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Archive for March, 2012

TENDER MERCIES: The Better Angels Of Batman

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

PREVIOUSLY: Montgomery County Police have released dash cam video of a Batman impersonator being pulled over in Silver Spring last week. It didn’t take long for the jokes to start, especially when the dispatcher asked if the officer needed backup. “You can send me Robin if you wish,” said the officer. Lenny Robinson was driving his Lamborghini “Batmobile” but was pulled over for not displaying his license plate. Robinson may not be a real superhero, but he is using his powers for good. He dresses up in the batsuit to visit children in local hospitals. When Robinson showed officers the plate in his car, police let him go, after taking some pictures with him. MORE

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is written by our friend Mike Rosenwald of the Washington Post. We urge you to click through and read the whole piece, it just might restore your faith in humanity, if only for a few moments. Be warned, you WILL shed a tear by the end.

WASHINGTON POST: The [hospital] check-in attendant asked for identification. Batman said it was in his Batmobile. The check-in attendant, just doing her job, asked for his real name. “Lenny,” he announced. “B, as in Batman. Robinson.” When Batman finally reached the elevator for the slow ride up to the cancer ward, I could see his face already sweating behind the mask. He told me he loses 5 to 6 pounds in water weight when he wears the superhero uniform. He paid $5,000 for it. He spends $25,000 a year of his own money on Batman toys and memorabilia. He signs every book, hat, T-shirt and backpack he hands out — Batman.

Batman is 48. He is a self-made success and has the bank account to prove it. He recently sold, for a pile of cash, a commercial cleaning business that he started as a teenager. He became interested in Batman through his son Brandon, who was obsessed with the caped crusader when he was little. “I used to call him Batman,” he told me. “His obsession became my obsession.” Batman began visiting Baltimore area hospitals in 2001, sometimes with his now teenage son Brandon playing Robin. Once other hospitals and charities heard about his car and his cape, Batman was put on superhero speed dial for children’s causes around the region. He visits sick kids at least couple times a month, sometimes more often. He visits schools, too, to talk about bullying. He does not do birthday parties.

His superhero work is limited to doing good deeds, part of a maturation process in his own life. In his earlier years, he acknowledges that he sometimes displayed an unsuperhero-like temper and got into occasional trouble with the law for fights and other confrontations. Putting on the Batman uniform changes and steadies him. “Eventually, it sinks in and you become him,” Batman told me. “It feels like I have a responsibility that’s beyond a normal person. And that responsibility is to be there for the kids, to be strong for them, and to make them smile as much as I can.” He understands that might sound corny, but he doesn’t care.   MORE

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DUI DUDE: Bohemian Rhapsody

Friday, March 30th, 2012

NATIONAL POST: He makes it thorough almost the entire song before what appears to be an RCMP officer tells the man to calm down. “I can’t. . . . Cuz nothing really matters,” he responds in the video. “Anyone can see. Nothing really matters . . . even the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police]!” As he exits the police car, he asks the officer if he has to be handcuffed. “Are you going to get physical?” the Mountie replies. “Physical violence is the least of my priorities,” he says. The song was originally recorded by British rock band Queen in 1975. The video was part of the evidence disclosure package that was given to Wilkinson when he decided to defend himself in court, said RCMP spokeswoman Doris Stapleton. She said he then uploaded the video online. Stapleton said she’s received phone calls from as far away as New York about the video. Wilkinson said he decided to upload the video of himself in the police cruiser after someone told him they wanted to share the video with friends. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of impaired driving and refusing to take a breathalyzer. His case is set to go to court in November. MORE

PHAWER: We want to see the movie that starts with this scene.

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CONTEST: Win Tix To See Wild Flag At The Troc

Friday, March 30th, 2012

OK, we got ‘em, you want ‘em, let’s make this easy on everyone involved. We have a pair of tickets to see Wild Flag at the Trocadero on Tuesday April 3rd to give away to the first lucky Phawker reader that can answer the following Wild Flag trivia question: What is the name of Carrie Brownstein’s first band (circa ’93-’95)? Hint: it ain’t Sleater-Kinney. Email your answer to FEED@PHAWKER.COM with the words WILD FLAG in the subject line. Please include a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed you black emperors!

UPDATE: We have a winner! If you haven’t heard from us, better luck next time and stay tuned for more groovy giveaways.


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MEDIA: The Revolution Has Already Been Televised

Friday, March 30th, 2012

This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is The Massage

International House , March 31 at 8pm

(Dir. Ernest Pintoff, US, 1967, 16mm, 56 mins, color)

Originally broadcast in 1967 as part of NBC’s “Experiments with Television,” this portrait of Marshall McLuhan is far from the typical television documentary. Featuring performances by Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman, commentary by Allan Kaprow and Malcolm Morely and a host of pop culture icons, This is Marshall McLuhan innovatively captures the media environment McLuhan so eloquently describes. This event is free to attend. Please RSVP by clicking HERE

RELATED: Herbert Marshall McLuhan, CC (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar—a professor of English literature, a literary critic, a rhetorician, and a communication theorist. McLuhan’s work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries.[1][2] McLuhan is known for coining the expressions “the medium is the message” and “the global village” and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented.[3] Although he was a fixture in media discourse in the late 1960s, his influence started to wane in the early seventies.[4] In the years after his death, he would continue to be a controversial figure in academic circles.[5] With the arrival of the internet, however, there was renewed interest in his work and perspective. MORE

RELATED: The title is a play on McLuhan’s oft-quoted saying “The medium is the message“. The book was initiated by Quentin Fiore.[1] McLuhan adopted the term “massage” to denote the effect each medium has on the human sensorium, taking inventory of the “effects” of numerous media in terms of how they “massage” the sensorium. According to McLuhan biographer W. Terrence Gordon, “by the time it appeared in 1967, McLuhan no doubt recognized that his original saying had become a cliché and welcomed the opportunity to throw it back on the compost heap of language to recycle and revitalize it. But the new title is more than McLuhan indulging his insatiable taste for puns, more than a clever fusion of self-mockery and self-rescue — the subtitle is ‘An Inventory of Effects,’ underscoring the lesson compressed into the original saying.” (Gordon, p. 175.) However, the FAQ section on the website maintained by McLuhan’s estate says that this interpretation is incomplete and makes its own leap of logic as to why McLuhan left it as is:[2]

“Why is the title of the book The Medium is the Massage and not The Medium is the Message? Actually, the title was a mistake. When the book came back from the typesetter’s, it had on the cover ‘Massage’ as it still does. The title was supposed to have read The Medium is the Message but the typesetter had made an error. When McLuhan saw the typo he exclaimed, ‘Leave it alone! It’s great, and right on target!’ Now there are possible four readings for the last word of the title, all of them accurate: Message and Mess Age, Massage and Mass Age.” MORE

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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: You Don’t Have To Be An M.D. To Understand That Health Care Ain’t Broccoli

Friday, March 30th, 2012

BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Yes, I know it’s been debated nearly to death, but a careful reading of some of the more visceral right-wing commentaries (and that includes those of a certain four Supreme Court Justices — I’d say five but one is a mute) in support of a rollback of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (that’s ObamaCare for you cliché conservatives) has lead me to wonder why the media haven’t examined more closely these naysayers’ rather “feeble and infirmed” arguments. So, break out the Extra Strength Excedrin, Tea Partiers, Dr. William is about to offer a few informed rebuttals and interpretations on the subject. Oh, and by the way, Rush, I know that your knowledge of all nature of subjects is widely recognized as scant, but on this one I definitely think it would have been better to have remained silent than spoken out and removed all doubt. Incidentally, did I mention that Republicans were FOR a “mandate” that all Americans be enrolled in a health insurance plan before they were against it? But I digress.

Let me begin by saying that by no means do I consider myself in possession of anything more than the most basic level of Constitutional legal scholarship. I do believe, however, that I can contribute something much more valuable to a discussion of this subject (and countless others that the legal community has profoundly — and purposely — obfuscated for the sake of sustaining an altogether unsubstantiated reason for existing), namely, a wee bit of clarity and plain old common sense. So, without further adieu:

1. A government mandate to purchase health insurance isn’t like states’ mandates to buy automobile liability coverage. Really? For the life of me I can’t fathom the difference. PPACA opponents like to point out that you can avoid the liability insurance mandate simply by choosing not to drive. True, but for that dog to hunt anything other than agitated skunks you’d have to avoid passenger status and, for that matter, walking as well. Auto liability insurance doesn’t protect us from the errant acts of other drivers just while we too are in the act of driving, it’s also designed to protect us from such acts while passengers in a vehicle, or even as pedestrians. If you’re caught without liability coverage, you can lose your license, be fined, or even serve jail time. So, just like mandating automobile liability insurance as a means of protecting the rest us from the unwarranted financial hardships that could incur as a result of some drivers electing to avoid paying for it (lawsuits are absolutely meaningless if the responsible parties possess nothing to settle them with), a primary purpose of the PPACA is to protect the rest of us from having to pay the medical costs of those who might otherwise choose to avoid (or cannot afford) paying for health insurance. And, just like a failure-to-conform penalty attaches to the former, a failure-to-do-so penalty must necessarily attach to the latter.

2. The price to be paid is simply too high. Au contraireHere’s where my if-for-no-other-reason-than-it’s-by-far-the-more-necessary-ethical-and-humane-thing-to-do comes in. We currently spend more on our military than all other nations combined many times over. Personally, I think that that sentence in and of itself ought to serve as sufficient rebuttal. The actual dollars involved (conservatively speaking) amount to around $700 billion annually. I say “around” because it’s such an impossibly huge financial octopus with tentacles everywhere that no one, not the Defense Department, not the Congressional Budget Office, not the Executive Branch, nor the Congress (or anyone else) knows for sure how much is actually involved. For the most part, the powers-that-be simply assign a percentage-of-budget nebulosity to it and move on to other less “important” distributions. Included in that obscene expenditure is funding for some 1000 military bases overseas. I’m forced to use the term “some” because the figure 1000 is an estimate the actual number of which no one knows for sure. No one! So, I ask you, what’s the more necessary, ethical and humane thing for America to be spending $176 billion annually on, and mandating that its citizens obtain: basic health and consequent financial “protection” (millions of American lives are ruined every year because they can’t afford their medical costs), or maintaining a totally immoral and unnecessary, obscenely bloated American military establishment both at home and abroad?

3. All that expenditure won’t actually make Americans healthier. Dead wrong. Those who try to make this argument love to cite a 1993 Rand Corporation study (it’s all they have) that claims the average person gains no substantial benefit from “free” care. Well, if that’s the best they have to offer, they’re on life support. To begin with, PPACA would be free only to those who can show that they simply can’t afford to expend anything on health insurance. Furthermore, if you don’t think that mandated medical insurance — especially that which you can’t be turned down for — won’t offer protection for one’s financial well-being, you have an untreatable  mental deficiency. And to say that mandating health insurance won’t make Americans physically healthier is like saying that compulsory education won’t make children wiser. Studies show that most people — especially women — without affordable health care wait to long to seek treatment and thus are likely to suffer serious health problems. Every study without exception (and there are literally hundreds of them) shows that preventive healthcare and early detection and treatment not only save lives but countless billions of dollars. There aren’t just three reasons to support a healthier America — aside from the fact that we are one of only three developed nations on the planet without universal healthcare — there are 50 million of them! The very idea that the insured among us may have to continue unnecessarily paying $116 billion every year because a radical portion of the population as well as some of the “best and brightest” justices on the highest court in the land seem incapable of distinguishing between mandating health insurance and being forced to consume broccoli is nothing short of bilious!


CINEMA: The Anchorman Cometh, Again

Friday, March 30th, 2012

WASHINGTON POST: Will Ferrell, dressed as the mustachioed newsman Ron Burgundy, made a surprise appearance on “Conan” Wednesday night to make dirty jokes, play the flute and tell O’Brien he looks awful. (“You look like someone put a bright red fright wig on a skeleton and chucked it out of a helicopter.”) Oh — he also announced that a sequel to “Anchorman” is in the works. Few details are available. But, according to the Associated Press, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell are expected to return, as are director Adam McKay and producer Judd Apatow. Deadline reports that David Koechner is also on board. MORE

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Harry Crews, Dark Lord Of Rural Noir, Dead At 76

Thursday, March 29th, 2012


ASSOCIATED PRESS: Harry Crews, an author best known for his gritty tales of the rural South, died Wednesday in Gainesville, Fla. He was 76 and had suffered from neuropathy, said his ex-wife, Sally Ellis Crews. “He had been very ill,” she told The Associated Press on Thursday. “In a way it was kind of a blessing. He was in a lot of pain.” Crews, author of 17 novels and numerous short stories, also taught graduate and undergraduate fiction writing workshops at the University of Florida from 1968 until his retirement in 1997. In a 1992 interview with Tammy Lytal and Richard D. Russell at Memphis State University in Memphis, Tenn., Crews said about writing, “If you’re gonna write, for God in heaven’s sake, try to get naked. Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you’ve been told.” MORE

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Talking JFK Blues With Hardballer Chris Matthews

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

[Illustrations by ALEX FINE]

BY JONATHAN VALANIA We got the former Nor’easter and current Hardball host on the horn to discuss his recently-published Kennedy bio Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. Discussed: Joseph Kennedy’s Nazi apologia; the largely unheralded basic decency of Richard Nixon; why Chris Matthews’ mother was rooting for Joe McCarthy; why JFK banged everything that moved; who really killed Kennedy and why; how the Vietnam war would not have happened Kennedy had he lived to serve a second term; and why the myth of Camelot continues to make a chill run up the leg of the nation. Plus, who will win the presidency this fall.

PHAWKER: Thank you very much for taking the time to come on the blog today.  Let’s start with the father – Joseph Kennedy, a Nazi apologist?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, I think so. I think the sad story there is that he never really saw the moral evil of a guy who was out to kill people or basically eradicate people that he didn’t like, whether they were Jews, gypsies, gay people, or whatever the heck group he tended to have in mind. He liked Aryans, Germans, Nordics, Northern Europeans – everyone else was less than human, and I mean that. So Joe Kennedy was a bigoted guy who didn’t like Jews all that much and certainly had no problem with Hitler’s terrible policies towards them. It’s just a fact, and he basically sided with Chamberlain in terms of appeasing Hitler. He didn’t want to fight. He just really wasn’t a nationalist guy. He wasn’t really a patriotic American, regular American guy. He didn’t feel something for this country the way most people do and his kids did. His kids were real patriotic guys. I compare him to like The Godfather where the old Don in the movie just didn’t feel American, and the kids did.

PHAWKER: Interesting. Do you agree with the generally accepted narrative now that the Chicago vote was in fact purchased by Joe Kennedy when Jack ran against Nixon in 1960?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, I don’t know if it was purchased

PHAWKER: Okay, I’ll take that as a “No.”

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, what proof do you have?

PHAWKER: I don’t have any, beyond the fact that it has been repeated ad nauseum of just about every account of the election I have read. And since I’ve never seen it batted down, I can only assume it is true if such an incendiary claim is left to stand.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, listen. The vote in Illinois didn’t decide the election. It didn’t decide the Electoral College, first of all, and secondly it wouldn’t have been decisive, Nixon still would have lost. Kennedy won the election – I mean, I know in my first book I wrote about Kennedy and Nixon, I wrote that dead people voted in Chicago. The machine put in some dead people, but there is a question about some of the wards and whether they were controlled by the mob, and when [Chicago Mayor Richard] Daley said to Kennedy that night of the election, ‘With the help of a few good friends, we’re going to win Illinois’ whether he’s talking about the mob who knows? But, I don’t think Illinois was decisive if you look at the numbers in the Electoral College. Money played a big part in the election, clearly, and the old man’s money was central. There was also apparently some mob money that filtered its way down to West Virginia, so it’s all part of the story, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s pretty murky. Pretty murky.

PHAWKER: In your telling, Nixon comes off as a more decent man than I would’ve expected.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, well I tried not to get into certain conventional wisdom. I tried to tell the story from the evidence. You  know, Nixon was the underdog. He wasn’t a good looking guy like Kennedy, he was a poor guy, he grew up pretty rough, he didn’t have the best of an upbringing, he went to school on scholarships, he got to Duke Law on scholarships, he had a scholarship to Harvard as a kid, but he didn’t even have the money to pay expenses. So he was sort of a hard-knocks guy, whereas Kennedy had pretty much the road ahead built for him. So I sort of looked at it from that point of view. I tried to tell the story, when I did bring up Nixon, and I also pointed out that Nixon and Kennedy were friends all the way up until they ran against each other, which always happens – you get mad at each other.  But Kennedy called one of his closest friends, Charlie Bartlett – he’s still alive – that if he had lost the primaries to Humphrey and the other guys back in ’60 he was going to vote for Nixon, so that relationship was really not fractured until they ran against each other.


CHRIS MATTHEWS: Back in ’47, they went up to Pennsylvania on a train – that’s how they got around in those days – so they took the train back that night and they shared a sleeper car on the way back. They slept in the top and  bunk and they talked all night about the Cold War. So they were friendly enough to do that.

PHAWKER: Moving on. Joe McCarthy was a Kennedy family friend and somehow JFK conveniently missed that Senate vote to censure McCarthy.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well what he was getting was his back operated on – he couldn’t walk anymore. He had to be in a wheelchair, and in the fall of ’54 he went into the hospital to get this life or death operation that nearly killed him. He had the last rites for the third time in his life. Nixon was crying that night because he thought that Kennedy was dead – the Secret Service agent told me that. The people of Massachusetts were hanging the black crepe, they thought they were going to name a successor, the governor up there was going to pick a new one soon because Kennedy was going to die. So, a really serious operation, but you’re right – it did come at the time of the vote on McCarthy. Jack Kennedy did not want to vote on it, but the sad thing is that Jack did not want to vote against McCarthy. McCarthy was enormously popular up in Massachusetts. I point out that even the guys up there, the Irish guys that were anti-Semitic and didn’t like Jewish people, they were all rootin’ for Roy Cohn, who was McCarthy’s guy against Bobby Kennedy because they were so red-hot for McCarthy. McCarthy was a lot bigger star in the country with the Irish back in ’54 than Kennedy was. Kennedy was sort of a freshman senator, but McCarthy was huge here. I grew up in North Philadelphia, Northeast Philadelphia – I moved up there and I remember coming home from grade school, I’d walk home and there Mom would be watching television, which was a rarity. We just got a TV set and she was watching the hearings. I know who she was rooting for – she was rooting for McCarthy. So among the Irish people back in those days, McCarthy was a real hero because he was taking on the Communists, and we all hated the Communists.

PHAWKER: Early in JFK’s Senate career he tacked to the right to the dismay of liberals and then leftward in advance of the presidential…

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, it’s fair to say he moved to the left to help him get his chance at running for president in the late ‘50s, sure.

PHAWKER: Well, you know, which is not unusual for a…

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, you’re right. They all do it.

PHAWKER: But does triple AAA political expediency for a moment, where do you think Jack Kennedy’s ideological compass pointed?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, I think he was dynamite – for any white guy – he was dynamite on Civil Rights, he had the nerve to come out in ’60 and call Mrs. King. He got involved with Dr. King after Bobby got him out of prison, actually, in that ridiculous episode  where they threw him in jail for having the wrong driver’s license, basically. His support for the Civil Rights thing puts him right out at the progressive liberal end of things. In the fall of ’62 he gets federal troops to basically take down Ross Barnett and integrate the University of Mississippi against the governor and the white people and everybody – he had to take them on with federal troops. He did the same thing in June of ’63 against Wallace in Alabama when he integrated the University of Alabama. He had to bring Vivian Malone and the others. Vivian’s sister Cheryl Malone is married to Eric Holder. It’s amazing how history changed, but the system or the current attorney general was the young women – a girl at the time – who got integrated into the University of Alabama in ’63 by Kennedy. So he and Bobby were really good on that, on tax cutting – as far as to say they were tax cutters – he was anti-Communist, he had the space program, he had the Peace Corps, special forces…you know, it’s really hard to say if he was left or right. Kennedy, I would say, would be center-left by today’s definition. Or even center. But on issues like being patriotic and anti-Communist, you know, I think he was known most for peace. He arranged the first peace treaty with the Soviet Union on nuclear testing, and ended up cutting a secret deal to get us out of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I’d call him a practical, good guy, centrist. Somewhere in the middle.

PHAWKER: Okay. It’s not clear to me through the book why Kennedy wanted to pull out of the Bay of Pigs invasion before it went down.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, think about it – he didn’t ask the right questions of the military. The military didn’t give him the information and they screwed up, basically. He went in there with fifteen other Cuban exiles. A lot of middle class guys or high-rank caches. They weren’t soldiers, they weren’t street guys, they weren’t tough guys. So they go in there against 25,000 regular Cuban army troops the first day. All Kennedy had to ask was, order of battle.  How many people we’ve got to face the first day we go in there. The first day – 25,000 people, to be outnumbered that badly. He had the intel, he had people around the world looking out for him like the head of the CIA Allen Dulles, was really an Eisenhower guy. Yeah, they weren’t loyal to him. They basically took him into a box canyon, they got him on the ground there, then he would have to support bringing in the troops. He was bringing in the Air Force and everything, and basically going to war with Castro. And Kennedy said there’s too many Russian soldiers there, I’m not going to go to war with Russia and Cuba, and you’re not going to trick me into this so I’m pulling out. So basically blew the whistle on the whole Cuban Missile thing he took the hit for it, and he took the blame publicly. He said I’m not going to get tricked or get pushed around by the military or the CIA. So he saw that they couldn’t win with the Cuban exiles, and he wasn’t going to take the American military into that country.

PHAWKER: Do you believe that, as the narratives say of Oliver Stone’s JFK, that Kennedy was on a path towards de-escalating Vietnam and…

NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

Thursday, March 29th, 2012


When Paul McCartney was a little boy, he always looked forward to New Year’s Eve — the biggest social event of the year in Liverpool. “The family would all gather, my dad was the pianist, and … drinks would appear and people would start singing,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And apparently never stop until we all ran out for New Year’s.” McCartney’s latest album, Kisses on the Bottom, is filled with songs he associates with his father and his father’s generation, including “Home” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.” “These songs are etched in my memory, and they’re very happy memories, so I wanted to do the songs for that reason,” he says. “I’ve always loved them, but when rock ‘n’ roll came along and I got into The Beatles, we just thought we were just doing another thing. It didn’t dismiss the other songs at all. In fact, they became the basic structure of a lot of what John [Lennon] and I wrote.” McCartney says he used to analyze the melodic structure and various key changes in the songs from his childhood, and then used those musical tricks while writing songs for The Beatles, Wings and his solo albums. In the original song “My Valentine” from Kisses on the Bottom, for example, the song switches from a major key to a minor key. “It’s just a little thing that most people wouldn’t notice it happening, but it just changes the mood,” he says. “Obviously, musicians would know exactly what was happening. … In “Here, There and Everywhere,” one of my songs with The Beatles, it does [the key change] after the middle. It’s a very simple trick, but quite effective.” McCartney says that when he was writing original songs, he was also conscious of a desire to shake up the structure of music from his childhood. “What happens is you listen to the old songs — and you’re brought up with the old songs, and you love them — but then there comes a time when you’re doing your thing and there doesn’t seem to be much sense in repeating what’s gone before,” he says. “So you then use the structure or the memory, almost, but you put your own spin on it and try to get away from any formula. And so you experiment with the structure for your own songs. We did that. … You’re conscious of the old songs, but you’re also conscious of forging a new way to write.” MORE

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BRB: On The Phone With This Guy

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

More on this later.

WIKIPEDIA: Ravi Shankar (Bengali: born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury on 7 April 1920), often referred to by the title Pandit, is an Indian musician and composer who plays the plucked string instrument sitar. He has been described as the most known contemporary Indian musician by Hans Neuhoff in Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart.[1]

Shankar was born in Varanasi and spent his youth touring Europe and India with the dance group of his brother Uday Shankar. He gave up dancing in 1938 to study sitar playing under court musician Allauddin Khan. After finishing his studies in 1944, Shankar worked as a composer, creating the music for the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, and was music director of All India Radio, New Delhi, from 1949 to 1956.

In 1956, he began to tour Europe and America playing Indian classical music and increased its popularity there in the 1960s through teaching, performance, and his association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison of The Beatles. Shankar engaged Western music by writing concerti for sitar and orchestra and toured the world in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1986 to 1992 he served as a nominated member of the upper chamber of the Parliament of India. Shankar was awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999, and received three Grammy Awards. He continues to perform in the 2000s, often with his daughter Anoushka. He is the father of Norah Jones. MORE

Ravi Shankar monterey pop festival 1967 by kyu77

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Police Surveillance Footage Shows Trayvon’s Killer With No Apparent Wounds On His Head Or Face

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

ABC NEWS: A police surveillance video taken the night that Trayvon Martin was shot dead shows no blood or bruises on George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who says he shot Martin after he was punched in the nose, knocked down and had his head slammed into the ground. The surveillance video, which was obtained exclusively by ABC News, shows Zimmerman arriving in a police cruiser. As he exits the car, his hands are cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is frisked and then led down a series of hallways, still cuf Zimmerman, 28, is wearing a red and black fleece and his face and head are cleanly shaven. He appears well built, hardly the portly young man depicted in a 2005 mug shot that until a two days ago was the single image the media had of Zimmerman. The initial police report noted that Zimmerman was bleeding from the back of the head and nose, and after medical attention it was decided that he was in good enough condition to travel in a police cruiser to the Sanford, Fla., police station for questioning. His lawyer later insisted that Zimmerman’s nose had been broken in his scuffle with 17-year-old Martin. In the video an officer is seen pausing to look at the back of Zimmerman’s head, but no abrasions or blood can be seen in the video and he did not check into the emergency room following the police questioning. Zimmerman was not arrested although ABC News has learned that the lead homicide investigator filed an affidavit urging Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter. MORE

RELATED: I’m far from the first to notice the similarities between the way people talk about Martin and the way they talk about rape victims, whose clothes and histories are often subject to scrutiny no matter how cut-and-dried the case seems. Like a rape victim, Martin’s past is being excavated for evidence that he might have provoked the harm done to him. It hardly matters that even if Martin had gotten high every day, it would have had zero relevance; it’s not as if marijuana use is linked to violence. Nor that it’s not unusual for a teenager to come across as obnoxious on Twitter. MORE

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RIP: Earl Scruggs, Bluegrass Titan, Dead At 88

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

LOS ANGELES TIMES: For better or worse, Earl Scruggs [pictured, above right] will be remembered by most Americans for his banjo picking alongside partner Lester Flatt in a dated 1960s cultural artifact: “The Beverly Hillbillies.” For better, because the style that the bluegrass legend, who died Wednesday at 88, showcases will forever live in the memories of generations. For worse, because the song threatens to define Flatt and Scruggs, as well as the whole of the uniquely American form of bluegrass music, alongside the zany, know-nothing Clampetts of Beverly Hills. That placement has helped define bluegrass to the culture at large as music for hicks who dance at hoedowns and wouldn’t know a lick about “real” music. (Credit goes to “Deliverance” and “Dueling Banjos” for furthering the cause.) That’s a shame, because a deep listen to Flatt & Scruggs reveals something so much bigger than a few unfortunate stereotypes. The sound that Scruggs forged, a three-fingered picking style in the 1940s as a central player in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, came to define bluegrass. When he and Flatt struck out on their own in 1948 to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, the style had woven its way into the fabric of American music. MORE

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DANCING IN THE DARK: There Are A Million Stories In The Naked City But This Isn’t One Of Them

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Strip clubs are a magnet for violence? No, liquor licenses are magnets for violence. Liquor, cocaine, steroids, testosterone, asshole parents that didn’t raise you right or love you enough — these things, together or alone, cause violence. Strippers are just the floor show. And prostitution? Well that’s a whole other brutally honest hours-long conversation that we as a society will probably never have and so in the mean time we will continue to lie to ourselves with empty platitudes and cheap pieties. But two quick things about that: Prostitution is the logical extension of a bartering system that goes back at least as far as Adam & Eve — they don’t call it The Oldest Profession for nothing — where women trade sexual access for food, shelter, protection, companionship, commitment, or 2.5 kids and a Beemer in the driveway alongside the half-twin in Haddonfield. Which makes us question the prioritizing of valuable and limited law enforcement resources. Drug-addled underage runaways strolling the grimy, crack-scarred avenues of Kensington are beaten, abused, disfigured and worse and human-trafficked Asian women are living lives of quiet desperation and indentured sexual servitude behind the unmarked doors of China Town massage parlors and the cops are cracking down on some South Philly roofer getting a tug job from some tramp-stamped single mom from South Jersey? Please. As for the Daily News, you are a tabloid, we get it. Your job is to light up the lizard brains of the lumpen proletariat with some combination of the three arrows you have in your quiver: fear, anger and arousal. Fine. We all gotta make a living. Just don’t try and pass it off as public interest journalism, or pretend you really care about remedying all the sociological pathologies touched upon in this story. If you did, you wouldn’t put busty blondes in handcuffs on the cover, you’d put the sad, sad men that help them, one dollar in the g-string at a time, pay their rent on the cover. But we all know that sad, sad men don’t sell papers, they just buy them. Fact is, you are no better than the stripper you shame on your cover: both of you are selling titillation to horny voyeurs for a cheap buck. So let’s let’s stop pretending we’re above it all. As for the reporters writing this story, and for that matter the street level vice cops making these busts, we don’t hold you directly responsible, we know that these agendas come down from on high, and like the guards at Treblinka, you were just following orders.

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Cost of the War in Iraq
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