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.
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.
In an Advertising Agevideo, 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was invited to do this video below as part of a viral campaign leading up to the election. I haven't been quiet about which candidate I support, but I hadn't been asked about what an actual Obama win would mean. That's a lie. My next door neighbor did say a few weeks back, knowing that I'm am absolute political junkie these days, "What are you going to do when the election's over?" I'll have more specific thoughts on that broader question later. But this video is me speaking candidly about the emotional side of what it could all mean, especially to the millions of people who have been part of this massive push.
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.
Actor Ron Howard puts on make-up, wigs and the outfits that made him famous, and gets into flashback mode to support Obama. Pulling out guest appearances from Henry Winkler (The Fonz) and Andy Griffith, these vignettes might play well in Sarah Palin's "Small Town America."
This is a bit of viral promotion I'm involved with that was produced by Zeitghost Media. Next up is my video, where I visualize an Obama presidency and what happens if/when that becomes a reality. Check back to this space in the next day or so for that one.
Both Obama and McCain are vying to win America's 51st state. (No, not Puerto Rico.)
To quote Facebook, it's complicated.
The geopolitical answer is that this tiny nation stands as our staunchest ally in the region and owes its existence, in part, to the United States. Israel is a microcosm of the world's pressing issues, packed into a tiny parcel of the most contested land on the planet. But it's a thin desert strip that Jews, Israelis, and their advocates insist must survive intact. I happen to agree.
Like the U.S., Israel's a democratic nation struggling to coexist with the re-emerging Islamic world, and coming to terms with the fact that it will have to do exactly that. It's also grappling with host of modern conundrums such as immigration, nationalism, poverty, human rights, ecological concerns and social policy battles. On the positive side, its art, music, theater, culinary, software and biomedical fields are thriving. In many ways, Israel is a younger America (by about 170 years) and it's pushing hard to get things right, after only six decades.
Personally, my interest in the country piqued while visiting there earlier this year. I wrote an essay about my trip in the Huffington Post (note: any mention of Israel brings out strong opinions, just check the comments section). Before my visit, I viewed the country like most Americans, as only a blur of carnage and infinite anger and anguish on both sides. I spent a week traveling throughout the country, reconciling what I thought I knew with the much more complicated reality of what I actually discovered. It was awe inspiring.
If it still isn't clear: I'm pro Israel (call me a progressive Zionist, if you want). And I'm super pro Obama. (Wow, I should do my own Sarah Silverman video.) When I saw the great video (below) on a friend's blog, I immediately loved the way it summed up the case for Obama, as well as Israel.
The cynic sees Israel only as an aggressor, whose altar American politicians go to kowtow. And politicians typically overplay their hawkish rhetoric to guarantee not being branded unfriendly to her cause. That's unfortunate. Most of the pro-peace voices like the New Israel Fund (who I traveled with) and J Street lose media shelf space to hardened conservative lobbyists like AIPAC. Also, like in America, support for Israel has echoed some of the xenophobia of a post 9/11 world. This election could be a turning point towards a new, more progressive outlook.
Neither candidate should win on simply an Israel-at-any-cost platform. Hopefully, they will have shown the wisdom and the innovation to work for a lasting peace in the entire region—while still vigorously defending Israel's right to exist. Because regardless of where you stand, the tenet holds true that as goes Israel, so goes the Middle East.
This Nike commercial is great for so many reasons, from the beautiful score to the inspiring theme of two kids (pro footballers LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu) living through a lifelong friendly—though no less serious—rivalry. According to Wieden & Kennedy London's blog, here's the deal with the music: "[The] Soundtrack is a remix of 'L’estasi Dell’oro,' (The Ecstasy of Gold), by Ennio Morricone, written for The Good The Bad and the Ugly."
By now you've probably heard that Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama this morning, during an appearance on Meet the Press. This move has done a lot to redeem the former Secretary of State in my eyes. I've been disappointed with him for his role in pushing for the Iraq War, which he still doesn't seem to regret. But he also went further with his endorsement this morning by criticizing the McCain campaign—and the Republican party—for their subtle bigotry and intolerance peddling. In describing his disdain for Republican accusations of Obama being a Muslim, he said the correct answer to that charge shouldn't be to deny that he's a Muslim, but to say, "What if he is?" Powell continued, "Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is 'No, that's not America.'"
The photo above, originally appearing in the New Yorker, is what Powell went on to refer to in this morning's interview:
"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian Cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American."
He then added that Khan was only 14 years old at the time of 9/11 so he waited until he could join the Army. The Powell endorsement—and his break from the Republican party to support Obama—was, in some small way, a fitting tribute to that kid's life.
Watch the full interview below (I love MSNBC's video player)
Posted on AngryAsianMan.com, this Fairey-esque poster is one John McCain. I wasn't in the press pool of the straight talk express that day when he uttered the ugly words spelled out here, but I'm thinking it might have been something like this.
My stomach curdles when I hear statements like the ones the presidential candidate (Maybe you're more George Wallace than you want to admit, senator) refuses to apologize for. I can't profess to even begin to comprehend what it must have been like for a POW under the loving care of the North Vietnamese, but if you have demons like this, stay out of my White House.
In the meantime, it's good to know the activist cavalry is mounting their offense.
Hell, you know what I hate: I hate Kooks.
UPDATE: My Huffington Post editorial on the McCain quote.
One major reason to get this over the iPhone: It's not on AT&T. The Storm will be on Verizon, thank god. Not to mention that people who use Blackberries just swear my them—I know I do. I have been sitting on the iPhone fence for months, not ready to a) commit to another painful two years to AT&WeSuck or b) to deal with learning iPhone typing that everybody swears—with a wink—is so easy. Of course, the best possible marriage would (have) be(en) Apple/RIM, but it's a known fact that Apple doesn't play well with others.
This device can't come soon enough. Due to wear and tear (OK, dropping) I've been without a trackball on my Blackberry 8800 for a month now. Yes, this is why I haven't called you back.
I've decided that out of sheer ambition and a dose of chutzpah, I'm going to do a post every day (well, almost) between now and the election and tie it to a letter of the alphabet. All the posts—in order, from A to Z—will be election and politics oriented.
G is for Green for All (Eco living for the rest of us)
My magazine's senior editor Brandon hasn't had a car since he moved to Los Angeles five years ago. He takes the bus. My boy Yosi (of Obama/Hope campaign fame) is a daily bike commuter from his home near Downtown to an office in Hollywood. My half sister Natalie lives in Eugene, Oregon, and is pretty green in a typical Pacific Northwest fashion. But while all of this is maybe inspiring and commendable, in our dramatically more eco-aware society, it doesn't usually raise an eyebrow.
But rapper Ludacris going green? Or Mexican Americans in South Central, LA planting organic gardens or rejuvenating the ecology of the LA River? What about a black Harlem resident installing solar panels on her brownstone or shopping only from a local organic grocer? This kind of activity piques interest and gets special attention--or none at all. The website and social movement Green for All is on a mission to make these scenarios as common as Brandon, Yosi and Natalie's daily activities are.
The activist behind Green for All is Van Jones, a rising star in the discussion of a "green economy." For me, Jones is a new kind of change agent. Quite simply, I've just never seen many brown faces mouthing words like "sustainability" and "climate change" It's inspiring for me, having lived with an understanding of the environment and our impact on it, but having also been disappointed in how behind the curve most non-whites were in the discussion. And, maybe worse, how we often aren't even missed. Flip open any magazine, or tune into a cable special, and it's never somebody in a hoodie and dark skin speaking about saving the planet. You don't get points in the street for going solar or electric. TI isn't showing up at the BET Awards in a Prius. Vanity Fair's 2007 annual "Green Issue" had virtually no brown faces—and no Van Jones (Like I've said, Condé Nast has issues with color).
Of course, seeing green as mostly just a white thing is the media's selective point of view—nothing new here. Years ago, I'd see flicks of beautiful NY graffiti depicting environmental messages and anti-nuclear pleas on the sides of trains. These kids, inner city survivors mostly, had to believe there was a smarter way to manage the environment than what they inherited in their burned out neighborhoods. But somewhere along the evolution of a green awakening in this country, those kids weren't called upon or encouraged to stand up and take part. Jones' aim—along with a growing legion of contemporaries—is to change that dramatically, bringing what's long been the luxury of being green into the 'hood and well beyond.
But Jones clearly doesn't discriminate. Expanding his message and audience, his new book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, is a national referendum on building a vibrant and essential green economy in America. Much like NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman's lauded Hot, Flat and Crowded, the message is that the U.S. has a unique opportunity to create both jobs and wealth through ecologically sound industries and innovation. I love Friedman and what he has to say, but I can't help but be more enthusiastic about Jones' book. With it, the green message can start reaching a more diverse audience with mainstream clout and credibility.
Along with an Obama victory (!) in November, folks like Jones will help represent a new, more progressive face for a browning America. One that isn't just about crowded neighborhoods, crime, pollution and poverty. My hope would be to see open-minded citizens of all stripes able to tap into and learn from a wider field of green advocates. Van Jones and Green for All have been a big step towards that manifestation.
You have about three weeks left to enjoy a site like this. FiveThirtyEight is an intensely geeky time suck. Unless you work at the Rand Corporation, in which case, it's a fun, intensely geeky time suck. According to the site's FAQ, 538 is also, the exact number of electors in the U.S. electoral college. The site is run by a renowned baseball statistician named Nate Silver, who has to be one of those cats you can never win an argument with without running to Wikipedia.
Though obviously not without it's detractors, the site is brimming with enough detailed analysis to have you dazzling—or boring—your friends at your next dinner party. Silver was recently interviewed by Dan Rather (video below), which will give you a vastly better understanding of the deep rabbit hole of election polling and statistics, than I can explain in writing.
Some of this stuff is really interesting and telling. Like the fact that polling routinely misses young cell phone users and people who just don't pick up their home phones (who does?). Explaining how all of this is playing out in real time, Silver will be on Dan Rather/HDNet's live election night coverage. But it still just leaves me wondering how interesting all of this will be on November 5th.
From Brandon Perkins at URB.COM — Whatever happened to "real" debates? Back then, raw vernacular delivered rugged discourse. It was a battle. Not like the stuff on TV today. Every body says the same shit now. Where's the innovation? It's all too marketed, too many of the same damn talking points, too much business in the art of debate.
Kinda sounds like the lament for "real" hip-hop, huh? In celebration of the third and final Presidential Debate, URB.com put together the 10 best rap songs where the issues are addressed by the candidates. Most of these nominees just happen to rap.
Eminem ft. Dr. Dre, "Guilty Conscience" Issue: Family Values
From URB — The "Family Values" card has less weight in 2008 than it did in the previous two elections...being that money isn't worth anything anymore. But it still resonates with those undecided voters, especially after the liberal judges in Connecticut just let the gays marry. Eminem had a few issues with the gays, too. Here, he just rips his way through the Slim Shadyera platforms: poverty, statutory date rape jokes, and how Dre slapped Dee Barnes.
I've decided that out of sheer ambition and a dose of chutzpah, I'm going to do a post every day between now and the election and tie it to a letter of the alphabet. All the posts—in order, from A to Z—will be election and politics oriented.
Anybody who knows me is scratching his head, thinking, "Raymond Roker going on the record about sports!?!" But I don't intend to embarrass myself with clumsy analogies or scrambled historic dates. Instead, I'm interested in the one element of sport that commands my attention: politics. Called 'the best young sportswriter in America,' Dave Zirin's Edge of Sports blog makes an ongoing case for that intrinsic link between sport and the political landscape.
"When this country was discovered, or conquered as the case may be, sports were considered a sin, the devil’s work, and blasphemy against God and Church. Then as the country developed and sports became something to both sell to people as entertainment, and socialize working class immigrants to see America as the greatest country on earth. But the 20th century saw numerous examples, public and private, where sports exploded in growth but also became a platform for spectacular dissent."
I've decided that out of sheer ambition and a dose of chutzpah, I'm going to do a post every day between now and the election and tie it to a letter of the alphabet. All the posts—in order, from A to Z—will be election and politics oriented.
D is for Diebold
The name Diebold hasn't come up as much during this campaign, but it refers to the troublesome brand of electronic voting machines that caused a ton of controversy in recent years. A 2006 Princeton University test uncovered just how easily the Diebold software could be hacked with a few simple steps.
Diebold has always denied the flaws, and even went so far as to change their name to Premier Election Solutions to shake their soiled brand (Search for Diebold, and it's not easy to find current info--hence the effectiveness of the name change). According to Wikipedia, Premier, along with sister companyElection Systems & Software, Inc, tallies 80% of the votes cast in the U.S. (as of 2004). Forbes recently published this unsettling story about how hackable we still are in 2008. It suggested avoiding digital voting machines and just turning in your vote to the county clerk on a paper absentee ballot. Good grief.
D is also for D'oh-Bama. An upcoming Simpsons episode pokes fun at the voting machine debacle that could ensue on November 4th. It was good to see that Homer was at least attempting to vote for change. Though I always pegged him for a Joe 6 Pack.
But forget shady software hacks for a minute—election trouble is surfacing in human form already. The progressive social justice organization ACORN has come under investigation for alleged rampant voter registration fraud. Not a good look for a Democrat leaning group that is trying to get out the vote. Meanwhile, 300 Rensselaer County, New York absentee ballots recently misspelled Barack Obama's name as "Osama." Yeah, no joke. Freudian slip much?
Recent shows on Charlie Rose have had some of the best minds (we hope) dissecting and bouncing around solutions to the current economic crisis. I took note of some shows that stood out over the past couple of weeks.
Typically not one for hyperbole, legendary investor and the world's richest man Warren Buffett (below) talks candidly about where we stand—and it isn't good. One ironic silver lining, according to Buffett, is that the government's investment in home mortgage securities should come back with interest once the loans are repaid. It makes sense, logically, but it's unlikely Americans are buying it.
Also check out (bottom) Harvard professor Martin Feldstein, an economist and advisor to John McCain. I'm no expert, but he seems to offer a clear explanation about how we got here and what solutions might be available to us. Definitely worth a listen.
I've decided that out of sheer ambition and a dose of chutzpah, I'm going to do a post every day between now and the election (24 days from today) and tie it to a letter of the alphabet. All the posts—in order, from A to Z—will be election and politics oriented.
C is for children
A Jr. High school acquaintance sent me this video (below) today. She, along with some other concerned parents, put it together as part of a grassroots effort to get Barack Obama elected. I watch it and remember how much it's so about the kids, even as cliche as that sounds.
Parents on both sides of the aisle want what's best for their arriving generation. A father stood up at a John McCain rally yesterday and told the candidate he was scared of raising his soon-to-be-born child under an Obama administration. McCain, in a rare maverick-y departure from the recent ugliness of his campaign, told the man he had nothing to fear from a president Obama.
That McCain supporter's newborn may not be voting until 2030, but slightly older children are part of the expanding demographic that modern candidates need to converse with and understand. Clearly, Obama has grasped this far better than McCain and it's easy to understand why. Even though he's a Baby Boomer, Obama is really the first "Millennial" candidate. From his multiracial heritage to his confident use of technologies like social media and viral video, he acts like, and works within, the world of teenagers and 20-somethings.
In terms of race, the youth are shattering the prevailing adult American attitudes and comprising a new rainbow society the next president will have to manage. New York magazine recently reported on how the perception of a 10-year-old, in this election, is a lot different than the adults watching it unfold. It went on to say about the possible future, "If Obama is elected to two terms, an entire generation of 10-year-olds will come of age having been barely aware of anyone other than a black man in the White House." Take that, grown ups.
At my house, and where I never sit, but where photographer Axel Koester wanted me ............
So, I'm in the Sunday NY Times tomorrow ("Overfeeding on Information," Oct 12). Yeah, I know, how fucking exciting is that? I read the Times, but you don't expect to be in it. When a friend asked if I wanted to be interviewed for a piece on political junkies, I didn't hesitate. "That's me!" I said.
Recounting for the writer how many hours I sit in front of my DVR or MacBook Pro, I realized how deep rooted my addiction actually was. Each day, I record a half dozen political shows (including "The News Hour," "Washington Week," "Charlie Rose" and, of course, "The Daily Show"). And I'm never far from the comments page on my Facebook profile, posting, chiming in on and generally trolling for any political discussion that pops up. The Huffington Post and my blog (you're soaking in it) take up any remaining oxygen in my day. Get a life, right?
Ultimately, amateur wonks like me have a pretty insatiable appetite for world events, politics specifically. Maybe, more honestly, our expanding platform fuels the fire we have to opine and debate. Not from purely an egotistical position, but because you have the privilege and ability to affect change and influence thinking. And, unsurprisingly, the more you enter the fray, the further down the rabbit hole you go.
Somebody I know recently sent me an email and complimented me on "expanding my voice." That might be the best way to describe what I get out of having a platform—as modest as it is—and why I don't mind my self-describe addiction, or even see it as a problem. Politics is an all consuming reality, regardless of of whether we chose to interact with or discuss it. For me, I'm like a moth to the flame.
I've decided that out of sheer ambition and a dose of chutzpah, I'm going to do a post every day between now and the election (25 days from today) and tie it to a letter of the alphabet. All the posts—in order, from A to Z—will be election and politics oriented, and no subject is off limits. Here goes nothing.
B is for Bill Clinton
Bill, we knew you when—and really liked you better then too. Yes, some will find it hard to ever forgive you for those cynical words in South Carolina. And Chris Rock hardly thinks you've been redeemed. Author Toni Morrison may now even regret actually calling you our "First Black President."
But your speech in Denver was vintage Bill. And you're still, by far, my favorite president, if only for another month. In fairness, you and Hillary are doing a lot in spite of your losses so we should maybe be a little more appreciative. And whenever I forget your gifted ability to speak to the American people better than anybody in modern times, you come out with beautifully presented thoughts like this (talking to Tom Brokaw about the ongoing challenges in Africa):
"I wish we could have a cessation in the use of the word "Africa" for just 18 months, while America learns that Africa is a continent. That, just in sub-Saharan Africa, has 48 separate countries. And that it's not just the geography, it's the politics, the culture, the language, everything is different. . . We've got to stop thinking that Africa is a monolith."
You have a magic with words, Bill, easily reducing complex issues to digestible terms. If only you could just magically show up during the debates, or weekly on the Sunday talk shows, ready to dismantle hypocritical Republican goons and lame pundits. It's what we grew to expect—and what we continue to need. But it's also why we were so disappointed when you used your skills against your own team during the primaries and are sometimes selfish with your helpful words these days.
All I ask is that in the remaining days, sir, you will use your powers for good. I mean, isn't Obama the true continuation of all that is great about your legacy? Hillary can run again in 2016 and you will still be spry enough to hang around the office chasing interns. I know it doesn't exactly make up for wifey's loss and your postponed return to that comfy bed at 1600 Pennsylvania, but Secretary of State Bill Clinton doesn't sound so bad, does it?
I've decided that out of sheer ambition and a dose of chutzpah, I'm going to do a post every day between now and the election (26 days from today) and tie it to a letter of the alphabet. All the posts, in order, from A to Z, will be election and politics oriented, and no subject is off limits. Here goes nothing.
A African American: Personally, I'm not down. I prefer the word "black." It just says it better, without trying, uncomfortably, to be polite or PC. As a Bahamian-born American citizen, I'm not even technically African American. In fact, usually when I hear somebody use the term, I assume 1) That they don't have (many) black friends or 2) They're in some politically correct industry such as advertising or media and they've been trained well. No offense, just say I'm black. And proud.
And speaking of black and proud, Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Al Gore and major Democratic strategist/TV pundit had a little something to say about race in the race recently. On October 4, the New Yorker Festival held a panel discussion that featured party supporters, I assume, to discuss the contentious state of politics in the presidential race.
Brazile launched into a heartfelt diatribe about growing up in the segregated south and Obama's challenges as a black man. She recounted her time spent in the back of the bus, and vowed to never be there again, while also celebrating how far the country had come. It wasn't Richard Trumka's speech, but it's well worth viewing.
Hey, down here. Pay attention. Good Magazine produced a short video on the metrics of the porn industry. Examples: 12% of websites visited are porn. U.S. revenue from internet porn in 2006: 2.84 billion. The United States produces 89% of the world's porn. One more: This video has received over 5 million views on YouTube. In other words, click below, you're hardly alone.
Anybody who knows me well enough can attest that I am a junkie; A magazine junkie. I know, you might be too. I've written about it in my magazine when we hit our 150th issue last year. And I typically spend up to $100 when I hit one of my favorite NY newsstands. Tonight, it was a post-dusk trip to my local Centerfold Newsstand (716 N Fairfax Ave).
I was in one of those media consumption moods, which meant I wasn't leaving before spending the price of a tank of gas. And I walked out of there with a diverse range of titles that says a lot about the state of print media and my love for it still.
Here's an overview of tonight's cop:
Us Weekly—This was an impulse buy, right as I was checking out. Totally. I swear. I actually have a very good reason for picking this up and it's not to see Jennifer Anniston's liposuction scars (I don't believe it!). I grab Jann Wenner's gossip machine so I can have at least a cursory understanding of the state of celebrity culture. I can't avoid MTV, not watch reality TV, and not read the tabloids. Something has to give and I refuse to spend my days on Perez Hilton (Even though URB was his first cover). And, hell, Us is the greatest bathroom reading ever.
Canteen (The State of Creation)—(Issue three) I have never seen this one before tonight but it was one of the first I picked up. I've been more curious about uncoated papers and unique trim sizes too, so it's nearly square shape was appealing. Canteen had physical attractiveness and a provocative anti-theme. A quick flip through the pages had me sold with its curious mix of art, writing, photography and culture. Plus, a cover with a bunch of 'Flying V' guitars on it—get outta here! Footnote: After going to their website, I see that Canteen sees itself as a "literary magazine." Glad that wasn't on the cover—it'd still be sitting at Centerfold.
Nylon Guys—I have mixed feelings about Marvin Scott Jarrett, the creative force behind Ray Gun, Bikini, Nylon and Nylon Guys. He's a real, wait for it, maverick in the publishing game. I pick up Nylon Mens mainly because Jarrett does such a good job of pulling in advertisers and I need to do what publishers do: Steal ads. But I also like the stripped down approach to editorial and content. Nylon Mens isn't some pretty boy shop fest like the now defunct Cargo was. It's more of an indie kid (read: white dudes) version of Marc Ecko's Complex. Nylon's cover statement is "Not for Girls." How perfect. I don't have to read the table of contents, since it never deviates much from its mission to be chock full of service editorial and hip couture. It's pretty much a buy-on-sight book, so props Mr. Jarrett.
New York—(Oct 13th issue) This is one of the best magazines on the newsstand, period. Regardless of what city you live in, I'd recommend New York. From its excellent art direction—at times, genius replacement governor David Paterson, who took over for disgraced Elliot —to its spot-on editorial. As the magazine that covers the broadest swath of life in the Big Apple, its appeal ranges from politics (this month's cover on NY'sSpitzer) to fashion, to gallery listings, to street culture. There doesn't seem to be a strata of the New York state of mind that is excluded from this bi-weekly tome. If you don't want to cop for the mag, the website is top notch too. Footnote: I stopped subscribing to the mag because they insist on highlighting fur in their editorial. Shame on you, New York.
Theme—(Issue 16) Theme bills itself as "Global Asian Culture" and that about sums it up. It's also one of my favorite indie stalwarts, produced by a lovely couple (John Lee and Jiae Kim) that calls the Lower East Side their home. Its production value is refined, which isn't a surprise given the great content. Most issues carry a, ahem, theme, and this month's is 'Girls Rock'. (Funny, I agree with them—but I digress.) Theme typically takes a look at an array of Asian-influenced culture, including retail, fashion and media. It's no news flash that Asian is the new black, but this book resists over-hyping the obvious or propping up clichés. The vast cultural implications of Theme's content stretch far beyond its mantra's gist.
Good—(Issue 13: The Election Issue) You've probably seen Good because of its unique mission in print—the benevolent guide. It also has deep pockets fueled by the inheritance of its millionaire 20-something co-founder Ben Goldhirsh. Goldhirsh would be easy to write off, but he's a sharp and well spoken dude so I quickly bought in when it launched. Between promotions like donating your subscription price to the charity of your choice, they dedicate entire issues to teaching you how to make a positive difference in the world. Or, at least, understand how not to do so much bad. And none of it comes across to me as too preachy. Physically, I love the feel of the book as well, with its matte paper and proletariat design.
W—(The Art Issue) W is Condé Nast and they're beasts (see my take on some of their recent controversy). They own Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired and a slew of other newsstand killers. I rarely pick up a copy of W, but I'll tell you what I do like about the book. For starters, the size. It's so brash these days to have an over-sized magazine. It says I don't care about the environment, gas prices or blocking out the sun over the news rack. And for a big girl, W is hot—from its art direction to its cover. What made me buy this copy was that it was "The Art Issue" (plus Brad Pitt's photos of, yawn, Angelina). Condé Nast also doesn't skimp one presentation, so this baby is chuck full of beautiful spreads, sophisticated design and great supersized photography and artwork. I just wish—like New York—they'd ditch the fur too. Sigh.
No, seriously, I like to grab a British men's mag every once and a while and Arena is best of breed. They practically defined the genre which has busted at the seams over the past couple decades in the UK. The content is pure indulgence—from sex to cars to furniture. Forget converting that designer sofa price to dollars, you can't afford it anyway. It's all aspirational, bro, so just close your eyes. Footnote: This issue of Arena has a matte cover and some spot varnishing. Not sure if that's a temporary change but the last one I picked up was in their signature super glossy package. I like the dull coat, it's a fresh feel.
Step: Inside Design—(September/October 2008) Step is for designers (web, print, etc) and, like the name implies, gives you more of a behind-the-scenes examination of process from an industry vantage point. For designers and visual artists, the newsstand is a paper playground. The graphic arts section is immense and international (and expensive), but I can't allow myself to get too lost in there. Another of my favorite in the genre is Print. This issue of Step takes a look at the "Best of the Web 2008." Oddly, pure/ROKER wasn't listed.
Fader—(Issue 57) Yes, this is another URB competitor, but I don't hate. I elevate. Can't take much away from the Fader. It's carved out its own arena of downtown indie rock culture meets uptown swagger. It's got British aesthetic built into its DNA and the photography is top notch. This current issue features former URB cover stars TV on the Radio (BTW, get their album now). It's also their photo issue, which made me grab it even though I know there's one showing up in my mail any day now. Ahhh, can you smell that? That's instant gratification.
Q—(November 2008) Q is quite simply a music institution. Much like how the British came to define Rock with Zeppelin, the Stones, et al, Q magazine defines music rags. This issue appears to mark a major redesign. "All New Look" is splashed in metallic silver across the cover. Inside, it's hard to tell what's changed, besides some iconography and maybe font selection. Magazine redesigns are like when your girlfriend gets her hair cut: It's mostly for her ego, but she'd prefer you notice the few centimeters she cut off. From first glance, this is more of a refreshing, which is always tough for legacy titles like this to pull off. I typically get Q as more of a check up on what our across-the-pond cousins are into these days. To give you a taste, this issue has Barack Obama, John Oates (Um, yeah, of Hall & Oates), AC/DC, Santogold and a bunch of new British bands that are making noise.
So, I'm curious, how would you have spent your $77?
Good Magazine assembled this series of videos on social media site iMeem as some election-by-numbers edutainment. While some of it may prompt the informed among you to press the fast forward (do it, it's OK), there are some fun and informative bits like the 'Swinger States' clip (number 3). In that one, two ladies men, played by playboy attired Obama and McCain, break out their little black books of states 'they can pick up.' Yeah, it's election time, kids.
While you're in a video mood, double back to iMeem's Manifest Hope Gallery video from Denver, during the DNC. It's great stuff featuring Shepard Fairey, David Choe, Morgan Spurlock, Z-Trip and others.
Roger Sterling: You know BBDO hired a colored kid. What do you think of that? Don Draper: I think I'm glad I'm not that kid.
("Mad Men" episode 9)
The hit series Mad Men (which I've watched and enjoyed since the beginning) hasn't been shy about showing the racial and cultural bigotry that existed on Madison Avenue in the early 1960s. From Jews Need Not Apply, to Asian caricatures, to the only blacks at Sterling Cooper never leaving the elevators.
But hey, that was then and this is now, right?
Not quite. Turns out the exchange above might as well be from today given the industry's still shameful numbers of black employees and managers. Fast forward to the Mad Men of 2008 and recent legal developments might prove the industry still isn't getting good grades at all. Like a diversity superhero, renowned civil rights attorney Cyrus Mehri is about to take on Madison Avenue and its hiring practices. Mehri says, "It's not a matter of forming affinity groups among the excluded. What needs fixing isn't the African-Americans; it's the white guy running the agency."
Check out the latest attack by the Obama camp. It's a 13-minute video that explores the 1980s financial scandal involving Charles Keating, along with a flock of congress people, including one John McCain. Also check out the Obama-sponsored Keating Economics site.
This assault by Obama's operatives goes to the heart of McCain's claims that he's the candidate of integrity. Meanwhile his pit bull co-maverick, in the form of Sarah Palin, is attacking Obama for non-existent relationships to a '60s radical.
Obama is clearly not going to sit idle while he's swift boated. And the Keating scandal is particularly poignant for American voters since it's akin to the Enron scandal and the current Wall Street bailout. It's always been pretty clear to me that McCain's so-called maverick stance was his way of trying to distance himself from the dirtiness he wallowed in during the '80s.
Lesson to McCain camp: You want videos? Obama got videos.
When you blog, you often scour other blogs for noteworthy bits to post, from video to editorials. Every once and a while, you come across something that is so moving, so important, that you want the world to see. This video, recorded a couple months ago during the Democratic primaries, is exactly that. In it, the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka gives what can only be described as a sermon against racism in America. And it's as beautiful and eloquent as anything Hollywood or even the Obama campaign could have scripted.
Trumka says it plainly from the top of his speech: There is only one really bad reason for any worker, any union worker, to vote against Barack Obama. And that's because he's not white. Slowly, the large audience of blue collar men and women of all stripes rise to their feet in a long ovation for the impassioned words of the burly Trumka. The sight of so many working class whites, alongside browns and blacks, standing in solidarity to acknowledge the monumental words they were hearing, is emotional to watch.
Yes, the unions and Democrats have a symbiotic bond, but only the most cynical Republican operative could reduce this to insincere pandering (cue Anne Coulter). Trumka risked alienating thousands of union workers with his preaching from the labor pulpit. And he didn't limit his words to simple economics, calling racism evil and recounting the insidious pain it's caused the country. It reminded me of Obama's Philadelphia speech with its balance and introspection.
The world needs more moments of clarity like this one. Hopefully Trumka's vast union audience serve as both witnesses to—and more importantly, advocates of—what they heard in that rousing speech. Obama needs them behind him to win those states, counties and neighborhoods where racism still flourishes, sometimes openly. Events like this reaffirm my hope that the stubborn undercurrent of bigotry will continue to cede to moral action. Sometimes it just takes the words of a bold person in an unlikely setting to get people to their feet and doing the right thing. Thank you, Mr. Trumka.
I have a habit that's bringing me down. Immediately after the Biden-Palin debate, as I did after the Obama-McCain, I turned on Fox News. I like to get their 'Fair and Balanced' take on things—and I’m rarely disappointed. As interesting as Rachel Maddow would have been or as pundit-y as CNN’s ‘Best Political Team’ is, I know that Rupert’s news channel will uncover the hidden meaning of things. Fox, like a large calcified portion of the country, is dead set on Sarah Palin becoming the next vice president with her first dude John McCain by her side. Or, more importantly, they're not going to let good judgment get in the way of retaining conservative power, in whatever distorted form that takes.
Fox represents and speaks to a slice of America that is typically red and definitely bitter. They aren't concerned about facts or—in Palin’s case—even foibles. They care about winning. While my friends and I bemoan and mock the MILFish governor’s Tina Fey impersonation, Fox News—or 'Fox Noise,' as Olbermann puts it—viewers see their future VP in F-me pumps. They love Palin’s folksy inflections, and her Mr. Smith Goes to Washington meets Dave fairytale rise to the national stage. To them, tonight was vindication from—and inoculation against—the evildoers in the mainstream media (read: especially places like the Huffington Post) and Urban Outfitters everywhere.
I won’t completely cave in and call these folks ‘Joe Six Pack’, the Republican code words for white, working class, but it’s clear that those ‘regular folks’—and strange bedfellows in the form of Karl Rove clones—are elated after tonight’s debate. They don’t see it the way we do, and why should they? Our smug metropolitan elitist attitudes and socialist leaning ‘hope’ mongoring needs a little cutting down to size. The right's rejoicing around their new queen is the expected analog to the left's very public disdain for her. Our side sat like kids in a Saturday matinee, holding their breath in anticipation of her taking a cringe-worthy fall face first in the only vice presidential debate. The other side sat with chewed down nails, ecstatic as she defied the prognosticators and insult-hurtling lefties.
It was comical watching Palin crib from what seemed like a tiny hidden teleprompter tucked into her podium—or as Chris Matthews called it, she looked like she was in a spelling bee. But this didn’t matter to the red states. Her lack of command over any nuanced facts was irrelevant, so long as she strung sentences together in some form of policy haiku. Palin was clearly reading prepared text and we were treated to a nationally broadcast recital of everything she learned over the past five weeks (or five days). There were times when her facial expressions were pure animatronics, as she spit out answers that would have had Couric or Gibson falling out of her chairs. Palin fans will say that she had it in her all along and that without that pesky ‘news filter’ she’s fine. They couldn’t be more proud than they are now, their citizen peacock’s plumage finally on full display. It’s so clear there were two debates going on last night and two countries tuning in and reacting.
On CNN and MSNBC, the smart folks claim that independent voters (Come on, is anybody really ‘independent’ these days?) are following the so-called conventional wisdom and writing Palin off as the hand puppet she is. But the fact that both Democrats and Republicans are claiming—and more importantly, believing—their side won the debate, shows that the fissures are still there and maybe even expanding. Or maybe I’m just watching too much Fox News.
Supposedly, this is a change year. We’re to believe that old ideologies are being dissolved and flushed away in the country’s arterial stream. And I thought—or rather a certain candidate helped me ‘believe’—that red and blue fences were being mended. In many ways, I don’t think this election is any different from past ones. It’s going to come down to numbers, swing states, voter access and money. The defiant mass clinging to a super-unqualified down home candidate lady isn’t exactly dispelling my fears either. Truth—or even truthiness—seems to have little to do with things. After tonight, this sad comedy is wearing thin. I wonder what Tina Fey will do this Saturday on SNL? After Palin's buoyant debate performance, I’m not sure this can even be funny anymore.
I posted this to the HuffPo so check there for more comments and feel free to leave one yourself.
In 1990, I co-founded a magazine called URB (urb.com) in Los Angeles. URB captures an intimate view of progressive urban sounds and landscapes in print and online. Beyond my day job, I also explore the world of politics, race and culture, photography and media (new and old). pure/ROKER is designed to be a living and shared notebook of the most discussion worthy aspects. Enrichment is encouraged. Debate and disagreement unavoidable. And dissent welcomed. As always, please leave a comment if you're inspired, subscribe to my RSS or email me anytime at email@example.com.