Archive for January, 2008

The Sylvers: Stay Away From Me

Is there anything better than little kids singing in bands? There’s no shortage of songs about breaking off a relationship that is doing more harm than good. What there is, however, is a shortage of those songs being sung by an 11-year-old (!). When this single dropped (and appeared on the Sylvers’ sublime Sylvers II album), it was 1973 and Foster Sylvers was, in fact, 11! Even the oldest of the Sylver siblings pictured here couldn’t buy a beer when this record came out. Later that year, Foster’s older brother Leon would go on to pen Misdemeanor for him. That song would eventually hit the Billboard charts and then get rebounded back into popular consciousness with the onset of the hip-hop era, as the track was sampled by Bambataa, Big Daddy Kane and the D.O.C., to name just a few. Similarly, this tune is quick to amp people up whenever I play this out, as it’s the sample for Ghostface Killah’s Be Easy, produced by the one and only — and very necessary — Pete Rock.

— Post by Ben Fasman

Audio – The Sylvers – Stay Away From Me

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Jimmy Breslin: “No Timeouts”

“There’s no end, no timeouts. Not if you’re working,” Jimmy Breslin told the New York Times on Sunday. His new book, The Good Rat (reviewed the same day in the Times) proves the 77-year-old Breslin won’t stay quiet for long, as he demonstrated in his recent interview with STOP SMILING. In the words of journalist Alan Feur: “While his last few books were tepidly received and did not attract the typical strong reaction, he remains quite busy — as a crank, a scold, a public nuisance, a curmudgeon of the foulmouthed Irish mold, who has made a cottage industry out of keeping alive the grit, vitality and maverick spirit of New York’s phone-booth-and-fedora days.” … Following the passing of Norman Mailer, with whom Breslin ran for mayor of NY in 1969, New York magazine ran this piece, which chronicled their improbable campaign.

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When Fan-Friendly Turns Sour

What happens when a 14-year-old girl wearing a jersey for a rival team is honored during a half-time presentation in Indianapolis? She’s relentlessly booed. Such was the case when thousands of Colts fans laid eyes on Anna Grant, decked out in a Patriots jersey, standing at mid-field. The incident, which had shades of the controversy surrounding the Girls Gone Wild treatment of women at Jets games, prompted the owner of the Patriots to incorporate Grant into the pre-game coin toss at the next Pats game as compensation. … The world of the Chicago Bulls continues to get weirder: First there was the spat between Ben Wallace and Joakim Noah, pictured here. Now second-round draft pick JamesOn Curry has been arrested for urinating in public. How will the execs in the luxury boxes at the United Center react? … And in music, what are fans of Carlos Santana to make of this brilliant YouTube parody?

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On Food Fights and Empty Seas

After 60 Minutes reeled in a piece on the cataclysmic over-fishing of bluefin tuna in order to supply Japan’s “Wall Street of fish,” the NY Times keeps on the seafood beat, reporting that “fish is now the most traded animal commodity on the planet” and that, in Europe, “the imbalance between supply and demand has led to a thriving illegal trade.” Slate recently instigated a food fight with the wildly popular and controversial epicurean Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, who they feel worships “the holy, catholic, and apostolic church of food, where only martyrs and lost souls have to shop at Safeway.” The Financial Times asks “What makes a pig organic?” in the same weekend edition that braved a lunchtime interview with a non-smoking Christopher Hitchens. For a second helping of food writing at STOP SMILING, check out our recent talks with Leah Chase and Nigella Lawson, pictured here.

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Notes From the Underground Press

Today’s Los Angeles Times pays tribute to Walter Bowart, the co-founder of the independent newspaper The East Village Other, who passed away at 68. The Village Voice salutes Nat Hentoff in “50 Years of Pissing People Off.” And the Guardian unmasks celebrated writers who have used anonymity to their advantage (and considers how Eric Blair, pictured here, became George Orwell).

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Live Free or Die at the Polls

After two “underdog” victories from candidates entrenched in New Hampshire politics for decades — the Washington Post, in John McCain‘s case, went so far as to call it a “Lazarus-like Resurrection” — the primaries have become a wide-open field. Even more unpredictable is the cockeyed polling data that continues to pour out of of New Hampshire: Gary Langer of ABC News reports on “New Hampshire’s Polling Fiasco.” In “Bad Bet,” Slate asks why the data was so wrong. Politico comments on how the results “made fools of the pollsters, pundits, operatives and even some people in [Hillary Clinton‘s] campaign.” Meanwhile, after the “Broadcast News moment” at a New Hampshire coffeehouse — isn’t William Hurt sidelined by the strike? — the New York Times comments on “A Show of Emotion That Reverberated Beyond the Campaign,” and gets feedback from Marianne Pernold Young, the 64-year-old Obama supporter whose questioned provoked tears. Young “sounded mystified over the reaction, and the reaction to the reaction, to her question. After all, her original inquiry to Mrs. Clinton had been a fairly light one. ‘My question is very personal: How do you do it?’ she had asked Mrs. Clinton. ‘Who does your hair?'”

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Literature and the Lateral Move

A string of recent articles displays a bit of shape-shifting in the literary world. Author Tom Wolfe has swapped publishers, leaving Farrar, Straus & Giroux — his home for 42 years — to set up shop at Little, Brown & Co. The Guardian writes about a “tug-of-love” over the legacy of Simone De Beauvoir, “the mother of modern feminism and a champion of sexual freedom.” As France begins “a glittering celebration” of the centenary of her birth next week, “some academics have warned against the rush of debate and publications descending into prudish attacks on her deliberately outrageous sex life,” as opposed to her life in letters. The question remains: Which way will she go? Also in the Guardian, columnist John Freeman comments on the “surreal experience” novelists undergo while watching their work be adapted for Hollywood (and charts a few bizarre author cameos — none very Hitchcockian). And the New York Times ponders how Jorge Luis Borges, who “set his stories in a pretechnological past and was easily enthralled by the authority of ancient texts” might just be the “Man Who Discovered the Internet.”

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There Will Be Raves

Although barrels of positive ink have already been spilled over Paul Thomas Anderson‘s oil-rich film There Will Be Blood — “masterpiece” from Slate, “bears comparison to the greatest achievements of Griffith and Ford” from David Denby — the accolades continue to flow. J. Hoberman explains why the film topped the Village Voice/LA Weekly 2007 critics poll. Matt Zoller Seitz of the NY Times traces the evolution of Anderson’s work, film by film. The Guardian sits down with Anderson for a Q&A. The Museum of the Moving Image is knee-deep in a PT Anderson retrospective.

But strangest of all is this unlikely story, published in the Miami Herald, which bears resemblance to the climax of Anderson’s 1999 film Magnolia: “It rains iguanas in Florida.”

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Message From the City That Works

Barack Obama and his chief political adviser David Axelrod took their brand of Chicago politics worldwide last night, stealing the spotlight from established candidates in the first test of the 2008 election. Following the victory in Iowa, the Chicago Sun-Times took the temperature on the ground back home — “South siders react to Obama’s win” — while the Chicago Tribune headed East to assess the “fired up” crowds in New Hampshire. (For more hometown coverage, the Chicago Reader has archived their stories about Obama, and independent voices like In These Times may continue to remain skeptical.)

On the national level, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post detects a “A Whiff of Revolution From Iowa,” Peggy Noonan declares “Out With the Old, In With the New” and Bill Bennet goes foot-in-mouth.

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The Iowa Inquisition

With the eyes of the western hemisphere trained on the anointed state of Iowa, several media outlets have begun openly questioning the validity of the Iowa caucuses. Earlier in the week, Slate came out swinging the hardest, with a set-up by Jeff Greenfield (“Where the Iowa caucuses went wrong“) followed by a Sunday punch from Christopher Hitchens, whose piece “The Iowa Scam” blasted the “open corruption” of the “undemocratic” caucus system (and finds much to scoff at in this New York Times article). Today’s Washington Post reports that “Not Everyone’s Moved by the Caucus Spirit.” Politico analyzes the drastic inconsistencies of the polls in Iowa. And AP reports that the candidates have resorted to luring Iowa voters with pizza and snowblowers. Share those caucus crusts!

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