Archive for HAPPENINGS

Will the Real Lincoln Please Stand Up?

lincolnIn the wake of Old Abe’s birthday, here are two articles that attempt to dispel the simplified myth that pervades our collective national consciousness when we think of the Great Emancipator: first, The Root‘s editor in chief, Harold Gates Jr., explores the paradox of the man who freed the slaves yet included snippets in speeches like, “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races;” and Christopher Hitchens argues that history is correct to show Lincoln in a favorable light even though he suspended the writ of habeas corpus, closed the most newspapers, arrested the most political rivals, opened and censored the most mail and executed the most American citizens without trial of any American president. -SS

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What’s Love Got to Do with It?

blog_flowersAs the saccharine taste of mid-February develops, tales of bastardized un-love assume strangely attractive qualities: Slate presents an outstanding analysis of the PR crisis that Portland Mayor Sam Adams finds himself in after a steamy fling, and its author wonders if the political fallout would have not been more severe had the city’s chief been involved in a heterosexual tryst; famously uncuddly odd-couple Israel and (occupied) Palestine shared a tender moment as Israel fleetingly unparalyzed exports from Gaza to allow a shipment of 25,000 carnations bound for European lovers just in time for V-Day; and the current issue of The Believer features an interview with Mary Gaitskill (whose short story was adapted into the Sundance darling The Secretary) in which Gaitskill, with all due respect to her husband, admits her desire for a wife because they have been traditionally so helpful to writers. -SS

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The Unintentional Laughter Factor

blog-mods“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand,” Mark Twain once wrote. And how would those words stand up to the parade of questionable looks streaming down the catwalk at the Paris and Milan men’s fashion shows this week, as captured in this Los Angeles Times slideshow? The assault of laughter, tough to stifle. Enjoy.

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Jazz Moves On, In a Silent Way

blog-hankTimes are getting tight for America’s greatest musical art form: While praising the splendid history of Blue Note Records on its 70th anniversary, Nate Chinen of the New York Times acknowledged the paradigm shift at the label, which has drifted into “the adult sophisticated pop area” and is facing the grim prospect of deleting some key recordings in the back catalog that do not sell, on average, a mere 350 copies per year; the Los Angeles Times recently questioned the odd, off-message choices in the jazz category at the Grammys; and a sincere farewell to saxophonist Hank Crawford, pictured here, who passed away last month. For more of our take on jazz, check out The Jazz Issue, released in 2008.

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Does Joaquin Spell Wack?

blog-nwaGary Coleman might have been involved in 21 police altercations since 2005, Hillary Duff is too lightweight to realize when she is outclassed by a classic actress and Ashton Kutcher showed signs of spoiled detachment by not realizing most working Americans are awake at 7:30 am on a Thursday morning — but has any former child actor generated a spectacle as tone-deaf as Joaquin Phoenix and the whole launch of his hip-hop career, including this latest — and most surreal — installment? No, impossible — it’s the cheesiest of the bunch. And no, the Rick Rubin beard isn’t helping. It just… It just isn’t working. You’ve got 99 problems, and yes, that’s one.

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Talkin’ ’bout My Generation

blog_youthFor many of us whose adult lives began around the dawn of the Bush era, yesterday’s inauguration of Barack Obama was a triumph — this week’s Newsweek cover story notes that the disparity between older and younger voters in 2008 was greater than at any time since exit polling began in 1972, that Obama won 66 percent of the youth vote (12 points more than Kerry won in 2004), that the younger cohort is more diverse than the general population, more female, more secular, less socially conservative, and that 20 percent are children of immigrants; however, a column in that same magazine reminds us youngsters that, with all our optimism and passion, the elderly still demand a gigantic chunk of the national budget, and we will largely be stuck paying for it; meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts, the chairman of which, Dana Gioia, was interviewed the in the STOP SMILING DC Issue, reports that literary reading in the US increased in 2008 across virtually all demographics, but in none more than the 18-24 age group, whose brains, it had been previously thought, had been turned to mush by video games and the Internet. -SS.

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Whose Line Is It, Anyway?

blog_phoneMeet Reina Hardesty. She loves to send text messages — on average, she’ll fire off 484 texts a day, totaling a staggering 14,528 a month, according to the New York Post; perhaps Reina is BFFs with Katia Verber, the eccentric Russian billionaire dubbed “The Paris Hilton of Russia” by Marie Claire, who sports a $7,000 luxury titanium Vertu cell phone; earlier this month, President Obama told CNBC he’s “still clinging” to his BlackBerry (ie BarackBerry); and, the AP reports, “the black box recorders recovered from the US Airways jetliner that splashed down in the Hudson River captured thumping sounds, the sudden loss of engine power and the pilot’s calm ‘Mayday’ call, evidence that seems to back up the crew’s account of hitting a flock of birds shortly after takeoff.” (AP)

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Melville House Blogs a Book

blog_lydersenWashington Post reporter Kari Lydersen has eschewed her newspaper journalist role in an imaginative undertaking to tell the story of the workers who occupied Chicago’s Republic Windows & Doors factory in a way that befits an age when online reportage is often too light and quick, yet a story cannot sit idle for long before it’s forgotten — Lydersen has partnered with Melville House Publishing to approach the story from two sides: with a book about the worker’s actions that will be scrambled into print by early next year, the creation of which readers will be able to witness via a blog on the Melville House website. In a Publisher’s Weekly article, MH publisher Dennis Johnson said the blog posts were akin to a first draft of the book, and without them the rushed process to release the book, tentatively titled Revolt on Goose Island, would have been both “too fast and too slow.”

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Transatlantic Time-Wasting in Trouble

How to fill an afternoon in Paris and New York City? As the New York Times reported last month, French cafes (or “the parliament of the people,” as Balzac wrote) are under threat “as traditional cafes and bars suffer and even close, hit by changing attitudes, habits and now a poor economic climate”; meanwhile, the Big Apple’s controversial renovation projects are no longer relegated to the Atlantic Yards, Ground Zero or 2 Columbus Circle — add Washington Square Park to the list: the 181-year-old park that was once farmland for freed slaves and is now considered “the beating heart of Greenwich Village” is currently undergoing massive renovations, including the iconic fountain being moved “about 22 feet to the east to align it with the arch and Fifth Avenue” and becoming, in the words of one critic, a spot “where benches and trees would soon vanish, a spot where..entire communities would be washed away.” Troubling times under the arches…

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Viva La Satriani

One of YouTube’s many attributes are the audio mash-ups that expose the source material for sampled music (take, for example, this outing of Daft Punk samples, or this collection of Dre breaks); long before guitarist Joe Satriani filed a lawsuit against Coldplay that accuses the band of plagiarizing his song “If I Could Fly” on their hit “Viva la Vida,” someone had already posted a revealing side-by-side comparison. If Joe could rule the world…

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