February 21st, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

It’s been 16 months without a new episode, after Don Draper up and married his secretary and since series creator Matthew Weiner reached a deal with AMC for another two seasons of everyone’s favorite 1960s nostalgia-fest, Mad Men. Now, the advent of season 5 approaches, with just over a month left before we’re plunged again into the world of skinny-tie-wearing Madison Avenue creatives, workplace drinking and casual sexism that so many of us have grown to love.

A new teaser from AMC gets the ball rolling this week. While it doesn’t include any new footage, it has just enough style, swagger and Jon Hamm looking cool to get any fan into an anticipatory frenzy. I’ve started making my way through season four again, and was immediately drawn back into the world that Mad Men‘s creators have so painstakingly assembled.

The aforementioned teaser is below, but those in need of a larger dose can revisit the series here. I’d also highly recommend listening to previous interviews with Weiner and articles about the series’ mostly-female writers like this one.

 

February 20th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

There are very few albums that appeal to me on the same level of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” When it came out in 1986, I was only four years old, but to my parents, South African expats who had come of age listening to Simon and Garfunkel, it was a revelation. As a result, the album was in heavy rotation at our house for most of my formative years.

Last fall, Simon announced that to mark the CD’s 25th anniversary, he would be re-releasing a special boxed set, including a new documentary on the making of the album by Joe Berlinger. I’m a bit skeptical of re-issues, which are normally exercises in getting people to buy something they’ve already bought in different packaging, but I’ll withhold judgment until the details of what else is included in the set are available. The big deal for me, however, is that Simon has promised to not just tour the album again, but bring along the African musicians who collaborated with him on the original recording.

One of the most remarkable things about “Graceland” was its blending of pop and world music, a perfect marriage of Simon’s American roots in dixieland, zydeco and folk, with African sounds from the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. In its rise to become one of the best albums of the decade, “Graceland” also succeeded in introducing the world to these artists, who have since achieved legendary status in their own right.

Of course, Simon doesn’t deserve all of the credit here–in a sense, he was using their unique sounds to improve his own–but by doing it at a time when South Africa and its music were boycotted by the rest of the world, this was a bold step to empowering these musicians, and the cultures from which they came, on the global scene.

Tour dates have not yet been announced, but it’s expected to happen sometime this spring/summer. Check here for updates in the meantime.

February 19th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

This can’t be the solution. After last year’s production failed to free the Academy Awards ceremony from its declining ratings (despite the help of good-looking hipster James Franco and Anne “tasteful nudity” Hathaway…or perhaps because of them?) the boffins in Hollywood have spent the last year trying to come up with ways to rejuvenate the Oscars. Their solution: No more songs.

Time constraints were cited as the reason for the change, which is understandable given the length of the telecast (shockingly long at 4-plus hours, particularly considering the gnat-like attention spans of most these days), but there must be a better way. Especially since one of the best original song nominees is the delightful “Man or Muppet” from Jason Segal’s The Muppets.

Call me weird, but I can think of no better way to enliven the Oscars than getting Segal, composer (and one half of Flight of the Conchords duo) Bret McKenzie, and a chorus of muppets up on that stage. It would be hilarious! And family-friendly! And appeal to the attention spans of hipster youth!

But no. Instead we get Billy Crystal. Who will probably sing. Which is not an adequate replacement. Actually, it’s pretty much the opposite. They’d never do this to Randy Newman. I think I’ll just watch YouTube instead.

 

 

 

A LOOK BACK
February 13th, 2012, by Staff

Newt Gingrich was one of the first political guests to be featured on Tavis Smiley when the program launched nine years ago.

The author, political consultant and 58th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives cited Ronald Reagan’s 1976 primary as the inspiration for his candidacy as the Republican Party presidential nominee. In the February 7, 2012 presidential primaries, Gingrich raked in 12.8% of voter support in Colorado and 10.8% in Minnesota, but, as of February 8, Gingrich is expected to fall behind contenders Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

In this 2010 conversation, he discusses the public perception that the Republican Party was not the only opposition to its Democratic counterparts, but also an obstruction to passing bills on the Hill. He also discusses the possibility of throwing his hat in the 2012 presidential race.

Watch the 2010 conversation and share your thoughts.

(View full post to see video)
A LOOK BACK
February 13th, 2012, by Staff

Taking a quick stroll down memory lane isn’t a bad thing.

In a world where breaking news changes faster than the blink of an eye, “A Look Back” will offer a chance to revisit past Tavis Smiley conversations. From politicians and entertainers, to athletes, authors and other newsmakers, we’ve got it all. As current events unfold, we will feature relevant guest interviews–straight from the vault.

First from the vault: Newt Gingrich.

SEEN & HEARD
February 10th, 2012, by Staff

Check out images of and quotes from Connie Rice, Michel Hazanavicius, Wael Ghonim, Viola Davis & Octavia Spencer and Suze Orman.

Click on an image below to open the gallery.

All images by Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

January 30th, 2012, by Sean Nixon

Russian protestor and activist Alexei Navalny Photo: Alexey Yushenkov

In the politically repressed country of Russia, many citizens are in social and political unrest due, in part, to the less than perfect policies of Vladimir Putin. The former president-turned-prime minister-turned political puppet master is at the center of the country’s unrest. His thirst for control over the Russian government has resulted in an acquisition of power that has now spanned more than a decade.

Seeking to restore stability and democratic change in the region through a firebrand crusade against Russia’s strong arm tactics is Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption lawyer and blogger. This Russian lawyer-turned-online whistle blower began to draw a following as he exposed the shady dealings and fraudulent activity at the hand of state-owned utilities and companies on the web for all to see.

While many see him as a modern day folk hero, he’s no angel. Some say his nationalistic views and ideology are too extreme, with others pointing out his ability to stir the spirit of civil protest while calling on others to take a stand. As a result of his activism, he’s seen as a threat to the Russian government. He’s been the target of character attacks, investigated by officials and was recently put in jail for his resistance at a protest rally.

Navalny’s actions are indicative of the new area of activism for rights that’s taking place globally. Whether in Tunisia, Egypt, parts of the Middle East or the Occupy movements of North America and around the world, issues of economic mobility, the police state and social unrest are at the forefront of people’s lives in these modern times.

Navalny’s efforts in shedding light on the corruption in Russia, along with his ability to channel the anger of the citizens that made his own government take notice, make him not only a force to be reckoned with, but, on a global scale, the newest protestor and blogger you should know.

January 30th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

Image: Matthew Wedgewood via Wikimedia Commons

Occasionally, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I miss out on cool stuff when it happens. It is among my new year’s resolutions to minimize this still further, but such is the nature of the cool-hunt: sometimes you don’t get there first.

On that score, someone cooler than me recently brought to my attention an hilarious series of videos satirizing actress, model, former “it” girl and infamous hater of Canada, Chloe Sevigny.

“But, why is this funny?” you may be asking. Fair enough. Sevigny has a reputation for being the ultimate fashion scenester and, for reasons mysterious to me (and, evidently, many others), continues to be held aloft as some kind of 21st century super-muse. “So what’s wrong with that?” you ask. Nothing, really, except the fact that Chloe Sevigny is very serious about fashion, and people who take fashion really seriously are (and always have been) fertile ground for satire (see: Bruno et al.). Also, I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Canada. I mean, what’s not to like?

Exhibit A:

Now, please consider for comparison, Opening Ceremony x Chloe Sevigny. See? Funny, right?

 

January 29th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

As I’ve no doubt said more than once in my bloggings, Deadwood was one of the best programs ever to grace the small screen. This is largely the doing of David Milch, the creator of NYPD Blue, who also wrote and executive-produced the show, imbuing it with incredible characters, inspired casting and singular, Shakespearean dialogue.

Milch’s latest project for HBO is the new series Luck, which premieres this week. Luck is set within the world of horse racing and packs some serious punch in its cast, led by Dustin Hoffman and including Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina and Richard Kind, among other notables. Hoffman plays Chester “Ace” Bernstein, a convicted felon who re-enters society in the show’s first episode and immediately begins settling scores.

Milch himself is no stranger to the world of racing. He has owned several thoroughbreds over the years, and, as he recently told Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross, has been a devotee of the track since the age of five, when his father took him to his first race. From that interview:

“The first thing [my father] informed me was that he knew that I was a degenerate gambler…but it would be impossible for me to gamble because you had to be 18 to make a bet. On the other hand, he had arranged with the waiter, Max, to run my bets for me, and, therefore, I would be able to bet. And with that set of mixed messages, I was off.”

Milch’s follow up to Deadwood was the short-lived John from Cincinnati, a story about surfers and extra-terrestrial visitors, which while not without its merits (the opening music, courtesy of Joe Strummer, for one), was a bit too abstract for most, especially those expecting something akin to Deadwood. With Luck, however, between its stellar cast, subject matter close to Milch’s heart and producing help from Michael Mann, I’d wager he’s got a hit on his hands.

January 28th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

Many were surprised by presidential nominee hopeful/open marriage advocate Newt Gingrich’s promise on Thursday to put a permanent settlement on the moon by the end of his second term, if elected. Indeed, some even questioned its validity, coming when it does during some of the worst economic times in American history. Others pointed out that it would actually be illegal, according to space law (which exists, apparently).

For the record, I’m against it. What America needs now is not a moon base. What America needs now is a kick-ass space colony like this one. Why? Because just look at it! Also, so the Chinese don’t build one first. Because nothing cures an epic recession like a good ol’ fashioned space race between the most powerful nations on the planet. What could possibly go wrong?

See more awesome pics of America’s forthcoming game-changing space colony over at Retronaut.

 

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