STAFF & GUEST BLOG
March 24th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

Even with the glut of excellent TV soon to be upon us–the return of Mad Men this weekend and Game of Thrones next–I was disappointed to hear about the recent cancellation of HBO’s newest series, Luck. Created by David Milch (of Deadwood renown) and starring Dustin Hoffman, among other notables, Luck looked like it might have the goods to become a hit.

Sadly, after two horses died on set during the filming of season 1, and a third perished during the filming of season 2, HBO pulled the plug on the series. Some speculated that HBO’s reasoning had more to do with the buzz-diminishing effect of the deaths, while others pointed out that groups like PETA had been critical of Luck since the beginning.

What’s clear is that HBO entering into the unwinnable debate on the ethics of horse racing wouldn’t have been good for business.

The irony of this situation, of course, is that Milch is an outspoken lover of horses and horse racing, and Luck is something of a love letter to his lifelong devotion to the sport. A sad, seedy love letter, but a love letter nonetheless. The other irony is that horses regularly die in the course of horse racing and training, often at a far greater rate than they did on the show. Nonetheless, the argument that one horse death for the sake of entertainment is one too many seems to prevail here. The animal rights activists have won this battle, but the war is ongoing.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
March 24th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

A new solo show by Canadian photographer Stan Douglas takes a look at the culture of the 1970s through the lens of a fictional photojournalist. Douglas’ latest works examine two seemingly disparate 1970s cultural scenes–disco-era New York City and post-war Angola–and shows how common elements in dance, fashion and politics suggest they are closer linked than we might think. Juxtaposing scenes carefully set up to resemble ’70s-era New York City’s vibrant disco scene with images recreating Angola in its heyday, Douglas comments on war, dance and the cultural crossovers between those far-flung locations in that turbulent decade.

Apart from Douglas’ convincing art direction, which flawlessly and artfully recreates both of these places and times, the show is a great starting point for a discussion on the distinctions between journalism and art. How apropos.

Disco Angola, at New York’s David Zwirner Gallery, runs through April 28th. Or check out the slideshow on Cool Hunting.

March 23rd, 2012, by Sean Nixon

Hmm, so just what are the candidates saying? Credit:Ondrejk Wikimedia commons

There’s a coded language between friends, inside jokes between co-workers and a lexicon or lingo that goes with every industry. The realm of politics is no different.

Politicians and candidates alike have long used a series of words and phrases that have meant the difference between winning the next primary and election cycle or being thrown in hot water. So just what are the politicians truly saying?

Well, you’re in luck. The good folks at Yahoo took the time to investigate just what candidates truly mean when they’re in an interview or speaking to potential voters.

Just think of it as the Rosetta Stone of political jargon. Take a look at these findings from the Yahoo team online. You’ll be glad you did.

March 23rd, 2012, by Sean Nixon

Recently, talk show legend Montel Williams sat down to talk with CNN’s Piers Morgan on a host of issues.

Most notably was his ever present passion and fervor on the issue of personal accountability with respect to those in office, including the GOP presidential candidates.

Williams is a no nonsense kind of guy who tells it like it is. He’s passionate about the issues and comes from the heart. His remarks are not bombastic, nor are they said to create headlines. What he does offer however is an honest, raw emotion that comes from a place that I think most people can appreciate if they give it a chance.

The exchange between Morgan and Williams was engaging to say the least. Whether discussing issues of health, politics or the state of affairs in American society, the two brought an energy and an awareness that is severely lacking in mainstream media at times.

Personally, I find it interesting anytime two talk show hosts get together. In my opinion, it always leads to good conversation. The night’s exchange was no disappointment. Check out the clip below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRIMER
March 21st, 2012, by Carla Amurao

Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

Airdate | Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hometown | Baltimore, MD

Notable Accomplishments | Writer-producer for the fifth and sixth seasons of The Sopranos and creator-executive producer-head writer-show runner for Mad Men. The former racked up an impressive 21 Emmys and 5 Golden Globes in its six-year run.

Why He’s Buzzing | With the long Mad Men hiatus that ended on Sunday, March 25, 2012, audiences anticipated the premiere of season 5. The series received critical acclaim for its historical authenticity and visual style, resulting in 15 Emmys and 4 Golden Globes and making Mad Men the first basic cable series to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for all fours years of broadcast (2008-2011).

Matthew Weiner Trivia

  • Wrote the pilot of Mad Men as a spec script while working as a writer on Becker.
  • Not only did he earn an MFA from the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television (now School of Cinematic Arts), but he also taught an undergraduate screenwriting class in 2004.
  • His son, Marten, plays the recurring role of Glen Bishop in Mad Men. Furthermore, the scene where Glen walks in on Betty Draper in the bathroom (then later asks for a lock of her hair!) is based on an experience from Weiner’s childhood.
  • Was a one-day champion on the trivia-quiz show Jeopardy!

Selection of projects

Television

2000-2002 Becker, Co-producer/producer, writer
2002-2003 Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Supervising producer, writer
2004-2007 The Sopranos, Supervising producer, co-executive producer, executive producer, writer, actor (Episodes “Stage 5” and “Two Tonys” as Manny Safer)
2007-present Mad Men, Executive producer, writer, director
2011 The Simpsons, (Episode “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants” as businessman [voice])

Mad Men Season Five Trailer

Season Five Promotion Art

March 19th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

Image: Korean Central News Agency

Daily life for the citizens of North Korea, a notoriously secretive, closed society, is as mysterious to most as the goings on at the bottom of the ocean. We hear stories of famine, human rights abuses and extreme corruption, but given the country’s mistrust of outsiders, details are few and far between.

Recently, Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder has taken a bold step towards giving the West a glimpse at daily life in the socialist state by opening a news bureau in Pyongyang this past January. Not only does Guttenfelder have unprecedented access to the country, he has begun acting as an informal ambassador on behalf of the West.

A new show at The 8th Floor gallery in New York City, billed as “A Joint Exhibition by The Associated Press and the Korean Central News Agency,” displays some of Guttenfelder’s photos alongside images provided by the North Korean state media service. While the photojournalist’s images are somewhat restrained compared to others that have emerged from North Korea recently, alongside the super-glossy shots provided by the state, the exhibit tells another story — of the beginning of a relationship between the secretive regime and the West.

In a story on the New York Times‘ website, Santiago Lyon, the AP’s director of photography, describes it as a “trust-building exercise.” “Of course, the nature of the society means that you can’t just go wandering around as you might be able to on the streets of New Delhi or London. You ask for permission, you get to see certain things and you do the best with the access you have. On that front, we’re making progress.”

 

PRIMER
March 18th, 2012, by Carla Amurao

Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.


Airdate |
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hometown | Dallas, TX 

Birth name | Marvin Lee Aday (later changed to “Michael Lee Aday”)

Parents | Wilma Artie and Orvis Wesley Aday

Meat Loaf Trivia

  • “Bat Out of Hell” is one of five biggest selling albums of all time.
  • Before “Bat Out of Hell”, Meat Loaf was a high school football player, nightclub bouncer and stage actor.
  • After making a guest appearance on House, Meat Loaf learned the show’s star, Hugh Laurie, is a classically-trained pianist. The end result? A collaboration on the song “If I Can’t Have You” on the album, “Hang Cool Teddy Bear”.
  • According to his IMDB profile, Meat Loaf tells contradictory “official” stories of how he got his stage name. Also, despite the moniker, he doesn’t like to eat meat loaf.
  • In 1978, Meat Loaf fell off the stage and broke his leg during a concert in Canada. He completed the rest of the tour while in a wheel chair.

Web Exclusive

The hard rock musician discusses the eye-opening experience of working with hip-hop legend Chuck D of Public Enemy and Lil Jon.

(View full post to see video)

“Just having those two guys on the record has made my life.” Meat Loaf, on his new respect for hip-hop

Selection of performances and projects

Music (and Honors)

1977 “Bat Out of Hell” – Certified Platinum in U.K. (7x), Australia (24x), United States (14x); Diamond (2x) in Canada
1981 “Dead Ringer” – Certified Platinum in U.S.; Gold in Canada
1983 “Midnight at the Lost and Found” – Certified Gold in U.K .
1984 “Bad Attitude” – Certified Gold in U.K.
1986 “Blind Before I Stop” – Certified Silver in U.K.
1993 “Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell” – Certified Platinum in UK (6x), Canada (9x), U.S. (5x) – Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo for “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”
1995 “Welcome to the Neighbourhood” – Certified Platinum in U.K. (3x), Canada, U.S. (2x)
2003 “Couldn’t Have Said It Better” – Certified Platinum in U.K. and U.S.
2006 “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose” - Certified Platinum in U.K. and CAN; Gold in Australia and U.S.
2010 “Hang Cool Teddy Bear” – Certified Platinum in U.K.
2011 “Hell in a Handbasket”

Movies

1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
1979 Americathon
1980 Roadie
1981 Dead Ringer
1992 Wayne’s World
1998 Black Dog
1999 Fight Club
2000 Blacktop
2001 Formula 51
2002 The 51st State
2004 A Hole in One
2005 BloodRayne
2007 Urban Decay
2008 Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise
2010 Burning Bright

Television

1992 Tales from the Crypt (Episode “What’s Cookin’” as Chumley)
1997 Nash Bridges (Episode “Wild Card” as Charlie Pep)
1998 South Park (Episode “Chef Aid” – Cameo)
2001 The Ballad of Lucy Whipple (as Amos ‘Rattlesnake Jake’ Frogge)
2006 Masters of Horror (Episode “Pelts” as Jake Feldman)
2009 House (Episode “Simple Explanation” as Eddie)
2009 Ghost Hunters (Episode “Bat Out of Hell” as Himself)
2009 Monk (Episode “Mr. Monk and the Voodoo Curse” as Reverend Hadley Jorgensen)
2009 Citizen Jane (as Detective Jack Morris)
2010 WWE Raw (as Himself)
2010 Glee (Episode “The Rocky Horror Glee Show as Barry Jeffries)
2011 The Celebrity Apprentice (as Himself)

What is your favorite Meat Loaf project? Share your thoughts below.

March 18th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

Recently (and dubiously), re-elected Russian strongman Valdimir Putin has long endeavored to paint himself as a tough–even thuggish–macho man. It’s probably the strongest element of his public persona. This is in no small part due to an ongoing PR campaign in which the Russian leader is photographed doing extremely macho things–riding motorcycles, flying a plane, hunting, fishing shirtless, riding horses shirtless, bending frying pans with his bare hands.

The most recent publicity stunt involved a photo of Putin assisting conservation researchers by subduing a tiger with a tranquilizer gun. Only, as it turns out, the photo was completely staged, using a docile captive tiger. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first instance of Putin’s flacks cooking up a stunt like this. In her exhaustive new biography, The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, Russian journalist Masha Gessen recounts another similar incident, in which he was photographed after retrieving two pieces of valuable ancient pottery from the Black Sea. Only it turns out the pieces had been retrieved and cleaned up previously and placed in his hands for the photo. His press secretary admitted the whole thing and was surprisingly casual about it.

In an interview with Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies, Gessen noted that the incident, and specifically the press secretary’s response, is quite telling about the current state of Russian politics.”What he was trying to say, and actually here’s an important point here, what he said when he admitted that the vases had been planted, was that it was a perfectly normal photo op. OK, so we planted the vases for the photo op. And I think that this is actually one of those rare moments when the Russian regime sort of shows how warped its view of the world has become.”

March 17th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

Even since the 30-minute Kony 2012 video popped up on my Facebook feed, followed immediately by a firestorm of controversy surrounding it, I’ve been following this story with great interest. The rise and fall of Jason Russell, the video’s narrator and spokesman for the organization that produced it, Invisible Children, was just as quick and even more bizarre.

On Friday, TMZ posted a video of Russell having what appeared to be a naked meltdown on a San Diego street corner. Subsequently, it was reported that Russell had been taken into psychiatric care and was being treated for “exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition as a result of a strenuous PR campaign.”

Although I, like many, found the video to be manipulative, oversimplified and misrepresenting of facts, I’m sympathetic towards Russell, someone who appears to have had good intentions and has become the lightning rod for an extremely complex and heated debate. Historically, the West’s role in helping lift African nations out of poverty, war and corruption is just as fraught with good intentions yielding disastrous results. Russell is merely the latest in a long line of well-intentioned Westerners with fundamental misunderstandings about Africa, its people and its frequently bewildering politics.

If you want to get the facts on Uganda and Joseph Kony, here are some good resources to check out:

BBC

The Economist

Foreign Policy

Amnesty International

March 17th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life is renowned for its quirky reportage of regular folks’ experiences, from the mundane to the extraordinary, as well as in-depth and accessible analysis of current world events. The program’s hour-long concept shows are just as easily devoted to an average New Jersey turnpike rest area as the European debt crisis.

Their most popular show ever was a recent broadcast titled “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory”, which was an adaptation of spoken word performer Mike Daisey’s one-man stage show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. The monologue details Daisey’s trip to China, in which he delves into the working conditions at factories producing Apple products and finds all to be far from well. Following the show’s broadcast, Daisey became viewed as something of an expert on the topic, opining in several news sources, including The New York Times, about the working conditions in China and advocating for reform.

This week’s edition of This American Life is a follow-up to that show and a most unfortunate one. As it turns out, Daisey fabricated many key details of his story and lied to the show’s producers and host about them, in an effort to maintain his credibility. As a result, host Ira Glass spent the entire program this week revealing Daisey’s duplicity and the program’s failure to adequately fact-check his story, while attempting to set the record straight on Apple, China and its treatment of workers there.

Glass sounded tense on the program, which was titled simply “Retraction,” even angry at times, particularly when holding Daisey’s feet to the fire in a confrontational interview. Daisey, appropriately, sounded mortified, despite sticking to his story on a few questionable points. The situation calls back to the debacle surrounding James Frey, his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, and his famous appearance on Oprah, in which she took him to task for misleading millions of readers and viewers. Among the ironies of this story, and there are several, is that Daisey himself did a one-man show about Frey, titled Truth.

How Daisey’s career as a monologuist will rebound from this is hard to say. The man is a first-rate storyteller and performer, and it would be a shame to lose his voice in the national cultural conversation. Still, his credibility is seriously damaged, possibly beyond repair–and for good reason. According to this quote from Variety‘s review of Truth, Daisey is no stranger to the pitfalls of telling a good story:

“In assessing the story of Frey and Leroy, Daisey comes to a judgment that is strict but sympathetic; he suggests that if people are often the least reliable narrators of their own lives, they are also sometimes the most engaging.”

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