Tag Archives: culture

newly occupied media

12 Dec

Newspapers for 99%, such as the Occupied Chicago Tribune, are sprouting up all over the country

Miles Kampf-Lassin tells the story of the Occupied Chicago Tribune:

“This week, the Occupied Chicago Tribune officially came to life. The first issue, printed Wednesday evening, will be distributed throughout the city—far beyond the Loop’s financial district, where Occupy protests have been held since late September—in the coming days. It includes a feature on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget cuts and their effects on Chicago’s poor, an interview with two seniors arrested protesting social service cuts, a timeline of the global Occupy movement, a look into why hundreds of thousands of people are moving their money out of predatory banks, commentary on the Occupy movement from Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges and more.

“As winter sets in and more Occupations transform their tactics while being evicted from their encampments, the role of independent media sources … will be increasingly important.”

Similar publications to the Occupied Chicago Tribune are springing up across the country, including the Boston OccupierOccupied Washington Times, and the soon-to-be-published Occupied Providence Journal.

As winter sets in and more Occupations transform their tactics while being evicted from their encampments, the role of independent media sources dedicated to honestly reporting on and informing the Occupy movement will be increasingly important. We are extremely excited for the part this newspaper can play in helping to advance the goals of the Occupation: Now is the time for a new kind of politics that puts the priorities of ordinary people above those of big business.”

Hopefully folks like Cornel West and Barbara Kingsolver will take a break from writing for Wall St.’s paper and lend their voices to our own struggling protests.

a requiem for redford stephens

6 Dec

Undun tells the complex story of a fictional drug dealer from Philly named Redford Stephens

It’s rare when an album asks deserving questions yet doesn’t let the message overshadow the music. But that’s what The Roots has done with its tenth studio album, Undun, which does for Philadelphia what The Wire did for Baltimore—portraying the dark and ruinous underworld of a drug trade that preys disproportionately on certain races and classes, especially their young.

The record traces the last hours in the life of Redford Stephens, a fictional Philly man whom Roots drummer ?uestlove says was inspired in part by The Wire’s Avon Barksdale. A low-level drug dealer, Stephens is a protagonist but not quite a hero. Over funk-fueled bass lines, ?uestlove’s signature beats, and a tasteful sprinkling of soul, the story is unraveled—backwards from the time of death—by MC Black Thought and a handful of guests, including Aaron Livingston, one half of Icebird.

It’s hardly a holiday record, though it does include a cameo by indie darling Sufjan Stevens, whose “Redford (for Yia-Yia and Pappou)” also helped inspire the Roots’ character and comprises the final four tracks of the album, interpreted in various styles. The third of these segments, “Will to Power,” is the most compelling, showing ?uestlove battling avant-garde pianist DD Jackson in a frenzied duel that owes more to free jazz than R&B.

It’s not untruthful to say the music on Undun stands alone—it doesn’t need its narrative any more than Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life needed its—but the words add a weight that transforms it from a solid hip-hop release into a powerful record. Musically, it ventures into some surprising territory, and lyrically, it communicates an urgent message.

:: :: ::

Originally published by ALARM Press  

havana to new orleans again

5 Dec

Cuba lifted decades-old travel restrictions this October, allowing direct flights from New Orleans for the first time in fifty years and opening an historic music connection

Joey Burns, of the 15-year-old “desert noir” band Calexico, mentioned in his response to a recent question “the New Orleans-Havana connection.” “There was once a strong musical bridge between these two cities,” he said. “But there’s been a Berlin-type wall separating the cultures ever since 1959. I would love to see/hear that musical exchange given new life.”

Turns out it just might be. This October—and this may be why it was on Burns’s mind—Cuba gave the green light to direct flights from New Olreans for the first time in fifty years. “A potentially vibrant new economic opportunity for New Orleans and the U.S. surfaced today,” wrote one music blogger on the day the news was announced. “New Orleans and Havana have a long tradition of interaction that has had a profound impact on American culture. Reviving that link could be the beginning of a new era for the Gulf-Caribbean connection.”

I haven’t been to either city, but the music of New Orleans has long been a keen fascination, which means so has the music of Havana. It should be interesting to see what the next fifty years brings in terms of musical exchange if travel restrictions remain relaxed.


2 Dec

At 8 a.m. we got breakfast. … It was a chicken biscuit sandwich, of course. It was the same deal for lunch at 12:30, which was chicken fingers. Dinner was a chicken sandwich served at senior citizen supper time, 5 p.m. There’s a snack later, around 9, which was chicken nuggets. I ate chicken four times in one day—fried chicken, no less. I can only really compare the feeling after that to how I felt after I ate a KFC Double Down.

From an account of the grand opening of the Chick-Fil-A in Merrillville, Indiana.

Being neither a Chick-Fil-A fan nor a consumer of fast-food meat, the entire ordeal—for which your reward is just more fried chicken, a year’s worth—sounds mostly terrifying, especially when you add in a Christian rock band that performed just for the parking-lot camp-out.

The  interview, however, is a fascinating read.

north dakota + occupy wall st.

28 Nov

Next to the cash register of a small cafe in Chicago is a sign that shows a photo of the JP Morgan Chase Building, downtown, and an image of the cafe’s logo. Next to the Chase Building, it says, TOO BIG TO FAIL. Next to the cafe: NOT TOO BIG TO FAIL.

The sign encourages people to use cash, not because the owners are scrooges, but because they don’t want to support big banks and because they lose a percentage of the money paid via credit and debit cards. The sign was up long before Occupy Wall St. and that day a while back when we were all supposed to switch to local banks. It was just smart business and good for the community.

What might also be good business is if Illinois itself created a central bank. This article from GOOD, published this spring, describes how North Dakota beat the Occupy folks to the anti-bank punch.

The [state-owned Bank of North Dakota] does very little direct lending and instead helps prop up a large network of community banks throughout the state, financing parts of loans to farms and businesses. This mitigates some of the risk for the smaller banks and frees them up to make more loans, thus spurring industry and, subsequently, job growth.

In essence, this is socialism providing the means for capitalism, and it’s working very well.

Interesting stuff. The article is worth reading.

help in 140 characters

28 Nov

A while back, my friend Brian told me about Underheard in New York, a project where a group of three ad interns gave four homeless men a prepaid phone and a Twitter account in order to “include them in our global community.”

From the home page of Underheard in New York

What’s fascinating, which Brian also pointed out, is just how different the writing and linguistic styles are. When I first heard about it, I intended to post a sampling of all four, but two of them aren’t active and their Twitter accounts no longer exist. Here are tweets from the other two, Albert and Danny, who have 3,000 and 4,000 followers, respectively.

@albert814, June 23

.ok once again another reson to be smyling acording to a blod test i am clear of any critical dezis i ges the hair falen is stres doctor say. 

@putodanny, July 26

Today i found out that someone has stold my back pack.i had a bible in it and theytake everything else.

why we write: sean conner

22 Nov
The following is the first installment of “Why We Write,” a series of personal reflections on the craft of writing. Each installment is poignant in its own way, but in sum the series is a sincere and astounding collection of thoughts, emotions, and ambitions regarding the profession of writing. Take of each what you will.

:: :: ::

Sean Conner

I attended the baptism on a Sunday. I stood on the sand of a fake beach and watched a pastor tilt the heads of people into the stillness of Clinton Lake and bring them to Jesus. I always assumed God’s water, the holy stuff, the H-2-O of rituals and ceremonies, had to be blessed and ordained by some spiritual guru like the Pope, or an archbishop, or their hierarchal equivalents in other Christian denominations. It was hard to imagine that the molecules of holy water and the molecules of the water in this man-made lake were the same. Well, the molecules would be the same, but there’s my assumption that holy water has a little more magic powder thrown in. Some vestige of authority. Holy water, by my understanding, hadn’t been idly weaving towards shore day after day. Holy water doesn’t have gasoline in it, or fish shit. At the edge of the water I think about this and have a tough time disassociating this baptism from summer afternoons at the pool and the friendly dunking that oft ensued.  Continue reading

the end of an anomaly

19 Nov

Four-plus years of being a barista has meant that I can’t ignore the perennially absurd happenings of the coffee world. I’m still a junkie for brew methods and barista jams, and I regularly fork over three dollars for an eight-ounce cup of coffee. But this week Zak Stone wrote a fascinating piece on the decline of cheap coffee for GOOD. It turns out changes in weather patterns have taken a heavy toll on coffee bean yields. A really heavy toll.

“Between 2006 and 2009, the Colombian yield shrank by a quarter—from 12 million bags to 7.8 million, the lowest yield in 33 years,” Stone reports amid some fantastic illustrations by Dan Matutina. “The forecast doesn’t look good for the rest of the coffee-growing world, either: more pests in East Africa, more hurricanes in Central America, more droughts in Indonesia. Global coffee stockpiles are close to record lows.”

What this means is that coffee won’t be as cheap as it has been, which Counter Culture‘s Peter Giuliano says has been a long time coming. “Coffee as cheap fuel for the masses is a historical anomaly,” he says. “We’re going back to where coffee began—as an exotic, beloved culinary experience.”

It’s one of the best things I’ve read in a while, and the writing is beyond GOOD‘s typical fare. Check it out here.

Illustrator Dan Matutina's take on the brewing storm


17 Nov

Americans have to be told not to throw their pennies into small bodies of water. Anything smaller than a swimming pool and it’s inevitably lined with copper. There’s probably hundreds of dollars in the larger fountains. Do we even wish for anything when we do it? Or do we just toss out of habit?

I’m standing at end of a bridge, over the Metra tracks that mark the barrier between the Art Institute’s original building and its Modern Wing. A jutting piece of aluminum has collected the past month’s rain and the museum’s patrons can’t help themselves. There are pennies and nickels and dimes. Two keys. A perfect maple leaf. Etchings at the water’s edge look like fossilized shells. The water is drying up  slowly, leaving dirt on the aluminum in wide bands of varying colors. When it disappears completely, the sight will confuse people. Hundreds of coins in a bare aluminum trough, as if someone accidentally spilled a very large purse.  Continue reading

Things I Never Knew #2

11 Nov

One of the guys from NewVillager is an editor at The Believer.

Ross Simonini, my hat’s off to you.