Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sean Hannity meets KRS-One

This is a truly head-exploding example of what's wrong with cable news.

Hannity grills KRS in his usual right-wing fashion, which is perfectly fine, but wait until the clip gets past the one minute mark...

We have an intelligent, activist black man discussing "who has the power to define" racial discourse in one-third of the screen, and the other two-thirds ... "Country Grammar"??!

I've heard apologist arguments before about how the flash-bang visuals on Fox News are over-the-top but essentially apolitical and harmless. I say look at this clip. Dwarfing KRS-One with a Nelly video here works on a number of levels for the channel:

1) For practicality, it sexes up the image, just like the channel's gun-shot transitions. This way the segment's producers can slip in some shots of a few rap videhos.

That's obvious sensationalism, sure. BUT, pre-packaged with the sleaze, we get clear ideological messages:

2) The images tear down KRS as an artist and reduce hip-hop to the lowest common denominator. KRS-One's entire body of work goes against Nelly's antics, yet the channel suggests the two men are one in the same. "My Philosophy," "Hot in Herre," whatever. Same shit, different scary black man. KRS, Nelly, and all those other rappers get balled up into one homogenized mass -- and, consequently, the bullshit we hear on the radio becomes representative of the whole.

3) And, lastly, the images tear down KRS as a left-leaning figure. The visual comparison to Nelly taints everything that comes out of his mouth, given that Nelly would probably be the last person anyone on earth would go to for sociopolitical insight. KRS-One's blunt political views clearly won't jibe with most of Hannity's viewers, and, without having to shout a word, Hannity makes sure he stacks the deck against him from the beginning.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Short video on black carbon research

My boss has gotten a lot of press recently for his breakout black carbon research. He's found that black carbon currently has 60 percent of the climate warming effect of CO2. This ranks black carbon --commonly called soot -- as the second most important player in global warming.

I made a short video on my boss and his black carbon research for work. Check it out below:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Website picks up on Sri Lanka doc

Iowa Independent published a story today about the Sri Lanka documentary. The feature contains an extended interview with me about the making of the film.

You can read the interview, the story, and see the movie here.

It felt funny (and, I'll admit it, pretty cool) to be on the other side of the journalistic process. I've never had a story written about something I've created. So, if I sound like a posturing windbag, forgive me. It was my first time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Knee jerk liberal arguements: Installment Three

Standard knee jerk liberal argument #3: "Not (blank) enough."

In this argument form, a knee jerk liberal denounces a mainstream person or object because it somehow lacks the true essence of a marginalized group or thing.

Brokeback Mountain? Not gay enough.

Barack Obama? Not black enough.

Arguments like this are a symptom of a larger issue: the automatic (dare I say knee-jerk) rejection of the mainstream. They also imply that single persons or works of art must be perfectly indicative of a larger population. Because Barack isn't like most black people on TV, he is therefore "not black enough." Shouldn't he have known to fashion his personality to mirror an entire heterogeneous minority???

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Knee jerk liberal arguments: Installment Two

I asked my friend Sean to help me out with this series because of our mutual hate of knee jerk liberal arguments. This one comes from him:

Knee jerk liberal argument #2: "I hate Democrats AND Republicans."

Here's how Sean put it:

"Both parties are hopelessly corrupt." Ralph Nader just said this phrase on television. Again, quite a common argument amongst failed third party candidates, academic leftists, and the Znet wing of the party. I bought into this logic as a 16 year old in '00, but I outgrew it right around the time bombs began to fall on Baghdad. Holding this belief really requires a willful suspension of disbelief at this point.
Sean hits it right on the head, so there's not much to add. I would say, though, that I find this argument-form particularly irritating for its elitism and condescension. People who use this talking-point obviously think they're very clever. Obviously their piercing insight places them above the political landscape, and obviously you, as the listener, have never stopped to think about the political system in America. Obviously you're too blinded by your partisan loyalty to see that Democrats and Republicans are merely two sides of the same corrupt coin. Obviously you regurgitate partisan orthodoxy like a knee-jerk drone. Obviously.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sri Lanka 2006: post-tsunami documentary

This is the latest documentary short I've created for work. It is called "Sri Lanka 2006: Business, Relief, and Water after the Tsunami."

This footage comes courtesy of Swarnavel Eswaranpillai, a cinema doctoral student at the University of Iowa. He traveled with fellow Iowa professors Paul Greenough and Harish Naraindas to Sri Lanka two years after the 2004 tsunami to capture interview and disaster footage. He gave me permission to edit this short documentary using his images. This video will accompany a piece on water privatization I am writing for a university magazine this May.

I've split the 15-minute film into two parts:

To view other environmental-awareness docs I've made this school year, check here and here.

Stephen Malkmus

Stephen Malkmus gave a great interview with the AV Club the other day. He is the man who inspired the name of this very blog. I admire his humor, insight, and total lack of pretension. He's critical of modern indie rock without sounding like a crotchety old man.

Here are some highlights:

On writing lyrics: I write with a filter of trying to avoid the completely obvious. Trying to avoid Lenny Kravitz-style rhymes.

On the evolution of indie rock: The indie moniker has obviously grown with movies like Juno and The Arcade Fire or whatever. U2 wants to hang around with Arcade Fire. U2 didn't want to hang around with Pavement. It's too different, you know? Maybe they're better or something. Or maybe we were, you know, not a threat. The difference between U2 and Pavement was quite vast. It's grown narrower—closer, I guess. Radiohead being the biggest band in the world.

On indie-ification of genres: Country music has even been [turned indie]—Drive-By Truckers and these bands like that that I read about recently, they're part of it. It doesn't really matter, you know. They're just nervous and don't want the same influences as other people. They want to name-check different things.

On Portland: It used to feel like it was a little off the grid. Not so much now. But if you're in Williamsburg, you feel like there's 40 other bands, and your influences are out getting cosmopolitan, and everyone is trying to be cool or something. And you really don't have to be cool here. I think that's a good thing—that you can feel sort of isolated here. [...] It's a safe, comfortable place. And those kinds of service-economy jobs—like, waitstaff jobs and stuff—they have some pride here. You can be a coffee-slinger and have some pride and be kind of cool here, whereas in New York City, you're going to work on Broadway at Au Bon Pain.