Archive for September, 2007

An Influx of Interviews

As September draws to a close, the Internet is flush with interesting interviews: author Naomi Klein, pictured here, takes on “disaster capitalism” with the BBC; David Remnick of The New Yorker sizes up Garry Kasparov; Stephen Colbert drops the deadpan for Vanity Fair; reporter Seymour Hersh on Bush, Iran and the challenges of journalism in the LA Weekly; author Neil Gaiman tells the Guardian, “I’m an otter”; and Bill Murray assures the Chicago Tribune that this is the Cubs’ year.

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Earth Will Survive. But Will Vaclav?

Writing on the Op-Ed page of today’s New York Times, Vaclav Havel — the playwright and former president of the Czech Republic — addresses humanity’s foot-dragging over global climate change, and the earth’s ultimate endurance. (Click here to read “Our Moral Footprint”.) “Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan,” Havel writes. “There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back.” (For a Vaclav primer, click here.)

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U-Roy: Kinging Sound Systems Since ‘42

Born Ewart Beckford on September 21, 1942, U-Roy was kinging sound systems in Jamaica even before fate led him to King Tubby. King Tubby’s proto-dub acetates provided a perfect forum to soar U-Roy’s voice into stardom. Records by Lee Perry, Keith Hudson, Peter Tosh, John Holt and a slew of others would get touched by the deejay’s voice. Classics like Wake the Town and Your Ace From Space continue to get burn across the world. Hip-hop fans will remember “Tom Drunk,” his classic duet with Hopetown Lewis, as the sample for the 1997 Reflection Eternal (Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek) song “Fortified Live.” But the record that cemented his name as the top DJ in Jamaica was Version Galore. The single was popular, but the album, released in 1971, saw sales in Jamaica that had previously only been seen by 45s.

Happy 65th, U-Roy.

Audio: U-Roy - Version Galore

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A Westward Study in Asia

Ian Allen, a New York-based photographer and regular contributor to STOP SMILING, has recently completed an engrossing new website titled RURAL / URBAN, which documents travels in the Surmang region of the northeast T.A.R. (Tibetan Autonomous Region), as well as Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Xining and Yushu. (View the site here.)

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Lost in the Multiplex

Mick Jones writes in the Guardian about the cine-literate roots of the Clash and offers some shout-outs to Martin Scorsese, Matt Groening, David Chase and Nicolas Roeg. (Click here to read an excerpt of STOP SMILING’s interview with Roeg.) “It used to be that the film industry was such a mammoth corporate outfit that it worked against that kind of independent [punk rock] spirit,” Jones writes. “Now it seems a lot more democratic. Instead of forming a group, you can get your friends together and go make a movie.” For more of the Clash on screen, stay tuned for Julien Temple’s upcoming documentary about Joe Strummer, The Future Is Unwritten. (View the trailer here.)

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What Would Sartre & Foucault Do?

Writing in the “Comment is Free” section of the Guardian, Danny Postel, a STOP SMILING editor-at-large, addresses the “spasm of infantilism” and “widespread confusion” surrounding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York. (The Guardian post can be viewed here.) “To untie this knot,” Postel writes, “it might be helpful to consider an episode from 30 years ago.” Postel points to a 1977 visit to Paris by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and recalls how the intellectual community — Jean-Paul Sartre (pictured here) and Michel Foucault among them — hosted a shadow reception for Soviet dissidents living in Paris. Was there more to learn by hearing those voices, and could the same be said about Iranians today who “are a lot less likely to be in the headlines”? … For more from Postel, read part one and part two of his interview with historian Studs Terkel in our Chicago Issue.

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Ahmadinejad & the Ivy League

For over a decade, the Web has produced a litany of weasel words that infantilize an otherwise vital, democratizing medium (think of the wackiness of Google, emoticon and wiki, for example). The Columbia Spectator, the daily newspaper of Columbia University, falls into a similar - and, in many ways, understandable - trap. While offering exceptional insights into the impending speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Spectator chose “Ahmadineblog” for the name of its site devoted to the controversial speaking engagement. Other New York media outlets - the ever-reliable NY1, for example - have gone a more neutral route… On a related note, click here to view Ahmadinejad’s appearance on 60 Minutes, where he worked correspondent Scott Pelley like a can opener. (The 2006 interview by Mike Wallace, another 60 Minutes reporter whose pursed lips cracked into a smile while Ahmadinejad deflected hard-hitting questions, can be viewed here.)

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Truffaut the Troublemaker

A piece by Terrence Rafferty in the Sunday New York Times celebrates Francois Truffaut. (Click here to read “A Troublemaker Who Led a Revolution“.) Truffaut, the “combative critic for the journal Cahiers du Cinema, in whose pages he regularly savaged the older, established French filmmakers … put his money where his big critical mouth had been” with his 1959 film The 400 Blows… In our 2005 Auteur Issue, the importance of Truffaut and the auteur theory, as sanctioned by the critics of Cahiers du Cinema, was discussed at length by a range of auteur authorities. Excerpts of interviews with Peter Bogdanovich and Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris are available here, as well as Nathan Kosub’s 2005 essay “What Truffaut Meant By Love“.

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Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Acrassicauda (Latin for “Black Scorpion”) is Iraq’s only heavy metal band. Our friends at Vice have been following them for years, and their gripping documentary about the band, Heavy Metal in Baghdad, was an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival (in case you missed it, here’s our write up about the festival). Regardless of musical tastes, the band’s story (they formed in 2000, but the film starts in 2003, at the end of Hussein’s regime) is one of struggle typical to many young Iraqis. The band now resides in Syria, and with expiring visas and the Syrian government’s refusal to renew them (not to mention a stack of denied visa applications to other countries) their future is uncertain. Vice has set up a Paypal account to raise money to get them to a safer country. Check out the trailer here.

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Another Icon of Boxing KO’d

An announcement in Manhattan has us feeling a bit nostalgic about the sweet science: On Wednesday, the 82-year-old boxing ring at Madison Square Garden that had withstood hundreds of world championship bouts was officially retired by Garden officials, and will be donated to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. (Read the Reuters report here.) In 2005, STOP SMILING devoted an entire issue to the art of boxing, including a cover story interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer, a portion of which can be viewed here.

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