHo).

3. A directorial decision to make the performers wear gray and act out clichés of movie violence while substituting brightly colored foodstuffs for traditional red squibs and gore.

4. Santi White’s frustration at not being able to ride a horse.

88 keys interview March 6, 2008

Posted by KG in arts/culture, comedy, hip-hop, interviews, music.
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awesome interview with 88:

DX: How’d you link with Mos and Talib?
88-Keys:
I linked up with Mos through my good friend, Shawn J Period. I used to go to a lot of sessions with The Artifacts, and at the time, Shawn J Period was working with them, and Duro, who’s now “Super-engineer Duro,” who’s recording mixing the album and Platinum Island Studios in New York City. So I would go there and hang out just to get the vibe and see professionals at work, and see what the goings-on was. So Mos would eventually start coming by. It’s funny, because I’d say “What up” to Mos, and he’d say “What’s up,” but he never used to acknowledge me other than the initial meeting. I saw him every now and then, and he would just be in the room, I’d be in the room…we’d stare each other down for like half a second and keep it moving or whatever. So I’m looking at this guy, like, “Oh man, this guy is trying to play me, and he’s a nobody just like me.” So eventually, at the “Stakes Is High” video shoot, Mos was there, and I was trying to get up in the video. Again, I have to repeat, I was a nobody, so ain’t get no love shown this way. I gave Mos a beat tape, back when the actual tape cassettes (were in), with my 30 second beat snippets. He called me a day or two later, and he’s like, “Your shit is dope, your shit is dope.” And the next time I saw him in the studio, it’s pounds all around the room. [Laughs]

DX: Did you record that track in the studio with them?
88-Keys:
That’s a funny story. Kweli picked the beat from me, and he was saying he had an idea for the song, that him and Mos were recording an album together, and that he wanted a song for the album. I’m like, “Cool, let’s do it.” … I’m like, “I’ma hit up Mos, to see what’s good.” Come to find out, Mos didn’t like the beat at all, but he was doing it as a favor for Kweli. I was living with my parents at the time, I had my equipment in the basement in Long Island. These dudes took a cab all the way from Brooklyn—this was foreshadowing of baller status, I should have peeped it back then—but they took a cab all the way from Brooklyn, Kweli had a son who was like one year old at the time, almost in the middle of the night, on some seven o’clock shit. One of my sisters babysat Kweli’s son, and we went to the basement. Kweli already had his verse written, and I had a four-track recorder with a little BS microphone, so I recorded the joint, and after Kweli laid his verse, he explained to Mos what the song was about, and his inspiration for the song was a book called The Bluest Eye. Mos did a complete 180—I don’t even know if he liked the beat at that time still, but he liked Kweli’s rap and how the whole joint came together—so not only did Mos write his verse, but he wrote a 44-bar verse that he was pretty adamant about not shortening it. Me and Kweli are looking at him like, “He’s buggin’. That’s not a 16, Rawkus ain’t havin’ that.Mos was like, “I don’t care. All this is staying.

(more…)

designing obama February 28, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, design, news, politics, style, tech.
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andrew romano interviews graphic designer michael bieruit on the branding of obama:

Obama’s success owes a lot, of course, to his message–the promise to pass Democratic policies by rallying a “coalition for change.” But watching Obamamania over the past few weeks, I’ve become convinced that there’s something more subtle at work, too. It’s not just the message and the man and the speeches that are swaying Democratic voters–though they are. It’s the way the campaign has folded the man and the message and the speeches into a systemic branding effort. Reinforced with a coherent, comprehensive program of fonts, logos, slogans and web design, Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand.* And for folks who don’t necessarily need Democratic social programs–upscale voters, young people–I suspect that the novel comfort of that brand affiliation contributes (however subconsciously) to his appeal.

Seeking expert opinion, I tested my hypothesis on leading graphic designer and critic Michael Bieruit, who was kind enough to dissect Obama’s unprecedented branding campaign–and show me how it’s helping his candidacy. Excerpts:

What do you see as the “philosophical implications,” to use a highfalutin phrase, of Obama’s design choices?
There are a couple of levels. There’s the close-in parlor game you can play about what all these typefaces actually mean. Gotham was a typeface designed originally for GQ magazine, so it’s a sleek, purposefully not fancy, very straightforward, plainspoken font, but done with a great deal of elegance and taste–and drawn from very American sources, by the way. Unlike other sans serif typefaces, it’s not German, it’s not French, it’s not Swiss. It’s very American. The serif font that he often uses to write Obama is delicate and nuanced and almost, not feminine exactly, but it’s very literary-looking. It looks very conversational and pleasant, as opposed to strident and yelling. It’s a persuasive-looking font, I would say. But that’s putting these things on couches and pretending they have personalities.

Right. It’s sort of hard to imagine in a voter in Cleveland (or a Newsweek political blogger from New York, for that matter) interacting with Obama’s design on that level. How does it affect those of us who aren’t graphic designers?
Well, I’m teaching this class at the Yale School of Management, and we were just talking about brand management and politics–exactly this thing before we got on the phone. And one of the things that came up in the conversation is, if you think about it, the challenge for someone named Barack Hussein Obama is that he’s such an unprecedented figure in American politics–so much so that everything he’s trying to do is, in a way, trying to make him look smoother and more normal. Someone said, “Well, why shouldn’t he have revolutionary looking graphics–graphics that make him look like grassroots, like an outsider? Things drawn by hand, things that look forceful and avant-garde.” But I think he’s using design in a way to make him look as normal, as comfortable, as inevitable as a brand can look in American life. Those are really deliberate, interesting choices. Whether or not a sans serif font like Gotham looks more “American” than a Swiss font like Helvetica, that’s in our imaginations to a certain degree. I think it’s much more incontrovertible that he’s actually using the seamlessness of this branding to convey a candidacy that’s not a dangerous, revolutionary, risk-everything proposition–but as something that is well-managed and has everything under control.

kg’s top ten movies of 2007 February 2, 2008

Posted by KG in arts/culture, film, lists, reviews, top ten lists.
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there-will-be-blood.jpg

…that i’ve seen…

better late than never… (full disclosure: in the realm of “notable” movies, i haven’t seen the diving bell and the butterfly, the savages, margot at the wedding, atonement, or before the devil knows you’re dead)

honorable mentions go to 3:10 to yuma, into the wild, and persepolis

my picks for best actor and actress go to daniel day-lewis in there will be blood and marion cotillard in la vie en rose

10. the assassination of jesse james (written by ron hansen and directed by andrew dominik)

9. cassandra’s dream (written and directed by woody allen…technically 2008 but i’ll let it slide)

8. eastern promises (written by steven knight and directed by david cronenberg)

7. control (written by matt greenhalgh and deborah curtis; directed by anton corbijn)

6. la vie en rose (written by isabelle sobelman and olivier dahan; directed by olivier dahan)

5. rescue dawn (written and directed by werner herzog)

4. michael clayton (written and directed by tony gilroy)

3. the darjeeling limited (written by wes anderson, roman coppola, and jason schwartzman; directed by wes anderson)

2. no country for old men (written and directed by the coen brothers)

1. there will be blood (written and directed by paul thomas anderson)

link roundup January 27, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, books, comedy, econ, food, health, international, interviews, media, news, politics, science, speeches, talks, television.
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link-roundup.gif

1. what don’t we know about the pharmaceutical industry? a freakonomics quorom

2. video: stewart slams media for provoking campaign drama

3. malcolm gladwell @ TED in 2004, exhibiting his superior storytelling abilities and making the horizontal segmentation of pasta fascinating – 18 min 15 sec youtube video

4. booksthatmakeyoudumb

5. nabokov wanted his final, unfinished work destroyed. should his son get out the matches?

6. nicholas kristof in india (“china and india: the race is on” & “power of a mother’s love” – nytimes video)