Tuesday, April 27, 2010

1700% Project: Mistaken for Muslim

My friend, the amazing dancer Prumsodun Ok, turned me on to this video project by artist Anida Yoeu Ali and filmmaker Masahiro Sugano. Prum is the dancer in the video, which also features over 100 people from Chicagoland. The images are accompanied by a poem composed of anti-Muslim hate crime reports - which rose an astronomical 1700% post-9/11.


We're Always One Step Behind Him, He's Brian Eno

And this is MGMT's new song "Brian Eno"

M.I.A.'s got something to say

Ohhhhhh, SHIT!

That's all I could think while watching M.I.A.'s new video "Born Free." Already censored by YouTube, this video directed by Romain Gavras is a chilling allegory of the logical consequences of policies like Arizona's recent legalization of racial profiling. Fiercely critical of US military action, and unapologetic for the matter-of-factness with which she displays the hatred and violence of that military action, M.I.A. defiantly spits:

I throw this shit in your face when I see ya
cuz I got something to say
I was born free!

Watch it. Share it. Be on the streets this Saturday to defend immigrant rights.


M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Messengers

Now I know everyone already went crazy for K'NAAN, but since I'm not a huge hip hop fan, I wasn't really on board. But I read about his mixtape project The Messengers on the All Songs Considered blog and thought I'd give it a chance. I'm a sucker for free music. If it's free, I'll check it out. In fact, I was pretty blown away. In this project, K'NAAN and J.Period present Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, and Bob Dylan as musical "messengers." Mixing achival audio interviews and news stories that contextualize the artists, songs from the three singers, personal narration from K'NAAN, and original raps and remixes, the 30+ track collection is evidence of a young singer with an incredibly deep and sophisticated relationship with these three elders. K'NAAN gives each of these revolutionary singers new significance for the 21st century by engaging in dialogues with them through their music. By distributing his project for free at shows and online, K'NAAN takes the gifts of inspiration he received from these three messengers, and passes it on. Give it a listen, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This is Why I Love Eef Barzelay So Much

Check out these lyrics to "Apocalyptic Friend" from 2008 his solo album Lose Big:


My dear apocalyptic friend
Convinced the world will shortly end
I only want to hold you in my arms
And whisper softly that it's alright
If God decides to kill the lights
And back to stardust we return again
When rapture comes I understand your car will likely be unmanned
But what about those sitting in the back
Strapped into the baby's seat
Sweet milk sticking to their feet



You can listen to the song here (scroll down to find the song)


Incidentally, I had a dream once in which I was riding in the back seat of a car as the end of the world began (in the form of nuclear missile attacks), and I'm happy to report that my friend driving did not disappear but calmly executed a U-turn on a highway (!!) and got us out of immediate danger. I take great comfort in this dream. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Future Rock!

Miles and Jesse from Outernational are old (young!) activist friends of mine. I've been in the streets many times with these guys, and tonight I was so excited to see their LA debut at The Viper Room. They played tracks from their new EP, produced by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. Here's their new video, with footage from wikileaks. Check 'em out online, check 'em out on tour (LA again May 8!), and get inspired with some revolution rock!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hang on, my love, and grow big and strong

An amazing letter from Iggy Pop, in response to a fan letter. See a scan of the original at Letters of Note:

dear laurence,

thankyou for your gorgeous and charming letter, you brighten up my dim life. i read the whole fucking thing, dear. of course, i'd love to see you in your black dress and your white socks too. but most of all i want to see you take a deep breath and do whatever you must to survive and find something to be that you can love. you're obviously a bright fucking chick, w/ a big heart too and i want to wish you a (belated) HAPPY HAPPY 21st b'day and happy spirit. i was very miserable and fighting hard on my 21st b'day, too. people booed me on the stage, and i was staying in someone else's house and i was scared. it's been a long road since then, but pressure never ends in this life. 'perforation problems' by the way means to me also the holes that will always exist in any story we try to make of our lives. so hang on, my love, and grow big and strong and take your hits and keep going.

all my love to a really beautiful girl. that's you laurence.

iggy pop

Thursday, April 08, 2010

President Busy Pants, Or, "Hey, That Spitzer Guy's Back!"

"President Busy Pants" was the name of a brunch special at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Washington DC on January 23, 1998. I remember this because I was in DC for a rally on January 22 that I helped organize in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. On January 23, the 25th anniversary of legal abortion shared the front page of the Washington Post with news of Pope JPII's first visit to Cuba, and the developing story of a President and a certain young woman in a beret. I remember reading the article aloud to my friends as we drove back to New York, trying to understand what was going on with Kenneth Starr, perjury, and, well President Busy Pants.

Of course the sexual improprieties of politicians are not new news - only the names change. But I'm thinking of it now because of an article in the New York Times today called "Spitzer's Long Road to Redemption." Since when is two years long? But I digress...

The article quotes CBS political analyst Jeff Greenfield as saying, “This was legitimately a private failure.” Is that what it was? Or should be? Private? A "failure"?

Certainly, the American puritan obsession with sex, which demands that sex be both prominently displayed and punished, plays a large role here. In France, for example, the fact that President Fran├žois Mitterrand had a long-time mistress with whom he had a daughter was well known. Mitterand's wife even famously invited this second family to the President's funeral, where the "official" and "unofficial" families walked together in the funeral procession. Does this mean that if he lived in France, John Edwards would still have a career? Should he?

Do Americans just need to get over our sexual hangups, or is there a larger issue here? And if the latter, what might it be? Lying? Illegal behavior (perjury in Clinton's case, hiring sex workers in Spitzer's)? Misogyny? Abuse of power? Treating your family like shit? Hypocrisy? (I can't even count the politicians and religious leaders who fall under this category.) Accountability for one's actions? Just being a huge asshole?

What makes one man's "failure" redeemable (the article cites Spitzer, Ted Kennedy, Clinton, Dave Letterman, among others) and another's not (Edwards according to the article, I'd ad Gary Hart)?

I'm not even touching on all the complexities of this topic: legalization of sex work, the agency of the women involved, the way that Clinton's sexual behavior was deemed impeachable but Reagan's in the Iran Contra affair was not, just to name a few.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

An Early Frontrunner for My Top Music of '10

There's just something about Eef Barzelay's voice that I love. In this single, Denise, off of his band Clem Snide's new album, their alt-country sound, produced of course in Nashville, is just perfect. The melodies are hopeful, the lyrics intimate, and Barzelay's voice makes you think he is singing only to you, softly in your ear, late at night in some generic diner in a town you both can't wait to get out of but probably won't anytime soon. It's that heartbreaking beauty that, when it's done right, makes alt-country so exquisite.

Here's a video of another track off the album, "Walmart Parking Lot."

Clem Snide - Walmart Parking Lot from Clem Snide on Vimeo.

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