Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Air America First Impression: Liberal talk radio is a good idea in premise, but I fear for the execution.

First off,: fire Randy Rhodes! I don't know who this Florida woman is, but she tels us she is a big radio star ever 10 minutes. I tune at 11 LA time and I get an liberal version of all those annoying loud right-wing ladies on the air. Cutting people off left and right, loving to hear herself talk, over-simplifying everything possible and talking for a half hour about how Bush is a wuss because he flew to Nebraska after 9/11. To top it off, and lose me for good after only an hour, she had the nerve to be utterly disrespectul and rude to Ralph Nader, forcing him eventually to hang up on her saying "this is not a good start for Air America." I agree. This is a man that had done more good for America than anyone else I can think of at the moment. You can argue about whether to vote for him is a good idea, but please lay off the fear-baiting and undemocratic notion that he can not run for office (and keep Kerry in check now that Dean is gone). And at least give the man some respect.

I do think Franken will be very good on radio - and Garafolo I respect. I missed Chuck D though.... will catch him tomorrow. But this Randi Rhodes seems to be on all the time and I hate it. Her politics are too much on the right and she seems too used to pandering to the lowest common denominator - Floridians ;)

Hip-Hop in the news:

Can Asian hip-hop cross over into the US market? The New Zealand Herald investitgates., looking at MC Solaar and Punjabi MC as examples would-be emcees might want to follow (ie. find a US rapper to collab with)

Is John Kerry the first hip-hop friendly President? Clinton may have been the first "black President," but his dust up with Sista Souljah showed he had a while to go before truly understanding hip-hop. Kerry's comments suggest a more positive and nuanced view: "I'm fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important."

Heard from the some friends about the enthusiasm on display at the recent Chicago Hip-Hop Summit -powered by Russel Simmons and his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (and funded by Clear Channel Comm., Anhaesur Busch and Mercedes Benz). Loads of people registered to vote, people heard from the stars and even got a live version of "slow jams" by Twista and Kanye. Sorry if I am a bit cynical about all this, but the issues being discussed at these types of things disappoints me. The main issues were "police brutality, 'rap profiling,' freeing U.S. political prisoners, raising public awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, self-improvement as a basis for family and community development and using hip-hop to promote social change."

Fair enough, these things are problems but their framing reminds me of when I was in a teenage Christian group and the Church lady would translate our concerns for the blackboard. Yes, brutality by police is endemic (as a white middle class victim of a violent fascist power-tripping episode a while back i can only imagine what goes down nightly in the hood), and we have a few political prisinors (including Susan Lindauer) but come on - "rap profiling" - we are playing ourselves. And I don't think the problem with AIDS is awareness... maybe in the developing world but not here. Here the problem is lack of health care, housing and social supports for those already infected and the poverty of those at risk. And to say that "self improvement" should be the basis of community development is straight from the Republic Party platform. Why does the hip-hop community feel like it has to map out its OWN issues, and not just talk about conditions in our inner cities - exactly what hip-hop has done most eloquently throughout its history. We should not be afraid to admit that hip-hop doesn't have all the answers - taking America to the streets is our strongpoint... as agendas like those of the HH Action Network show. (and trust me, I was one of those most happy when I heard about this thing... and i think there is still loads of potential and necessity in merging hip-hop with social change.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

New Rap Stuff:

There have been a whole lot of new rap releases that I should be real excited in recent weeks. But like most rap of late, I have come away disappointed and glad I saved my money.

Madvillian "Madvillianny" - While easily the most listenable of the recent flurry of MF Doom sideprojects, thanks to Madlib, the LP does not reach the high expectations this collab once suggested. While this LP could probably keep me entertained on the bus or in the car, there is little of DJ value. Madlib's beats are getting weirder and weirder, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it just make for a difficult buy for many. Doom is making less sense as well, or maybe I am just getting older and more linear thinking. I think Doom needs to slow down ihs cadence and let his personality come through more... like the early Fondle Em 12s. The 12" plus "Meatgrinder" are probably the only must haves. 7/10

MURS "3:16 The 9th Edition" - I remember living for the next MURS joint. The Living Legends were it. Now they do so little for me. In concert a while back they had the whole crowd rocking but not me. I was in the back waiting for the jazzy, sample based stuff circa 96 to come on. Amazingly, they didn't do anything pre-2000 as far as I can tell. Their production had become this high-pitched energized boom-bap that sounds all the same when not done right. I told myself I was over them. This LP does restore some faith. Nice and short at 10 songs (over saturation of product was a Legends downfall as well Is believe), MURS' latest is a darn good hip-hop LP. There are some jems like reggae-thinged "Bad Man" and the filtered "HUSTLE." But MURS won't see my money. It must be me that has changed. 8/10

Sound Providers "An Evening With The Sound Providers" - Finally, at long last, a solid jazzy hip-hop record. This one I think I need to buy. 9/10.

Eyedea and Abilities - E&A - Eyedea has always been a classic case where his youthful live energy is lost on wax. Not that his lyrics aren't clever on paper or that his delivery is that bad (the dude definately has more than his share of experience on the MIC) it is just that... its boring. Eyedea's thing is the freestyle and he loses his edge with his writtens. He's also got that angry scrowl thing going on. The beats are wack for the most part. Abilities is a great dj, but has never matched fellow Rhymesayer's ANT's productions. 5/10

And oh yeah, the Zero 7 and NERD albums are pretty bad as well. Is anything sacred?

Faves of the Moment
Amp Fiddler - I Believe in You (Jaylib remix)
New CHPOS - esp. the Bahamadiah joint
Critically Acclaimed - Road Trip (f/ Phonte and Yahzarah)
DJ Nu-Mark - 'Brand Nu Live f/ J-Live)
New Troubleman (excitement)
Madvillian - various LP cuts
Plant Life - 3 AM and Bottle of Hope

Online Liberal Magazine Purusal:

Check out the New Yorker article by Adam Gopnik on the remake of Times Square NYC. Alas this is not new ground, but the man has a way with words. Case in point: "Those who pointed at the old Times Square as an instance of everything that capitalism can do wrong now point to the new Times Square as an instance of everything that capitalism can do worse." And on a cultural studies note, he writes: "The idea that there is a good folkish culture (Old Times Square or old hip-hop?) that comes up from the streets and revivifies the arts and a bad mass culture (New Times Square or New hip-hop) imposed from above is an illusion, and anyone who has studied any piece of the history knows it." And even a bit of urban design wisdom: "We make our accidental pleasure plazas do the work of the public squares we don’t have."

The Nation runs an interesting, if ultimiately timid, piece on the Weather Underground - Amerikka's own armed opposition movement of the 1970s. Apparently, they have never been more popular. The authors cite the increasingly obvious Imperial tendencies of America foreign policy, as well as an increased awareness of popular supression (jailing of protesters and Muslims) and the limits of democracy and marching. Of course, The Nation treads on the issue of twenty-semethings looking up to bombers (who nonetheless never hurt anyone yet got the Government quite scared) rather lightly. Any thoughts of moving beyond "protest from a distance is just a lamentable phase, and any action is "self-destructive escalation." Tell that to Guy Phillipe and the right-wingers now in control of Haiti.

The Nation also weighs in on Israel's particular case of (March) madness. Using the Yassin assassination, Roane Carey & Adam Shatz argue that the US must prevent its Israeli ally from leading the region into catastrophe.
A sample: "Sheik Yassin, to be sure, was not a man of peace. His group has killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in suicide attacks since the mid-1990s. But Yassin, along with Ismail Abu Shanab, who was assassinated last year, represented the more moderate current within Hamas; although Yassin refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, he had spoken favorably of a "hundred-year truce" with it and had indicated that violent resistance would cease once Israel withdrew to its 1967 borders. Now that Yassin is dead, the only men left standing are the hard-liners, led by Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, the sheik's successor in Gaza. Some "friends" of Israel--a curious term for those who cheer Israel on as it marches down the road to self-destruction--will doubtless observe that Yassin would not himself have flinched from a comparable attack on Israelis. But that is precisely the point. Under Sharon's leadership, Israel is increasingly behaving like a rogue state, heedless of international legal norms and contemptuous of civilian life. With its indiscriminate raids, the government has chosen the path of escalation, putting its own citizens in jeopardy."

TV Notes:

Be sure to watch part 2 of "The New Americans' tonight on PBS. Part 1 last night was a facinating look at the pre-immigration moments that must not be forgotten - the sacrifice, the idealism, the beauracracy, the family left behind, etc. It focussed on focussed on Dominican baseball players, Nigerian (Ogoni political) refugees and a Palestinian woman longing for opportunity. The film was co-produced by Steve James (best-known for Hoop Dreams) and is a monumental effort that spanned 4 years and 4 continents. Tonight the more stereotypical migrants come into view - a Mexican meatpacker and Indian tech guy. Through the heart wrenching individual strories, we see a world that pushes people to leave places they love and family they cherish. We see a fictionalized, imagined America where the dreams of not just families, but entire villages, rest hopefully. And from reading about tonight's show, we will be better able to judge the payoff (is it better to be poor surrounded by poverty or poor surrounded by rich?). A Dominican is accused of rape and the woman who sticks up for him has her mailbox bombed. The Nigerian chemical engineer and political activist has to wash floors in a hotel and the Palestinian couple comes up against the 9/11 backlash. Essential... give this 20 minutes and you'll be hooked.

Significant Others on Bravo may be the funniest television show I have ever seen. Seriously, if you love Curb Your Entusiasm or the Office, but wish they would pick up the pace, you should love this reality show farce. The show is largely improvisational and centers around 4 couples who have just begun marriage counseling. The comedy comes in the "damn, that is us" look that my girl and I can't keep down when watching as well as being able to watch both sexes explain different situations and confrontations in front of the supposed therapist. And I think the improv aspect just heightens the timing, delivery and honesty of the dialogue between the immensely talented actors (many of which were apparently from the LA Groundlings troupe). This show is like a fix. Good thing they have been showing 2 in a row.

Cracking Up is another pretty good new comedy, along the lines (but not as strong as) of Arrested Development. I hope both make it over the ratings hump soon, because quality shows like this seem to always be the first to go from the networks.

Nothing like lying in bed next to my balcony, catching 94 degree sun rays in March... or barbequeing into the night with a short sleeve shirt a block from the beach. What a weekend in LA. I didn't think I was much of a weather person, but it really does give you one less thing to worry about.

Recent shows I've seen:
Quantic - Djin at Club sugar (Santa Monica) last Sat. I'm continually impressed at the nicely sized and enthusiastic crowds for relatively obscure weekday acts in LA. THis was my first time to Club Sugar -they also host the westsiiide's edition of Transistor Lounge and it is pretty comfy... I like the fishtank wall, but wondered if the bass was good for them. Anyhow, the groove was tight from the moment in the door - thanks to Ms. Valida, spinning broken beat classics of the moment like carl craig's "angola" remix of Cesoria Evora. Quantic came in... you can always tell a Brit by their face, why is that... and basically played music that tried to make you guess whether it was produced this past year or in 1972. Neo-funk and not enough hip-hop or other voicey/wordy stuff as I recall. But now that I try to rememer more, I realize I was pretty drunk when I arrived, so the details are not as clear as they should be. I do remember that the bouncer tried hitting on my girlfriend while walking out and I very nearly had serious words, but luckily (for him ;) ) he had ducked back into the club.

B+ and Jeremy Sole (f/ Capoeira Brazil dancing!!) Djin at Zanizibar - Thursday. Jeremy Sole does have beats - and lots of energy. And he mixes stuff like dancehall, brazillian and nubeats more seamlessly than anyone I've seen. The girlies love it! We actually went to this because of the Capoeira though... my girl is taking lessons with the group. The dancers provided even more energy and proved through their infectious chanting that the human voice is still the most enchanting instrument (over phat drums and a berimbau). Of course, the link to breakin was palatable... still waiting for a good article breaking that all down. Later B+ (aka Brian Cross, hip-hop photographer/director dujour) spun things keeping in the nu-latin batucada vibe. Nice, but again, where's a litte hip-hop and original Brazillian songs. Maybe I show up at these things too late.

This coming week we have the return of 60 Channels (always liked the Angel's work, but didn't care for the last D&B oriented 60 Channels work), J-Live and PUTS on the same night as Madlib/MF Doom and the Stones Throw soundsystem massive (why oh why?), the extremely promising Build an Ark/Sa-Ra collective outfit (check the amazing work on the Sun Ra remiz LP), Lil Louie Vega's live outfit with Blaze... eager for this because I realize I am missing the ubiquitous of good house in Chicago.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Below is a lengthy email correspondence between myself and an Assistant Editor at the Charleston Post and Courier Paper, Robert Cox. I was responding to his story - Visitors to Cuba Shouldn't Leave their Conscience at Home - on his recent vist to Cuba. I am a bit of a Cuba-phile (ok... the word Cuba probably comes out of my mouth more than any other), so I try try to write every writer who pens a negative piece (basically everyone) to keep them honest. Usually they end up telling me how much they loved their visit there and how the people were the nicest ever and how they felt uncommonly safe ... but this never makes it into the article. This hopefully will save me repeating myself one day down the line.

-----Original Message-----
I should be used to the double standards and lazy journalism that normally come with a mainstream US piece on cuba, but yours didn't even try to be even handed.

Why not include just once in your piece that all of those arrested had illegal contacts with either/or US money, US resources or US government officials. You might also have noted that in this country, we arrest people for far less - last week Maryland woman was arrested for delivering a letter to her cousin (after apparently accepting Iraqi money). Can you possibly claim that those affected in cuba were clean from US assistance - a country that has attacked it before, now bent on regime change under a leader who has shown no bones about taking such illegal action (far more of a threat than Iraq ever was to us). Do you believe it would be ok if i were to take money tomorrow from North Korea to try to organize on behalf of its interests and against my own county's?? If so, please opine agains the arrest of Susan Lindauer. Or even better, how about the freedom of the innumerable innocents remaining in Guantanamo... who have been jailed and held incommunicado in our prisons for 2 years now? Or how about the 5 Cubans who were working to prevent terrorism by infiltrating known US based terrorist organizations - because the FBI would not go after these groups, even after specific incriminating information was given to them! These 5 are looking at jail for life here in america for doing nothing at all. Lets here it for liberty everywhere - and in our own country first.

As someone who was in cuba a year ago during this whole affair, I can tell you what i saw with my own eyes about this "monsterous regime." Maybe it is more instructive to say what i didn's see (and what i see every day here in Los Angeles) - homelessness, slums, segregated communities, a divided people, an ignorant people, a hopeless people, an unhealthy people. i met people on the street who wanted nothing more than to have a conversation, cook me dinner and perhaps go out for dancing or to a baseball game the following night. I met people my age from extremely humble origins who are studying to become a doctor and going to haiti or africa to serve humanity. I saw Fidel Castro get a stontaneous and enthusiastic standing ovation as he walked on the street outside of my hotel. I learned that there is virtually no AIDS in cuba, that its achievement in culture and sports (and foreign affairs) are unrivaled per capital anywhere in the world. I saw an alternative model for the developing world that you and Washington are scared of more than anything, and that is why stupid things such as Helms-Burton, the embargo and travel bans exist. ADMIT IT!


>>> "Robert Cox" 03/22/04 01:35PM >>>
Dear Leftside:
Perhaps you might see things differently if you met some of the dissidents, as I have. Most of them are socialists, not particularly admiring of the United States. I spent 20 years in Argentina and during the right-wing dictatorship (which, for sheer murderous brutality certainly outdid Castro), I had to listen to visiting Americans who told me how wonderful Argentina was under the military boot. Their words were a mirror image of yours. They liked right-wing dictatorships. You apparently like left-wing dictatorships. I abhor both.

You make some valid points about the United States. I have lived here long enough to be disappointed and somewhat disillusioned. Where is that shining city on a hill? But I don't have to believe a lie, as the people of Cuba do if they want to avoid a visit from the Minint spooks. I don't think Castro's totalitarian regime can be defended on relativist grounds.

Thanks for writing. It's no more possible to be even-handed about Castro's
dictatorship than it would be to be even-handed about Nazi Germany or
Stalin's Soviet Union. The dissidents, of course, have not engaged in any
activities that would be illegal in a democracy, but in a dictatorship (of
the left or right) every independent thought or act is considered illegal.
All the diplomats of the democratic countries try to help the dissidents as
much as they can. I don't think that U.S. policy makes any sense and it's
certainly unfortunate that concern for human rights has been politicized.

I hope that you continue to help the Cuban people as much as possible. That's what matters.
Would you be interested in a copy of Raul Rivero's book? Best wishes,
Bob Cox

-----Original Message-----
From: Leftside
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2004 7:50 PM
Subject: RE: cuba libre

Thank you very much for your reply. And yes, I would love a copy of Mr. Riviero's book... he is a talented writer and supposedly a fine man, despite his 100% cranky, distorted, pessimistic mood. But I do sincerely hope you recognize that Mr. Riviero is not a (independent or otherwise) journalist by
any respectable standards. To note that his articles (which I read frequently int he Chicago Tribune) were exclusively one-sided and is an understatement. But that is what he was being paid for, so you can not be suprised at that.

But listen, I hope I am never insensitive to the plights of those imprisioned. It is just hard to get too upset at the Cuban Government for finally holding the line against increased US involvement in the internal affairs of a soveign country. Mr. Riviero had numerous contacts with the US Interests Section and received income from - a website kept alive by our government to tout half-truths and bring down the government there... and support the annual Human Rights spectacle in Geneva. You may think that is a worthy goal, but if you were Cuban, chances are you would be highly offended and support the arrests... as more than 99% of Cubans do. I mean what else could Cuba do when the world's superpower makes it known that it is going to make "dissident" funding a major priority. Would you tolerate the Soviet Union (or Iraq) funding anti-war dissidents in this country? we
certainly did not for all our history.

And unfair arrests are not just a Cuban - or dictatorship - thing. I read an article on the other day about someone who was apparently roughed up by cuban police, detained without food for 12 hours and then let go. well, you know what - the same exact thing happened to me a year or 2
ago. except i was also sworn at by the police, while they were nearly breaking my arm. i was also not allowed to go to the bathroom until, nor given a blanket to sleep in the freezing cold steel cells. but i had nowhere to turn - in fact i couldn't even find out what i was charged with until my day in court. And this weekend, I am going to meet a woman who was in jail for 7 years for stealing a toolbox - Pam Martinez in Los Angeles - as part of the American 3 Strikes solution.

How many thousands are arrested because of racist drug laws? How many young minorities were locked up incorrectly? And the whole world talks about 75 (or 300 tops) privledged Cubans. (it is an
irony that cuba is perhaps the only country where being a dissident is so profitable. You can quit your job without worry of family disaster, be unemployed for years and just write bullocks... what i life!!)

You know very well that no one has ever been arrested for what they think or act in Cuba. Show me one case. Or show me one person killed by the State unjustifiably since the revolution (I will show
you 2 in the LA area this weekend). It is only when they break a law. Laws that were put in place because the Cubans saw for themselves the way a "free-press" worked in the interests of capital and foreigners in their not too distant past. They saw the way so-called democracy led to corruption and
diviciveness. They saw the way that the US would not stop at concept of morality or international law to bring down their triumphant revolution and therefore, openness is a casualty... as we are accepting now in the US with the war on terrorism... If you were a Cuban would you think its ok to quit
your job and take money or receive assistance from a foreign organization to publish half-truths to bring down your government... no matter how much you wanted it to fall? This is why dissidents like Vlademir Roca deny US AID - and are still on the street able to act and publish freely.

I don't like any dictatorships either, but i don't think Castro is a dictator (eg. "someone who rules unconstrained by law"). The cuban constitution makes clear that the President (castro) is beholden strictly to the National Assembly in all areas including appointments and law making. So please explain to me how cuba is a dictatorship? Is it because they have only one legal party (actually they have many and no one has ever stopped this). Well in Cuba, party affiliation means nothing in relation to getting elected for political office (the Communists don't participate in electoral politics) - in fact there are many assembly persons who are definately NOT communisits (evangelicals, small farmers, etc.) But show me one communist in our congress? In Cuba everything is based on votiing at the very local
(neighborhood block club) level. You vote for people you know personally based on their morals and resume - not campaigning ability or money. They in turn, elect higher-ups, who choose higher-ups and so on. Can you tell me with a straight face that our congress and executive cabinet are more
representative of the average person than cuba's??? Political scientists tell us democracy is about participation and deliberation and a fair political process with equal opportunity. do we have this? If you have been to Cuba, you would know that there is huge amounts of public support for the
revolutionary project - 85-90% participate in this electoral process and 99% recently signed their names in support of Building Socialism. Where i encountered alienation, I found it to be out of economic concerns, and the embargo was largely blamed. I could not help but contrast this to the United States, where there is widespread cynicism in regard to political and other institutions and the poor are treated as 2nd class citizens with different rights to housing, health care, education, etc. Having ½ of ½ our population vote every 4 years is not democracy. There can be no democracy when ½ of adults in my city cannot read at a newspaper level. Democracy is a work in progress anywhere and must be felt to be safe and secure to flourish.

Sorry for so long.... i have a bit too much time on my hands today - and my girl and i were just celebrating our one-year anniversary of going to cuba this weekend, so i am feeling especially nostalgic. You can not deny the magic of this place....


>>> "Robert Cox" 03/22/04 05:06PM >>>
Dear Leftside:
I need an address to send you Raul Rivero's book. I think we probably have to agree to disagree, because I don't want to argue with you, you seem such a nice fellow and I feel the same way about Cuba as you do. But it does seem to me that you've fallen for the Cuban government's propaganda. When you return to Cuba, please look up the dissidents (if there are any left, who really are dissidents and not agents for the govt.) and come to you own conclusions about them.
Didn't the mass arrests worry you at all? And what about the executions? I'll write again when I have a bit more time.

Fair enough, but I'd just conclude by saying that I think it comes down to what one really values. Cuba's achievements - in health, education, sports, culture, foreign policy (bringing down apartheid through selfless actions in africa), etc. are in areas that I tend to value highly. What I want America to be first and foremost, they have done - with so meager resources. Maybe it is true that I have become cynical about the importance placed on individual liberties by our government (i have seen the way they politicize human rights at the UN). But unfortunately, I am beginning to believe that a trade off is sometimes necessary in developing countries - look at haiti and venezuela and other coups throughout the last 50 years against progressive (and open) governments - particularly when our governemnt senses an interest.

And thanks so much for the book. I will let you know what I think (if you can stand anothe rant). The address is (you are not going to turn me in for going to cuba are you ;)):
US Interferes in El Salvador Elections - In what has come to be expected, widely heard comments by Bush Administration officials on the eve of a foriegn election, had immoral and illegal effect of altering its results. No one in El Salvador misunderstood the US when various officials threatened a severe worsening of relations with Washington - affecting immigration accords, remittances (money sent home), economic investment and AID - if voters did the unthinkable and voted in a true left-wing party, the FLMN. Instead they elected a 39 year old sportscaster from the ruling ARENA party - the part founded by business and land-owning interests. The gap between rich and poor, the abyssmal services and the rampant (largely US-tied gang related) crime are expected to continue to worsen. Imagine if there were such interference in our elections.

Friday, March 19, 2004

On the news front, I've been captivated by the events in Spain, Haiti and now Kosovo. Each vividly show the limits of US hegemony. Much good stuff has been written by others on this, but my two cents are:

In Haiti - It is now clear that the US acted deliberately to oust President Aristide.... the timing of the arrival of US troops, the sacking of his security detail, the lies about where he was to be taken in both the Limo and plane... not to mention the arming and training of theso-called rebels.

What this means is that we still have a policy to rid the world of Socialist regimes... what else did Serbia, Iraq and Haiti have in common (not to mention Central America, Panama, Grenada, Angola...). Aristide, despite being blackmailed by the US in 1994 to adopt basic tenents of neo-liberalism as a condition of his return, vowed protect his people over the attempt to turn it into the next sweatshop country like El Salvador. This was his cheif offense... the other allegations were near complete rubbish. The message to oppsition groups that could never win an election around the world is: the best way to power is to boycott the democratic processes and employ violence instead. If you hold out against compromise and dialogue you can be rewarded with total victory.

In Spain, our hearts go out to those affected by the horrendus blast. Of couse, the question has turned to the election results, which gave Socialists power. It is true that the blasts probably changed the election but only because it prodded so many more (largely young) people to vote. The blast simply created more democracy, which should not be condemned by anyone (what would happen if 77% of our voting-age population voted in November?). The right-wingers saying that the Terrorists won the election are using dangerous simplifications and need to be denounced.

The election is already having a profound effect on the few remaining allies we have in Iraq. El Salvador and Honduras will join Spain and leave Iraq at the end of their mandate. Poland's President felt the need to say he was misled by the Administration and also indicated he reserves the right to pull out (until he received a phone call from Bush yesterday). In Britain, Australia, Italy, Bulgaria and other poodle-states, the ruling governments are nearly certain to lose the next elections.

It is telling that I have not seen one talking head or op-ed in the press put a positive spin on these events. Even those liberals against the War in Iraq cannot admit publically that a break between America and the world is the best bullwark against further US imperialism. This is what seperates liberals and socialists.

In Kosovo, which most Americans thought we had "fixed" already, it has just been reported that the government of Serbia-Montenegro (which still includes Kosovo) is reserving their right to military action if NATO KFOR forces remain unable to stop the violence and protect Serbs there. With NATO forces running scared in many cities in the face of retribution killings, burnings and mob violence, it appears we may not be far from part 2 of the War over Kosovo. I must say that I, and many others, predicted this might happen.

Since the War most Serbs have been forced to leave or herded into ethnic enclaves, largely in the North of Kosovo (this was not ethnic clensing because the violence came from the other side according to the World Powers). Those Serbs who remained lacked any representation in their civic affairs and were openly treated like second class citizens in their own homeland (Kosovo is the historical heart of Serbia). Meanwhile, the US and NATO gave the Albanians enough winks and nods for them to understand that they woud eventually win their terrorist struggle for independence. The UN has rightly had serious reservations about this (rewarding terrorism with independence) and this was a non-starter for the Serbian-Montenegro government. So it appears Plan B (violence that worked before) was put back into action.

Comments on two of my most indulgent Reality TV shows and the contradiction of conservatives:

The Apprentice - The savior of NBC, Donald Trump, comes off as the arrogant, unethical prick we always knew he was. And this is exactly the reason I watch a group of young attractive business grads fawn over him each week. This show provides a glimpse into the mind of our corporate leaders that many of us only hear about from bitching friends and relatives. The ends invariable justify the means. In the world of selling this means women flaunting their sexuality to make more money, men deceiving little childen and their parents, who shell out money for an autograph of a black man (this was supremely disturbing) or both sexes forming alliances to rid themselves of those they don't want to live in a house with... those less attractive, overweight, opinionated or of another ethnicity. A frightening glimpse into how the world of power and money really works.

America's Top Model - Another show worthy for its insights into a world that few of us will come cose to, but are intrinsicly interested in: top fashion models. On episode 1 we find out that not willing to show your entire naked body to strangers and the entire world is enough to send you packing. In others we see the myriad of ways that superficiality trumps talent (none of the remaining models can even walk a runway without drawing laughter.) The next episode was supposed to feature scenes from "eight-in-a-bed romp" between the sex-starved girls and hand-picked Italian suitors, but UPN bosses (a sister network of MTV and CBS) has decided that they can not risk another Janet Jackson episode (see fox article). And what exactly were the producers trying to see happen with their intorduction of these men into the story line? Oh, the conflicts between needing to fatten the ratings and yet stay out of the conservatives spotlight.

This reminds me of back-to-back segments I saw on O'Reilly Factor on Wednesday. First was the Superintendent of Levvitown, NYs school system (the first truly American tract suburb - and O'Reilly's proud hometown), there to discuss "social promotions." After he made a particularly insightful comment about society's responsibility for child poverty and poor educational outcomes (blaming ubridled Capitalism), O-Reilly had nowhere to go but call the Super a Socialist and informing him that "this isn't Cuba." I wish the Super would have stood up for his beliefs, instead he chastised O'Reilly for calling him names.

The priceless irony came after the commercial, when a Forbes magazine editor was on to defend Reebok's hiring of 50 Cent for their new ad campaign. Of course O'Reilly has a twig up his ass for all rappers (Ludacris and Eminem are some of his most publicized enemies). Forbes guy spoke about how the 50 Cent tactic is working worders - turning around Reebok's image making them loads of $$ - and that this is fair game under Capitalism. Now forced on the defensive about the logic of Capitalism, the show vividly displayed the contradiction inherent in the Conservative position: it is impossible to be for family values and unbridled Capitalism at the same time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Garth Trinidad - You'll Be Missed
Is there a better radio station in the country than KCRW 89.3 - Los Angeles/Santa Monica? And on KCRW, os there a better show than Chocolate City, hosted by Garth Trinidad. He isusually on my box 5 days a week, but that is about to change when he moves to Sat night only! It really will make life worse. He is urging us to understand (its about family) and of course we should. But my life, the LA music scene and his 75,000 other listeners, will be the worse for it.

If you don't know (and care), the show transverses the past, present and future of soulful music - with equal eyes to the hip-hop, soul and boogie crowds. And this is not just some college radio show that no one listens to. To me, this show, along with the strong followings by fellow KCRWer Jason Bently and KPFKs Carlos Nino, is the main reason I have found LA has such a strong music scene. People buy records and show up at shows (and artists come here) because they know the music. There is a built-in strong fan base for music that shows up on the airwaves here. It is the nearest we have to a Radio 1 - radio that is far reaching (at least in the entire LA area), diverse and committed to individual good taste and old fashioned djing. Now if we just had something like this nationwide.

Seiji and Domu - live on the air tonight, from 10-2, live from the the Transistor Lounge and StreetsRadio.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The first blog is always the hardest.... right?

I hope so, because suddenly, staring at this blank screen is quite intimidating. I mean, what do I have original to say? My life is boring. I watch too much TV, spend most of the work-day reading newspapers and scouting my favorite web sites. I don't have very many friends in LA yet and am short on story-telling ability. I don't even enjoy gettin crunk...

I just moved to Los Angeles in October. Came out here with my love with little more than a whim that new places and spaces were in order. Even though my heart will remain in Chicago, I view it as a tradition for us to leave (Benny Goodman, Quincy Jones, Sun Ra, Jordan, Common, Upski, Keith Foulke... hell, even the Art Ensemble of CHICAGO took off for Paris when things were getting too raw in the "wild onion.")

I study cities by trade and Los Angeles embodies much of the future of cities around the world, whether we like it or not. Even with its disjointed sprawl, this place is is hard not to enjoy.... the weather, mountains, ocean, architecture, music scene and vastness will keep me occupied for a while.

I (quite fortunately) found work as a City Planner for the City of LA and have been assigned to work mostly on historic districts. It's dignified work but not exactly going to save the world. I tried that in my previous job working with community development non-profits, but came to the realization that to affect power you have to actually have the ear of power and know its weaknesses.

I find solice in beatiful places, works of art connected to the real world struggle, diverse people coming together, my love and music - sweet music. Mostly, I feel good that things are finally getting better in the world, the evidence is there: good production (neptunes, kanye, timbaland, dre) is running pop radio, documentaries are back, Latin America's left is making up for the fall of Communism and America's brand of policy is becoming ever more isolated...

10 I'm steppin' to at the moment:
Kanye West - Spaceship
Obie Trice - the Set Up
Lord Finesse - Ghetto
4HERO - Action f/ Ish.. aka doodlebug (visioneers remix)
new Stereolab
Ludacris - Splash Waterfalls (inst. or remix)
Cee-Lo - Sometimes
Hu Vibrational LP
Roy Ayers _Virgin Ubiquity_ LP
Genesis - No Reply at All