Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Given the ever-saddening situation unfolding in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, I thought I'd dig out my March, 2008 editorial about what I called the broken promise land. You can't post a Facebook update about Israel, much less an editorial in the HuffPo, without getting people fired up on both sides. Israel—and you could easily argue, Jews—inspire a passionate discourse. Much of it based in fair dialogue and debate. But, unfortunately, some is couched in a disdain for any Zionist position, no matter how moderate. And some of it is outright antisemitic.
I was fresh from my trip in March of this year when I wrote the piece. While in the country, it was also a time of building tension, with rockets coming from Hamas into Israeli neighborhoods. And near the end of my trip, in retaliation for the 100+ victims of the IDF's strikes in Gaza, a young Palestinian man walked into a Jerusalem Yeshiva and shot eight students dead.
I've refined and nuanced some of my thoughts and views since my visit and this piece. But overall, it sums up both my attraction to the region, as well as the complexities of appreciating the many sides of the age-old conflict and its modern incarnation.
Here is the piece, as it appeared on the Huffington Post.
The gallery of my photos from the trip is here.
Above: East Jerusalem boys avoid a security patrol, March 2008 (photo: Raymond L Roker)
Monday, December 29, 2008
"There's a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur," he says. "One could rejoice in that process," he adds, poker-faced. "But if we're talking reasonably, it's not the best scenario -- for Russia." Though Russia would become more powerful on the global stage, he says, its economy would suffer because it currently depends heavily on the dollar and on trade with the U.S.
Check the story.
The one good piece of news, Panarin predicts that the Russians could annex Alaska and I'd just assume they'd have a job for Gov. Sarah Palin.
Friday, December 26, 2008
OK, so they're not really Nazis. Don't sue me for hyperbole.
But the American Family Association (if you must go to their site) has got their grandma sized panties in a bunch over Campbell's Soup's recent ads in The Advocate. The full page advertisement depicts a lesbian couple and their son in the kitchen—I know, I know, I was as shocked as you. The couple are actually two New York restaurant entrepreneurs. In any event, the AFA would like Campbell's to stop, "pushing the gay agenda." Yes, folks, the gay agenda has now moved to soup. When will this madness end?
Campbell's was steadfast in support of the ad and future ones with The Advocate, stating, "Inclusion and diversity play an important role in our business, and that fact is reflected in our marketing plan. For more than a century, people from all walks for life have enjoyed Campbell's products, and we will continue to try to communicate in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them."
Normally, I don't go out of my way to defend massive food corporations, being that I avoid meat (besides seafood) and think factory farming and industrial farming is a scourge on our ecosystem and pointlessly cruel. That said, it's great to see such an Americana brand standing tall against intolerance and bigotry, even when it's just over soup.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Angry Black Bitch. Honestly, I have no idea what this blog is even about (I'm gonna assume there's this black bitch, and she's, well, peeved), but the name is fucking great. Just to show the power of branding your blog properly, I am posting this site solely because of its marquee. The theme seems to have worked for the excellent Angry Asian Man and other declarative ethnic sites.
A few years ago, I bought my entire staff copies of The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More (Hyperion), by Wired mag's star editor Chris Anderson. No doubt in my mind that it was the new, new gospel, at least according to the algorithmic tea leaves of the World Wide Web. Anderson's premise was pretty simple: The Web's limitless shelf space allowed even the most obscure product to be distributed to millions, so long as it could somehow be accessed online. The hard wired retail realities of brick and mortar (what happened to that term?) didn't apply to the virtual mile-long aisles of Amazon, iTunes and Netflix. The long tail meant you could finally find a vast audience for your 1978 Peter Frampton memorabilia tour poster archive or Icelandic dark metal releases.
It was one of those theories that clearly seemed to be playing out, with music and consumption seemingly powered more by the collective niche, rather than the lowest common denominator muck that filled the airwaves and stores. Clearly, our tastes—dramatically amplified by Google's ability to bring anything we imagined to our browser—had broadened to include everything under the sun. iTunes showed us our strange tastes and penchant for digging out '60s film scores wasn't a wasted effort. And Apple made a few cents off of a customer that would never have set foot in a Walmart looking for the same track.
But like any good best-seller declaration, somebody has to come along and shit on it (just ask The Tipping Point's Malcolm Gladwell who has to deal with pesky arguments like this). Anderson himself is seasoned enough to anticipate the critics. Fair enough, I guess, I suppose there is a long tail of opinions too, right? Anyway, I came across an article today that questions the real power and prominence of Anderson's theory and illustrates a vital piece of the whole equation that is usually missing: mass is still needed to drive niche markets. In other words, without the traffic and content harnessing power of drivers like Amazon and Google, there is no true strength in the niche, especially when it comes to moving product.
"What most people did not realize is that the value of the 'long tail' was only to those who aggregated it. Google lives off the long tail of web pages; by having more of the web than anyone else available for search meant that everyone went to them to search, which in turn meant big dollars for Google. Amazon took the same approach, expanding their catalog and enabling third-parties to sell to their audience, allowing them to benefit from the long tail of books and other media that were out there, even if only a few people were looking for them. But the owners of that website on rare South American sports paraphernalia, or the sellers of the cult classic novel? They are just a small piece of the aggregated pie."This is good news for the major labels, who pump out massive hits that sit like royalty on top of the bell curve while boutique artists languish in the low end of the tail somewhere. This is how the old machinery is built—pump it out and they will come en mass. But those of us who believe that we have a stake in this economy, as purveyors of select (or just plain weird) content and commodities, want and need a long(er) tail. And there's nothing in this recent data that should deter you from opening your own digital storefront in the virtual sticks. But it does come down to the ability to corral enough attention by using big boy channels (the formerly mentioned Amazon, iTunes, et al) to funnel consumers your way. Just something to remember before you quit your job and pray your new online-only album sales are enough to pay down your student loans.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Much has been said about the death of print, which in recent months has felt more foreboding than ever for media folks. Even if you don't ingest the daily obituaries of the media world's slow and steady loss of titles, brands and marquees, you can't have missed the somber cries from the world of print. The biggest newspapers in the country, and many smaller ones, all have a cloud of death above them, or at best, the promise of a gradual and undignified demise. For somebody that still considers ink on paper—and more importantly, the journalism that usually accompanies it—a beautiful technology, it's been straight depressing.
But what gets obscured when all the talk is just about how poor the old model performs these days, and how great the digital revolution has been to citizen journalism and the flow of opinions, is that real investigative writing takes money, time and infrastructure. Without the traditional news organizations and even the upstart alternative ones, a lot of stories can easily go un- or under reported. David Carr's excellent piece in The New York Times reminded me of the loss we all potentially face.
Carr gives a great example of Newark's Star-Ledger, a daily paper covering one of the most corrupt cities in the country, and how its staff of reporters is diminishing dramatically. Say what you will about bloated staffs and an industry correction, but I want to know that my hometown paper is keeping politicians, the police and others in check. Carr sites Google's CEO Eric Schmidt declaring at the recent American Magazine Conference that the Internet without serious journalism is nothing more than a "cesspool" of useless information. (Ironic given Google's on and off again battles with media companies over rights and reproductions).
But the loss of real reporting may be the collateral consequence if newspapers and their companies shrink to fit the new media economy. Just today, in my local LA Weekly, I came across a 1/2 page story on the city's new "gang czar," a subject I'd heard only a little about in recent months but one important to every Angeleno. Had it not been for the dogged Weekly reporters, and their counterparts in the LA-area media, this type of reporting could start to wane. Even the Huffington Post's enormous unpaid posse of bloggers (of which I'm one) isn't going to get the access or the budget to stay on a complicated and slippery story like this. In fact, my quick search on the HuffPo came up with exactly zero articles on LA's Gang Reduction and Youth Development (aka, the gang czar) task force director the Rev. Jeff Carr.
Listen, I want my digital media as much as the next person. And I don't sympathize with these behemoth institutions who, for way too long, failed to evolve and anticipate this day. The Daily Beast's Tina Brown calls the recent fallout, "a volcanic realignment that’s overdue." And, much like political campaigns, I believe that media has been corrupted by dollars, sponsors and opinion polling so that what's left is too often not the news we need. But even with all the failings of newspapers and news magazines, it's their reporting, digging, fact-finding and long form journalism that we all depend on. Or, more ominously, what we'd surely miss if it were gone.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Time magazine made an easy decision picking president-elect Barack Obama for their 2008 Person of the Year issue. For you, your mom (hopefully), co-workers and friends, there was no question as to who this was going to be. But the iconic image that Time chose for the cover was not another ear-to-ear smiling Obama, but instead an updated version of Shepard Fairey's ubiquitous campaign portrait of the next president.
A couple years ago, Fairey was just the near-legendary darling of the the graffiti and Banksy crowd. His hand-to-hand viral sticker and poster campaigns had helped to bring the graffiti ethos to graphic design . . . and vice versa. Fairey had become the hero of thousands of street artists and pixel worshiping nerds. But even though his imagery were everywhere from movie posters to freeway signs, the last place I expected to see one was on a presidential campaign poster.
In 2007, though, Fairey produced what went on to be the most famous presidential image since "I Like Ike" or Nixon's "V" fingers. Not initially warmed to by the campaign, the red and blue silhouette of a hopeful Barack Obama wormed its way into the iconography of the Obama movement and never left. Pretty soon, the campaign, like Time, had an easy decision to make as well.
Few could discount the recent run Shepard's having, from being a GQ Man of the Year to being mentioned by Rick Stengel, Managing Editor of Time, on Charlie Rose. Next stop for Fairey is, of course, Washington D.C., where he and Yosi Sergant will head up the second installment of the Manifest Hope Gallery. Manifest Hope is a collection of Obama-inspired artwork, last on display in Denver, during the DNC.
My photographs from the Denver DNC and Manifest Hope Gallery
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The real governor
Fred Armisen's Obama is getting better with each episode and now he proves his black face comedy isn't just a fluke. As legally-blind governor David Patterson, he killed it on Saturday Night Live last night. Nailing the Gov for his comical unpreparedness and cocaine use, the skit was totally hilarious.
Here is a longer clip where the governor comes back onto the set and fumbles around while Amy Poehler bids SNL and its audience farewell as she does her last Weekend Update.
Update: Not everybody found the skit funny.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Silicon Alley Insider, an online source for all things in the digital space, just released their Top Web Videos of 2008. It seems to be a list based purely on metrics (views) and not a curated one. Most are, maybe no surprise, music videos, with the top spot going to the Jonas Brothers' "Burnin Up" video. But it was also great to see Obama's race speech hit no. 7 at over 40 million views. Over at URB, we're compiling a few lists of our own, including the Best of '08: Top 10 Cool Music Commercials. It's the end of the year, so expect to be top-10'd to death.
Now, on to the list.
If you're in New York, and you recently lost your job in media, you now have a party to attend where you can hold your head up high enough to see over the bar. And, yes, definitely have another. (Source)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Colin Powell, whose beautiful and poignant endorsement was part of wave of conservative voices in support of then senator Barack Obama, is now taking his message further. In an upcoming broadcast on the excellent Fareed Zakaria's GPS on CNN, Powell even takes on blowhard cigar munching Rush Limbaugh. Here is a bit of what he said:
"I think the [Republican] party has to take a hard look at itself," Powell said in the interview, which was taped Wednesday. "There is nothing wrong with being conservative. There is nothing wrong with having socially conservative views — I don't object to that. But if the party wants to have a future in this country, it has to face some realities. In another 20 years, the majority in this country will be the minority." (The full article is here.)
Anybody who has a clue about Demographic trends knows that whatever political party is in touch with brown America will control the White House for the next several decades. America in 2050 will be more beige than white. And watching conservatives wrestle with their self-imposed demons — immigration, affirmative action, urban America — is like witnessing a slow motion train wreck. With each passing second, another car crumples on the Xenophobe Express. Enjoy the ride, suckers.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
OK, this is enough. Democrats need to clean house for real. over the past year, even as the Dems laugh at unfortunate Republicans gay cruising airports, they are quickly catching up in the laughably hypocritical department. First on my list is Kwame Kilpatrick. He obviously didn't invent modern Democratic corruption, but he just happens to have been the first jerk off to cross my blog. His oh-how-lame inter office dalliance would have been just a queasy embarrassment had he not been such a sucker covering it up and "defending" himself. His pitiful denials, and sorry as patronizing to his local "fans" was a giant time waste for an already struggling and broke city. And the firing of police officers as part of his inept cover up made this jackass a has been before his 40th birthday. Oh, and he happened to be the so-called "Hip-hop Mayor" too. Thanks, bro.
Then there was William J. Jefferson, exiting Democratic Representative from the Louisiana 2nd District. Now, I can't go so far as to blame this World's Stupidest Crook for Obama not winning the state, but his flat lining reputation sure couldn't have helped. In fact, Jefferson just lost his seat to a total newbie Republican named Anh "Joseph" Cao. (Though I'm actually very pleased that at least Cao is now the first Vietnamese person to server in congress). Jefferson, if you don't geek out on stupid politician tricks and already know the story, was caught with $90,000 in his freezer by the FBI investigating allegations of corruption. Like Kilpatrick, he vowed to stick it out, but was put out of our misery this past weekend by upstart Cao.
And then we have what I hope doesn't become one of the most tragic disappointments. Democratic congressman Charles B. Rangel of Harlem's 15th District has a cloud of questionable behavior around him for some financial dealings and it doesn't look good. Rangel, a decorated Korean War vet and member of congress since 1971, is also chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. This chairmanship gives him major influence over tax laws, which may be what infected his suspected behavior. He's accused of avoiding said taxes on some real estate dealings for one. And the latest strange behavior involves him paying his son (as in, "Daddy!") $80,000 for a crummy website that should have been a default template on GoDaddy. Hey may be shielded from the political rumblings so far, but his reputation is starting to smell like something resembling his fellow shady comrades. Of course, this was before our next entry came to national attention.
Last on my list—simply because I can't predict the future, which will surely include more idiot Dems—is the ballsiest of them all. Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois's brazen and utterly ridiculous attempts to sell Obama's vacated Senate seat redefine the offensive heights of political hubris. The governor is accused of working pay-to-play angles for years and even knew he was under investigation when he dared authorities to wire tap him. This only enforces the rule that these OJ-style "If I did it . . ." declarations are almost as good as guilty pleas. Besides being the kind of politician that tests what little faith you might still have in the system, Blagojevich runs the very real possibility of tainting either president-elect Obama or his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
All of these guys—with the exception of Rangel, who is still operating in a shade of gray area for now—pretty much have their mangy paws clearly in the cookie jar. Their behavior gives comfort to Republicans who easily remind the Dems of Monica Lawinsky and Chappaquiddick anytime they want. With an incredible role in history about to be formalized on January 20th, it's unfortunate the Democrats have this roster of chumps (and alleged chumps) lurking in the shadows.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I also got word of the new Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging. I can pretty much recommend this sight unseen, given the genius of the HuffPo and its unparalleled success in mainstreaming the blog conversation.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Viacom (MTV, paramount, etc) sent about 850 people home yesterday—several of them I knew personally. Other media companies like Time Inc. and Conde Nast put people on the dole recently as well. And that's just the media industry, we won't even talk about banking. Citibank is in the process of laying off 50,000 people worldwide. It is ugly and getting worse out there.
Forbes has a list of recession-proof jobs to sink your teeth into if you're out of one or afraid of the next axe swing. Not surprisingly, the top of the list is business development and sales. I have always known—as a magazine owner—that sales is the engine. Whoever is capable of making it rain is going to get paid, no matter what the weather. Good luck out there.
P.S. If you're a real rainmaker, give me a shout at email@example.com
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
When is a blogger like Plato? Well-known blogger/writer Andrew Sullivan has his own theories and more in his piece "Why I Blog." Published for the Atlantic, Sullivan breaks down not only the advances that made blogging unique in the continuum of human communication (the hyperlink), but also our ongoing desire to share information in various states of refinement. He also imparts his lessons learned about the craft:
To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth. A blogger will notice this almost immediately upon starting. Some e-mailers, unsurprisingly, know more about a subject than the blogger does. They will send links, stories, and facts, challenging the blogger’s view of the world, sometimes outright refuting it, but more frequently adding context and nuance and complexity to an idea. The role of a blogger is not to defend against this but to embrace it. He is similar in this way to the host of a dinner party. He can provoke discussion or take a position, even passionately, but he also must create an atmosphere in which others want to participate. —Andrew Sullivan
Blogging is such an indulgent craft, full of self-important key strokes and sometimes fancy wordplay. But then to top it off by actually dissecting your own practice of it, just seems a bit much. Maybe this is just self-deprecation or false modesty. And a blogger—by definition, I suppose—can't really help himself. We write (when we're not clogged up) because we can start conversations. We write because people are listening. And maybe sometimes we just write to here those keys snap on aluminum laptops, knowing that the semi-permanence of our words is entertaining at least a party of one.
Tossing all of this into the mix, I took my own stab at writing about my blog habit in the recent URB. Having spent the better part of the last year getting my journalist arms around their more transient new role of blogger, I figured it was time to commemorate this trip on paper. It was also the perfect piece for URB's theme: "My First . . .". It felt strange to reduce such a dynamic and shifting broadcast medium to a few paragraphs on a static page, but I managed to assemble something fit for print. I'm just glad I didn't indulge in Sullivan's excellent tome until after writing my piece. Blogger envy would have had me frozen at the keys.
URB No. 156: My First Blog.
Friday, November 28, 2008
If you're not up yet, The New Pop is the future present of video and photography. Street level strike teams with their entire rig in a backpack are the new event bloggers. And I'm not talking about camera phone quality motion sickness vids and drunken snaps. This is quality production fit for broadcast and print, but usually done with no more than one video camera (TreVZ) and a photographer on the fly. URB talked up these kids in our "Next 100" issue this year and it's clear why. The outfit of Tone, TreVZ and Texas (the girl amongst the guys) paint New York City with not only tight, relevant mini documentaries (with embeddable code, hello!), but they capture it all with super tight nightlife and event photography (By Tone and Texas). This is the new multimedia guerrilla device, so smile, you're on.
This cool clip captures the crew searching high and low for the copy of URB they were in. It's funny but I'm also like, "Damn, is URB that hard to find?"
I'm only a few months into this blogging thing and I've already broken one of the cardinal rules: Never stop blogging. My friend (Ms.) Danielle reminds her readers to write even when you can't or don't want to. But if you stuck through this dry spell of mine, you'll notice that my last post was about two weeks ago. So what caused this disruption?
I'm sure it's a number of things, some of them substantive and some just personal hangups. So in the blog 101 rule of make everything into a list, here goes:
1) Ego: Let's be real: A blog is full-on ego> the bigger the blog, the larger the ego. I probably started to over think this whole process shortly after people actually tuned in. This may sound strange or even lame, but the more attention the blog got, the harder it was to write in some ways. And positive feedback could be just as debilitating as negative sometimes. As feedback and comments would pile on, I felt I really needed to provide a reason to keep showing up. Talk about psyching yourself out. Even after all my years in media, I still get sophomore jitters. I know, get over it.
2) Proposition 8: That damn Prop 8 debate wore me out. When I wrote my original piece on this for the Huffington Post, I had no idea what I was walking in to. My piece on the blame game and finger pointing based on race and exit polls elicited the most comments I've ever received on the HuffPo and my personal blog. Not only was a firestorm brewing, but it became one of the most important and enduring debates surrounding the issue of gay marriage. After a couple weeks of reading, responding and referring, my mind and my hands cramped up. This blogging thing is a contact sport, I found out.
3) Economic meltdown: Take a look around. We're in a major economic crisis. Most Americans don't truly get the gravity of this expanding disaster because it seems to be in slow motion and the evidence is hidden on corporate and small business balance sheets, personal credit card statements and individual crisis. But in the coming weeks and months, we'll really start to see what a tangled web we've weaved. My industry (media) is coming to grips with its own existential realities with a prognosis that's difficult and bloody at best. But even as I wrap my head around that, I'm reminded about other personal stakes, such as my friend Jonathan the comedic script writer who is hunkered down in his Brooklyn bunker while Hollywood decides if it's still even buying scripts. Or ask any of your friends in real estate—commercial or residential—if they're closing any deals these days. And what about the layoffs? Prepare for the year-end bloodbath to cap an already gory year. This is beyond anything we've ever come close to living through as a modern nation and we're so not prepared for it. I can't say this doom and gloom didn't distract me from the keyboard a bit.
4) Obama won: I know, I know. It ain't over, it's just beginning. We haven't even had the inauguration and there's plenty of politics happening. And it's not like I don't have things to say about the coming Obama presidency or his cabinet selections. I just have to cop to a sudden loss of urgency, even though I know I can't rest here. Time to jump into post election mode for real.
5) Facebook: When all else fails these days, blame Facebook. Your relationship tanks: Facebook. Job performance falters: Facebook. School starts to take a back seat: Facebook. You can't muster the energy to blog after a day of poking friends: Facebook. I'm waiting for Facebook to show up in court documents as a legal defense.
Ultimately, as true as everything is above, it's all even more reason to blog. Maybe i just cleared my first of many hurdles as a so-called blogger. A public writer's block, somewhat worse than lapsing on Facebook status updates. Or maybe I just need to write while flying. For the second time in two weeks, I'm on a transcontinental flight. This time, heading back to LA on an American flight with Wi-Fi. It's a gift to have something to say and the 21st Century technology to get it out to the world. I should remember that the next time my fingers can't seem to find their way to the keys.
Photo credit: Daniel Beltsazar/iStockphoto.com
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It's been disheartening to read the commentary around the passing of Proposition 8, as it relates to how the so-called black vote pushed the anti-gay marriage law over the line. If you haven't caught wind of this unfortunate thread, start with sex columnist Dan Savage who put its passage squarely at the feet of black homophobes (Yes, they might actually represent as much as *3% of the California electorate--so watch out). Maybe not surprisingly, Savage pulled his original column, probably after he realized he was helping to spark a race riot between blacks and white gays. Nice, Dan.
For a glimpse of the fervor (on all sides), just read some of the nearly 1200 comments on my HuffPo editorial. The most hopeful thing I can take away from this conversation so far is that it's a teachable moment for all sides. Clearly there were some issues surrounding race ready to spring from the GLBT community. The post-8 hangover probably revealed more than gay liberals would have liked in terms of their own intolerance. And there is no doubt—just like many, many other groups, races and cultures—a festering bigotry and lack of acceptance of gays inside parts of the black community. But to dumb it all down to homophobia is not thinking critically, since this has got much more to do with religion and generational differences. And, more importantly, it's completely counterproductive given the ink spent on this type of fighting when the winning of hearts and minds is more effective.
I came across this excellent open letter on Racialicious (Thanks, Diana). In it, contributor Adele Carpenter laid out some of the failures of this type of racial voter profiling. Carpenter does a great job showing how those eagerly attacking blacks for voting en mass in favor of 8 fail to look at how that same argument can be used against them. Here is one such examination:
"Californians live in a state that has one of the highest incarceration rates in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. Studies have estimated that at any time, 40 percent of black men in their 20’s in California are under the control of the correctional system. Criminalization affects many LGBT people, in particular, those that may be experiencing addiction or who, lacking familial support, move to expensive cities where they may have a hard time accessing affordable housing and legal or living-wage work. I write from San Francisco, where, in the months leading up the election, I saw a massive mobilization within the queer spaces in which I spend time to get people to vote no on 8, but I saw little or no public discourse among LGBT people about very important state propositions: 5, 6, and 9—all of which potentially impacted things like funding for prisons, drug crime sentencing, or the trying of minors as adults in this state."
The entire letter is here.
Lastly, I was recently on KPFK radio discussing the Prop 8 fallout.
Photo: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times
Saturday, November 15, 2008
From The New York Times/MSNBC — Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry.
Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days.
But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.
The full store is here.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I'm sitting here, on board an American Airlines 767 somewhere about two thirds of the way from Los Angeles to New York. It's 9:40 pm at my destination and I'm typing out a blog. Yeah, I'm on the plane, writing a blog entry. Live.
Be careful what you wish for, I guess. Want to never not be connected, and this might be one of the last safe zones to be spoiled (I'm sure NYC subways can't be far behind). I'm in a big first class seat (thanks, Citibank AAdvantage) and trying to keep my eyes open while I complete my third hour of Wi-Fi use. I'd heard about the modern wonder of in-flight wireless, but now I'm online in real time.
The company that provides American with this juice is Gogo. I have no idea if it's just a front-of-the-plane luxury, but for $12.95, it's coach affordable. It's definitely made me the biggest geek in first class. In my ears, pulsing from a new iPod Touch, is "N.A.S.A. Anthem", an infectious slice of Apache-themed cosmic breakbeat (you heard it here first). But I digress. In front of me is a bright 15-inch MacBook Pro ("Do those keys light up?" the flight attendant says, wide eyed), linked to the heavens, pushing and pulling real time Web snacks off the warm Internuts. This is so live.
When I first got online, I immediately IM'd our editor Josh. Next thing I know, and I'm on iChat with my assistant Jolie. Then I have email downloading to Apple Mail. There was only one logical next step: Facebook. I can status update from 30,000 feet? "Raymond is blogging somewhere above the Great Lakes." Wait, somebody in LA just pinged me on IM. Damn, this is so worth 12 bucks.
I've always done some of my best thinking during that five hour black hole of time and space between coasts. I never land with anything less than a 20 emails to self on my Blackberry. Notes on everything from mundane company to dos to lofty wish lists. We're less than an hour from JFK right now, and I have't even turned my Crackburied on. If I had a thought, I emailed or AIM'd it. If I needed to watch a Youtube clip, I could have. For the frequent flier, this may be better than seat back television by a mile. Post complete.
I have been staring at the photos of our new president-elect and something still doesn't seem right. As a citizen, who happens also to be brown-skinned, this is particularly unsettling. Something about the images of Barack Obama, as beautiful and gratifying as they are, is also stubbornly unique.
So why isn't it normal yet? After watching the video below, it's now obvious. Obama represents much more than the arrival of the first black president, he is a new physical identity on our collective consciousness. Another example of how our life experience, from the media we consume to the history we experience, controls our perceptions whether we like it or not.
Note: If it's not obvious by now, my "A-Z Election Countdown" needed some more time to germinate, so I'm giving myself until January 20th. By then, this will all be official, and I should be done by the alphabet, so help me.
Monday, November 10, 2008
From URB.COM — After Grant Park, Chicago, probably the next best place to be in America on Election Night was New York City. I was in distant runner-up LA, but stumbled on these beautiful NYC shots while perusing Facebook. The photographer is Derrick Gomez, and I absolutely love his work.
A nice portfolio is here and jump to Derrick's blog for more work.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
From URB.COM — The club is obviously bumping when the sweat-stained stench of sex is think enough to fog the glasses of even the most cold-faced patrons. It’s not just the nearly naked dancers freaking on a shin-high stage surrounded by lustful stares or the overflowing crunch at the bar, but whatever it is, it’s almost tangible. Urban street-wear brands mark the night’s dress code, glasses are filled with Hynotiq, Hennessy and Grey Goose, and hyphy tunes from the Bay rhythmically further the frantic pace. “It’s like any other hip-hop booty club,” says the evening’s bartender, “except the girls are also played by guys.” . . . (Read the original story here.)
Illustration by Martha Rich
Friday, November 7, 2008
This also appeared on the Huffington Post.
Excuse me? I voted against Proposition 8. I'm among the 30 percent of black Californians that did so. And as much as I can condemn the homophobia and intolerance that drove a portion of the 70 percent of blacks that voted in favor of Proposition 8's ban on gay marriage, it's an outrage to lay its passage at their feet. I've read several editorials already about how the ungrateful blacks betrayed gays right after America gave them their first president. I know there are some wounds and frayed nerves right now, but this type of condescending, divide and conquer isn't going to help at all. And it's a gross oversimplification of what happened.
According to the exit polling, there's enough blame to go around. Don't forget the 49 percent of Asians who voted for Prop 8. And the 53 percent of Latinos who fell in line for it too. And then there is the white vote in support of 8. Slightly under 50% percent of them, a group representing 63% percent of California voters, voted "Yes" on 8. Last I checked blacks held little sway over all of those groups.
So who did? For starters, the churches, religious leaders and advocacy groups in support of 8 were a very formidable force. Surveys showed religion played a major role in voter's decisions. Even No on 8 supporters have admitted that their camp was too complacent, arrogant and far too unorganized. I told a friend the day after the election, that I thought the arguments needed to be much stronger to answer the lingering questions Prop 8 boosters had leveled, disingenuously or not. Even I had some personal misgivings before casting my vote against.
Perhaps gay rights activists needed to better explain how a No vote wouldn't force churches to perform gay marriage ceremonies. And how a No vote wouldn't affect schools or teach children about gay marriage. Maybe deeper outreach in the black and brown communities could have changed some minds. What about fostering a stronger dialogue beyond the good side of town and in the neighborhoods where some of the unfortunate prejudice takes root?
No on 8 also needed a better defense against Obama's own stance on gay marriage. He is on record as wanting to allow the states to decide, even though he still supported full rights for same sex couples under civil unions. It's clear that anybody hoping to get elected this year needed a position that was generally acceptable to the red states. And Obama came out strongly against 8. But those nuances could have been much better explained to those who might be excused to follow suit with Obama's somewhat loose position. The anti-Prop 8 forces couldn't just rest on the hope that entrenched and arcane beliefs would be washed away without both a robust defense and offense.
In the coming weeks, those of us who are standing against Proposition 8--including, I'm sure, millions of blacks nationwide--are all going to need unity as we lobby, fight and advocate for either a reversal of this amendment or a new battle in 2010. There are very valid arguments against the presumptuous collapsing of Obama's win and the results of the Prop 8 vote, but we can table that for now. Regardless of your position, making scapegoats of blacks as a bunch of thankless homophobes is hardly playing the best hand.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
This is what they don't get. Them. The old school government and political machinery—Democrats and Republicans alike. They don't understand the technology like they should. What comes as no surprise is how well Obama's team gets it. BHO was criticized as being too wet behind the ears, but he has the grasp of technology in an age when that matters most. McCain had a bus and Obama had the Web. Was it ever even a contest?
What I didn't expect was something this good, this fast. The launching of Change.gov is like Facebook for the Obama presidency, a public site for citizen involvement. Among other facts and updates, the site takes job applications and your ideas for the Obama presidency. It's politics 2.0. And it seems to be softly launching without much fanfare, which is another sign of the genius of Obama's team. The viral nature of great online content has proven itself time and again during the campaign, so why force feed anything? This site already seems to have caught on. I heard it crashed a few times today under the weight of all the job applicants.
I can't wait for the next leap: The Live White House Cam!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
We did it.
We fought. We hoped. We worked. We cried. We panicked. We debated. We held our breath. But after a 21 month campaign and eight years of sorry leadership and squandered opportunity, we did it. It's not hyperbolic to say that we helped shift the course of the world.
America has just elected a president who built his campaign out of millions of individual voices. Ours. You can almost say the country elected a movement. Barack Hussein Obama (Will they use his whole name at the inauguration?) inspired you, me and so many people we know, to get up, get involved and get into it.
So now what?
We will bask in the celebratory glow for a few days, maybe weeks. And then get excited again as we approach January 20th and the pomp and circumstance that consumes the moment. But I know that over the coming days and weeks, life will also go on, just as it did in the months leading up to the election. What we do individually, and collectively, will determine how radical a departure we make from the past. Obama can only successfully preside over a willing constituency. How committed we are to substantive change beyond blackening a circle in a ballot will define how great the next chapter in American history is.
There will be no vacuum in the National conversation. Somebody will step up to fill any vacancies in dialogue, or breaches in momentum. It could be an ally or a foe. Might be somebody with a shared vision, or an advocate for the polar opposite. If we're lucky, it will be a more unifying and collaborative faction. If history shows us anything, chances are it won't.
Any forward action will demand continued engagement by anybody who showed up to the polls to cast a vote. And even by those who—unbelievably—sat this one out. For them, and for all of us, the next chapter is as important as the first. It won't have nearly the ceremony or pageantry as this round, but it will be just as urgent. And it's where we will really see what we're made of.
Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/The New York Times
Monday, November 3, 2008
O is for Oil
For practically as long as any American has been alive, oil has been an issue that we have fought wars over and spent our nation's treasure on. Our escape from its clutches could mean the dawn of a new industrial revolution—a green one this time. And our slavery to it will mean our military is not leaving Iraq and the Middle East for another quarter century at least. Not to mention, our tumble towards global and irreversible climate change will continue.
Oil also continues to define our country's friendships (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Nigeria) and her adversaries (Russia, China, Venezuela). And regardless of which direction we're ready to take as a country, the next president will be instrumental in charting that course, for better (Obama) or worse (McCain).
N is for "No" on Proposition 8
Vote "No" on California Proposition 8, the push to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. All over Facebook pages and the blogosphere, this has become the most advocated position outside of electing Barack Obama. And considering that California holds about 1/8 of the nation's population, the laws made in this state will probably/eventually effect you whether you live here or not.
Personally, I didn't have a strong opinion against Prop 8 until recently. It had nothing to do with my opinion that gay couples should have 100% equal protection and advocacy under the law. I have always been in favor of that, without a question. I just didn't feel it was the government's place to interfere with matters of the church, which I saw marriage as.
But then my view changed. First off, I recognized that the church had long since stopped confining their laws to religious institutions, and had benefited from state and federal laws. This made it a public policy issue. And as such, it became an issue for the voters. And if we live in a state where the majority of the population wants same-sex couples to be able to consider themselves officially married (without air quotes), then that's what it should be.
Secondly, I've learned to always look at the people behind the laws. From there, you can see whose agendas are mixing with politics. In the case of "Yes on Proposition 8" it's a pretty solid base of religious leaders, conservatives and historically anti-gay rights groups. The age-old tactic of using religious rhetoric to play on prejudices and otherwise create divisions isn't a surprise, but it also shouldn't be rewarded.
The supporters of Proposition 8 talk about gay marriage as the unraveling of families, while in truth it will actually give couples more familial structure. And by attempting to withhold the title of marriage from gay couples, they are seeking to relegate them to "otherness" and "outside" status. What does that teach the next generation—the kids they're utilizing for their commercials—about tolerance?
Vote "No" on Proposition 8.
Photo: Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Sunday, November 2, 2008
M is for Mom
(A personal shout out)
Late last year, I was a Hillary Clinton supporter—or more accurately, I hadn't yet been swayed by the Obama movement. I had gone so far as to write an editorial on how Obama could be an amazing national community organizer. But president? Forget about it. This sentiment relied on the premise that Obama couldn't win. And I had yet to allow myself to hope and aspire like many of my peers were.
My 67-year-old mother, an ardent Democrat, was another story. Sometime last Fall, I had gotten her on a list for an Obama rally in LA. I couldn't be bothered to break away from work and attend. She didn't quite become an Obama supporter on the spot, but she emerged from the Universal Amphitheater well on her way. This sort of transformation was happening all over the country.
But my mom wasn't any doe-eyed kid or first time voter. I assumed she would have supported Hillary, the establishment candidate. And a woman. My mother was also a recently retired veteran public school teacher, long active in the union. She was what the Democratic party would call their base.
But a month later when she told me she intended to vote for Obama, I was as surprised to hear that as she was to hear I wasn't. How did she become the one to embrace the call for change and optimism before me? Obama was supposed to move my generation, not necessarily hers. And how was I the jaded one? I eventually came around sometime after the Iowa primary, but moms was solidly there first.
My mom's always been politically involved and she definitely planted that seed in me. Whether it was her decades of union activities, phone banking during the 1980 presidential race (with me at her side, supporting independent John B. Anderson), or her current role in her local neighborhood council, she's rarely been far from politics.
She called me the other day to say she'd booked a hotel room in Washington D.C. for the January 2009 inauguration. If Obama wins, she wants to be there for the ceremony. I told her I'd be there too, for sure. 28 years after she first put that political bug in me, I can't think of anybody I'd rather celebrate the moment with.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Caught up with Hassan Johnson, aka Wee-Bey from HBO's The Wire, at a swank and sexy Halloween party in the Hollywood Hills, last night. Weebay says, "Go Vote for the kid, who's doing the bid," referring to Obama. Cool dude from the best show on television.
Yes, I know, not my best video quality. Dark, slightly drunk, late, but with my new Flip Video camera. I see good things for this little toy.
Friday, October 31, 2008
L is for Love, Reggie
(Forget about working for Diddy, I want to work for Obama.)
According to his Wiki, Reggie Love is the "body man" and personal aide to presidential candidate Barack Obama. No matter what happens on November 4th, this had to have been the dream gig of a lifetime. Love, a former Duke Blue Devils basketball player, has been a constant road dog for the hopeful future president since the first days of the race. The UK Guardian says he was even responsible for starting the infamous terrorist fist bump habit played ceaselessly on Fox News.
The Guardian described his role like this: "At the start of Obama's day, Reggie is with him in the hotel gym or local YMCA, where they work out together. As the day rolls along, he travels with the nominee in his armoured SUV, managing the phone call list and dialing the numbers. At events, he is his personal photographer and stopwatch, alerting the candidate to the need to wrap up his comments and stick to his schedule."
You can imagine what this cat saw along the campaign trail. Several of Love's photos (part of job is to snap shots along the way, and according to The New York Times, he has over 10,000 photos) were included in the Manifest Hope Gallery in Denver, curated by Shepard Fairey, during the DNC. They include a simple but powerful image (above) of a light machine gun sitting on the lap of an anonymous secret service agent in the backseat of Obama's armored SUV. With this type of intimate access, I can only assume the book deal has already been cast.
photo: Reggie Love (Manifest Hope Gallery)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
'Daddy' (photo: Raymond L Roker)
Like a good kid, my 9-year-old liver-spotted Dalmatian ("Daddy") supports whatever candidate his poppa does. But I'm genuinely thinking he'd be an Obama dog if his bio is any indication. First off, he's brown and white. Like Obama, he hasn't seen his father since he was very young. And he grew up in several different households, having been in foster care before I got him from the Antelope Valley Dalmatian Rescue.
So when this custom collar arrived from our new friends at Muzzle-Tov, we immediately put it on to show our support. I've seen silly Obama dog shirts, but I wouldn't subject my boy to "dressing up." The collar is just enough to make the other liberal canines at Hollywood's Runyan Canyon envious, while leaving the rabid McCain dogs (the must be coming over from the Valley side) foaming at the mouth.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
In an Advertising Age video, legendary design guru George Lois ridicules the recent 'big idea' from his former home of Esquire. Saying their "E-Ink" cover was "silly" and "gimmicky," he echoed much of the sentiment around the 75th anniversary experiment. E-Ink had arrived like a thud in the haphazard world of Internet Age magazine hype. Lois went on to chastise the flailing industry, saying, "Oh lord, How long will it take for them to learn?"
Lois has the bonafides to level this critique. Besides being a world class advertising agency art director at DDB, he was responsible for some of the most memorable and politically charged Esquire covers of the last century. At a time when safe and PC was the standard, this including classics with Ali, Nixon and Warhol.
Old school pros like Lois are a fading breed. Brash, bold and pioneering, he's from the generation that the series Mad Men celebrates. I suppose today's versions might be overachievers like agency superstar Alex Bogusky, Apple guru Jonathan Ive and art guerrilla Banksy.
It was nice to hear Lois say, not entirely surprisingly, that he's a Barack Obama supporter. Which makes me want to ask, where's that soon-to-be legendary campaign poster or magazine cover, George?
Click here for the video.
Yeah, I'm a Black Jew. And Obama will be the next president. Get used to it.
To be honest, I can barely remember the high holidays and my family celebrates Christmas. But my mom's Jewish and so is her mom. So, by Jewish law, I'd have been toast in Hitler's kitchen back in the day. And when it comes to Israel, where I visited earlier this year, I'm Uzi down.
But after catching Coed magazine's Top 10 Hot Ass Hollywood Jews list of chosen hotties, I'm feeling more Jewish than ever. Not that a gentile doesn't stand a chance with these most excellent babes, but I'll take any leg up I can. And, no kidding, I didn't know Scarlett Johansson was Jewish either.
Browse and enjoy.
K is for Kids
I know I already did "C" for Children, but this encore is for the "Kids". These young hopefuls from Atlanta's Ron Clark Academy get their 15 minutes during a CNN interview (video) and don't disappoint. You've hopefully seen their poli-rap debut on Youtube turning T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" into an election year anthem ("You Can Vote However You like"). You get the feeling this video will surface 30 years in the future, on the eve of the 2036 presidential election, as part of a bio on one of these little gentlemen as a candidate.
As much as I've railed on about so-called Black Republicans, I love that at least one of these little dudes (tween Willie Thornton) is in the McCain camp. Young brown kids need to diversify and not play from society's messed up script and perceptions. And I don't know what's in the water over at Ron Clark, but I'll assume it's a mix of heavy parent, community and teacher involvement. In other words, a village, in Hillary speak. And wearing those fresh uniforms can't hurt. How many childhood hours did I spend agonizing on whether I had the right acid wash jeans, just to survive the day and win the acceptance of my classmates. Lord knows, I should have been worrying more about my education instead.
Here is the CNN Interview
Here is the original video
(c) RAYMOND L ROKER
This came via email from Diddy's label camp this afternoon:
It ain't over, until it's over. There is still so much work to be done. The thrill of victory is just 1 week away. We hear it in the streets, we feel it in our hearts and it's burning in our souls. Together we have successfully registered the most young voters in the history of the modern political process. We called a State Of Emergency on October 3rd at 6:00AM and our culture stood up and recognized the importance of registering millions of voters. From 1st time voters who have just come of age to vote, to those who are participating for the 1st time in the voting process. Your commitment to Change will continue to ring across our America, because we all are in the Right State Of Mind
Where it stands today, we are on the verge of making history, the kind of history that will be apart of our cultures legacy. The kind of history that bridges the gap between race, religion and culture, the kind of history that will ignite a light that shines bright from generation to generation, screaming that our voice does matter and our vote does count. The kind of history that will enable the next generation of leaders to encourage vision, not division, to encourage hope, not hopelessness, to encourage the power of the people, not the power politics of the few.
With only 7 days left before we vote for change, let's hold ourselves accountable and responsible. No more excuses, no more mistakes and no more time to waste. If you have the opportunity to vote early in your state then vote today. If you are voting on November 4th, make preparation today. Bring your family and friends and plan for the party at the poles. Make November 4th the day we celebrate change - The day we celebrate freedom of choice. The day we celebrate power of all people. Lets all come together on November 4th, because it's a family reunion. It's our time and we are all in the Right State Of Mind.
We have 7 days to Vote for Change. 7 days to Vote to Make History. We can not slow down. We can not let up. We must push through to history until the final vote is cast and the last ballot is counted. We can, we must, and we will Make It Happen. Vote Obama/Biden on November 4th.
Mary J. Blige
Monday, October 27, 2008
Admittedly, I'm a little behind with my daily alphabet entries (I keep having blog ideas that don't correspond to the next letter). But I'll have us to "Z" by November 4th if it kills me. So without further ado . . .
J is for Jigaboo
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a Jigaboo is simply, "A black person." Oh, and they add, it's "offensive." Well, it makes my point here—race still matters and will so long after this election.
As much I'm ready to start off 2009 with a new president of African American heritage, I am sometimes jarred back to the harsh reality that is the United States. Racism, in its most insidious and hateful form—and its most dangerous—is alive still. Even though it rarely surfaces publicly.
Luckily, most of the vestigial reminders of our ugly past, and occasional present, show up in the form of jackasses (another "J" word) like the two below. If it wasn't such a very real concern, I'd probably laugh at them. You're kidding me: white tuxedo drive by? Somebody's been watching too much Dark Knight.
Presidential harm has long been a running joke for blacks. But Colin Powell's wife had enough real concern that she convinced her husband not to make a presidential run in 1996. Powell's endorsement alone, of Barack Obama, left Rush Limbaugh yelling about race, fanning divisions and inspiring bigots everywhere. 1988 candidate Jesse Jackson was a surviving witness to the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination just 20 years before. The atmosphere around Obama's run has been a concern enough that he received Secret Service protection in May 2007, before any other primary candidate.
From CNN — Federal prosecutors charged two men [pictured above] with plotting a "killing spree" against African-Americans that would have been capped with an attempt to kill Sen. Barack Obama while they wore white tuxedos, federal officials said Monday. The men planned to kill more than 100 African-Americans, including 14 who would be beheaded, according to the affidavit. Read the rest here.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I really do see it as a watershed moment for our generation, when our collective power was actualized around an idea of change and progress. No matter what happens on November 4th (really, no matter what), Obama supporters, champions and believers can know that they were part of an American movement like no other before it. Of course, on November 5th, I'll have to answer my neighbor's question for real.
Now, go vote.