Sunday, August 31, 2008

Yelling Fever

I cringed when I saw this ridiculous Six Flags commercial. I don't understand why people in media still don't understand such obviously offensive stereotypes — in this case, the wacky yelling Asian man (Please tell me he's at least Asian!). I don't think I'm being overly sensitive here, given the controversy. I could just see the creative team sitting around in their cultural bunker acting out this spot. 'Can you make his accent a little more broken, Bill?'

On a related note, I'm dying to go to Magic Mountain. Ant takers?

Condé Nast Outshines the Rest Despite Itself

It's no secret the print media world is morphing, struggling and fighting for dear life. Floating mostly above this thrashing mass of 'old media' is the Condé Nast squad of flagships. The New York Times recently published an excellent story on how chairman Si Newhouse quietly manages his empire. As evidence of the Newhouse family's winning formula, Vanity Fair, Wired, New Yorker and Vogue and Condé Nast Traveler are all defying the brutal gravity of media's current undertow.

But some of these titles have also had their share of recent negative PR, from the New Yorker's Obama terrorist fist bump cover, to Italian Vogue's 'Black Issue' and U.S. Vogue's LeBron James cover. Many thought the fist bump cover was insensitive in its inadvertent fanning of the prejudicial flames this political season. The Italian Vogue issue celebrated the beauty and diversity of the black form, but was seen as patronizing and too little too late for a title that historically sidelined minority models. And the over-the-top imagery of the James cover was compared to a poster of King Kong and Fay Ray. Not the best look.

From my perspective, it seems a few more faces of color in the executive/creative ranks at Condé Nast — and across the media spectrum — would go a long way to smooth out or all together avoid these types of gaffs. Nevertheless, according to the Times piece, Condé Naste seems to welcome the controversy, in any form. As always, it sells. After several weeks, I finally found a second printing of the 'Black Issue' at a NY newsstand. The first printing had completely sold out.

Sorry, But I already Sort of 'Hate' Her

Turns out Sarah Palin, our next VP-over-my-Canadian-bound-body — besides being a sadistic hunter and an oil-slicked, unqualified MILF — altered her Wiki.

Truth be told, I had to edit mine in recent days too. Not because of any impending run for office, but because somebody wrote that I donated 9 million yen to Chinese earthquake victims. As benevolent as that is, it ain't true. Maybe they meant to change Al Roker's.

Post-Race Politics according to the Gray Lady

This is one of those must read articles. The basic argument made by the NY Times' Matt Bai (Who went on Tavis Smiley last week to discuss his piece) is that Obama, as much as he is opening doors, may also signal the end of race politics for Blacks. In other words, he has do so well in transcending skin color that he has brought the entire political process with him. And it will be harder for black politicians to push a black agenda. Of course, this also means that voters will hopefully see a black politician sans the racial qualifier.

So, is this more of a good thing, or just whishful/hopeful thinking? And what does it mean for how the black community will deal with its ills? And is America truly ready for color-blind politics?

B.o.B. and Janelle Monáe are Just Everyday Atliens

B.o.B. and Janelle Monáe are both from Atlanta And, just as importantly, they're both recent URB cover stars. Talk about artists defying region, trajectory, race and genre. So psyched that both did their first covers with URB.

The B.o.B video shows our boy killing the acoustic guitar for two freestyle bits bookending our interview with him. Check our Next 100 story on B.o.B here.

B.o.B. at Coachella getting acoustic

Janelle's video shows her getting ready for her URB cover story. Diddy's latest muse just released an album on Bad Boy which is an intoxicating cocktail of Andre 3000 and a future-soul Lauryn Hill. Check it out below.

Janelle Monáe at her URB cover shoot

Jeffstaple and Bobbito in/at/on URB

If you don't know Jeffstaple, you better ask somebody. Jeff, also known as Jeff Ng (and owner of the ultra influential Reed Space), recently launched a column with my magazine that will live in print and online. It's the second platform that's the most exciting because of the unique way Jeff insisted on producing it. Instead of doing what is fast becoming ubiquitous — the video interview — he opted to get all New York Times on us and made a talking slide show (click below) that is as sophisticated and exquisite as it is entertaining and informative. Enjoy.

The (Real) Problem With America.

I wrote about this Bill Moyers interview in the Huff Po a couple weeks ago. It is some of the most compelling and descriptive dialogue on the misguided and corrupt American foreign policy machine Now that I have a proper blog, I wanted to post it here. Please take a minute to watch it, I guarantee you will be both informed and unnerved by what you learn.

Unlike his fellow PBS colleague, Charlie Rose, Moyers doesn't share video embed code (Bill, come on now). So, here's a Youtube clip of part of part 1 (You can grab parts 2-6 as well). Or, for the full, high-quality interview, travel to PBS and stream it there in its entirety.

Fairey Bust

Shepard Fairey and some of his compatriots were arrested last Monday night, in Downtown Denver, during the Democratic National Convention. From what it seems, it was more a case of wrong place, wrong time, not our ol' Shep getting slow in his parenting age. They team spent about 16 hours in jail, and even tried to have the visiting mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom (a supporter of Fairey's) come get them out. Check the video below, shot by my boy Danny Lee as part of our iMeem/Manifest Hope Gallery project.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Let's Hope Gustav is Just a Slurricane

'The Katrina Myth' video by

the three-year anniversary of Katrina was yesterday. It came and went, buried beneath the monumental history being made in Denver, as well as the announcement of McCain's running mate (or is she just the Ol' man's new 'mate'?). But in nature's ironic harshness, a massive storm known as Gustav is here to celebrate. By Monday, the estimated category 3 hurricane will hit somewhere near New Orleans.

Anniversaries don't mean much, other than they serve as a reminder of how well or how bad you're doing. If Katrina was your girlfriend or wife, and you just celebrated three years together, you'd be in lousy shape. You would have not been keeping your word about how you'd clean things up, treat her better and take care of her. She'd still be hurt by your inaction and lack of attention. And your chances of surviving another big fight would be slim, since she's still so wounded by the last one. So, in this case, the anniversary of Katrina should be seen as a time to take stock and realize that our government (who we elect, thank you) is letting us down. Still. Again.

The informative video above is something done by the grassroots organization For the past couple of years, I've been getting their emails and reading their updates. They've stayed the course in educating me and others as to the state of affairs, the politics and the progress being made/not made in New Orleans. As America pulls its attention from the Mile High City, and moves on to the Twin Cities, I hope it will take a minute to remember the Crescent City.

The video, rightfully so, lays much of the blame at the feet of the Army Corps of Engineers. Until this corrupt, tax-funded enterprise is overhauled and held to account, we're going to have to celebrate these anniversaries with our collective heads hung in shame.

Lil Wayne vs. Bush

On a related note, I recently ran into Harry Shearer at a Huffington Post luncheon during the DNC. Shearer is best known for his myriad voices on the Simpsons, but he's also an outspoken advocate of New Orleans. He was calling very early for an investigation surrounding the Army Corps — and others' — mishandling (before, during and after) Katrina. When I spoke to him in Denver, he expressed sadness and deep concern over the approach of Gustav.

Harry Shearer, during the DNC (photo: Raymond Roker)
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Z-Trip channels Too Short (Yes, he can). Blows Dem minds. Mayors, artists and celebs get up to get down

Unconventional 08 threw an insane VIP after-party on the Wednesday night of the DNC inside the Manifest Hope Gallery space. Sarah Silverman was one of the guest hosts, as were the mayors of Seattle, Providence R.I., Long Beach and San Francisco (there were probably more, hiding from the cameras!).

Z-Trip killing Dem party people

Z-Trip at Unconventional 08 concert

No doubt, this had to be one of — if not the — hottest party in town. Maybe it was Z-Trip dropping 'Yes We Can' over Too Short's 'Blow the Whistle' — but everybody was partying like we won the election. I'm can only imagine what the inaugural ball might be like.

Check more of my photos and tons of great video on the Manifest Hope iMeem page.

Z-Trip dropping after-party bombs on Dem heads
(photo: Raymond Roker)

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Joel Stein and me
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Danny Lee and Meryl (iMeem) (photo: Raymond Roker)
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Me and Amanda Fairey
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Politics as usual (photo: Raymond Roker)
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Damn Democrats (photo: Raymond Roker)
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Mayors in da house (photo: Raymond Roker)
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SF Mayor Gavin Newsom (photo: Raymond Roker)
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Sarah Silverman (photo: Raymond Roker)
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My Huffington Post editor

Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol (photo: Raymond Roker)

Some of you know that I've been writing for the Huffington Post (see links under 'my other writing') since February. The woman who got me into the HuffPo family is my friend Rachel Sklar, the site's media editor and an all-around super rad chick. Rachel's own column Eat The Press is a great read if not only for her wit, but for her deep grasp of all the political and social media exploding around us.

Rachel's a political junkie of the highest order and she's been a super editor. I'll always appreciate her getting me to take the plunge into the international platform of this powerful site/blog/outlet. That platform (along with my Facebook addiction) got me to this point where having my own blog was the obvious next choice.

Obama Chronicles Part 2

From Manifest Hope...

A piece of art from the Manifest Hope Gallery. This piece in particular left me scratching my head. When did Obama pass from icon to Christlike figure/figurine? Is it healthy? Is it just artistic creativity/expression? Is this objectification over the top?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama Chronicles Part 1

I want the Obama conversation as rich as it can be. Not because I'm unsure of my support for his candidacy, but because it's the only way he'll get to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The more informed we are about all sides of this unique candidate, the better we can be a positive part of his run for the white house.

This is Obama on the Tavis Smiley show back in October, 2007

Tonight, after Obama's landmark speech, Tavis Smiley and guests Cornel West and Dr. Julianne Malveaux (video should be posted here soon or I will find a youtube clip) take a critical look at Barack Obama's words in Denver. From my cursory view, they weren't entirely kind.

And if I'm completely honest, I've been far more moved by his words in the past. I need to unpack that a little, I know.

UPDATE: The Tavis Smiley post-speech show is here.

My Obama Mission: Our trip to Denver

My photographs from our recent trip to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Shepard Fairey's Manifest Hope Gallery was our main destination (Check the very fleshy iMeem blog we worked on).

One of the first encounters I had was on the shuttle to the rental car place. There was this young couple, Jason (28) and Maggie (26) who were both wearing ''Iraq Veterans Against the War" T-shirts. I immediately struck up a conversation with them. Jason told me they were planning a pretty large protest. We talked about reconnecting after their side trip to Boulder (to visit a local army base) but we never did. I caught this in the news though, so they seem to have created a stir.

Check out my interview with Jason and Maggie.
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More thoughts on my trip later . . .

The Power Issue: URB No. 155

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This is our new issue . . . The POWER Issue. Power takes many forms and we explore it with less seriousness than Fortune or BusinessWeek, but we think we tell just as compelling stories.

Check more about it here.