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.


January 28th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

While some journalists are content to investigate things like iPad factories and Mitt Romney’s tax situation, it’s heartening to know that there are still a few out there researching the real issues. Like, for instance, when exactly was Ice Cube’s famous “Good Day“?

According to Gawker, Murk Avenue’s Donovan Strain has not just undertaken this weighty assignment, but—after exhaustive cross-referencing of sporting events, weather, technology and media—actually discovered the date in question.

According to Strain:

The ONLY day where:
Yo MTV Raps was on air
It was a clear and smogless day
Beepers were commercially sold
Lakers beat the SuperSonics
and Ice Cube had no events to attend was…

JANUARY 20 1992

So there you have it, folks. We can put that one to rest. Or maybe not. Either way, darn good song.

January 27th, 2012, by Staff

Each week, we will bring you sights and sounds from our studio as guests sit in the chair to have a conversation with Tavis.

Our inaugural “Seen and Heard” is a special one, as it includes an image and quote from Tavis’ 2007 conversation with soul singer Etta James, who recently passed away in Los Angeles.

Check out images of and quotes from Sean Penn, Etta James, Terrence Howard, Kathleen Turner and Seal.

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


January 23rd, 2012, by Guest Blogger

January is National Mentoring Month. In honor of the occasion, we take a look at mentoring organization, WriteGirl.


Current WriteGirl mentees. Photo by Thomas Hargis.

This is my first year working as a staff member and writing mentor for WriteGirl – a creative writing and mentoring organization for teen girls, ages 13-18.

Every week, more than 75 professional women writers work one-on-one with girls on creative writing projects.

Every month, WriteGirl hosts a creative writing workshop for over 150 girls and professional women writers in all genres, including poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, songwriting, journalism, screenwriting, playwriting, persuasive writing, journal-writing, editing and more.

Every year, WriteGirl publishes an anthology of outstanding work, compiled throughout the school year, by both the mentees and their mentors.

On Sunday, January 15th,  we launched our award-winning, 10-year anniversary anthology, Intensity. In this new book, more than 140 teen girls and women writers from the L.A. area share their creative stories, poetry, lyrics, novel excerpts and perspectives.



“I know this girl. Her name
is Joanna, Mexican-Honduran
Beauty Queen, mother of one at fourteen
I know this girl. She made me chorizos,
she introduced me to my first pupusa,
she was the first girl I kissed.
I know her; she’s walking up right now
in a skin-tight black V-neck, skinny jeans
and Vans, eyeliner, a precise silhouette of her
top lid. I know Iris, palms sweaty,
hair crinkled with Aquanet hairspray and mousse.
I know mi hermana, my tan sister, a subdued,
superb shade of brown. I know Coralia, she
has Jose tattooed on her neck, her Baby Daddy, her love.
I know Barbie/Eeyore/Droopy/Bianca/Flaca/
Skittles, I know how R’s roll off her tongue,
I know the sound of one dollar rosaries
hitting her chest, I know the click clack
clang bang of her silver hoops, I know her.
She is my best friend; she is my childhood confidante.
She is old news, new tears.
Forgotten girl, formed by corroding,
rooftops, infantile screams,
menudo and premature motherhood.”

- J. Curtis, age 15 (excerpt from Intensity)


We are going, boldly, into our 11th season with many awards under our belt and a 100% success rate of our senior girls going to college!

On a personal note, our girls continue to be an endless inspiration to me. Shining when they read aloud, they find a place in the world.

Current WriteGirl mentees and alumna. Photo by Thomas Hargis.

When we held our mentee interview day in November, I was so pleased to see the girls come in, sit down, take an object to write about and work quietly. They were respectful of one another’s space and, when it came time to read their work, they all listened patiently, applauding when each reader concluded.

It gives me chills to recount that experience, for we have all been young, awkward teens, competing for space, and we all know how girls can be exceedingly cruel; however, there is something about WriteGirl that inspires camaraderie and human appreciation like I have never seen before. I dare say it is like they are on sacred ground.

Kids want guidance. They need mentors. No matter how much they may look at you like you are crazy, when their friends aren’t looking they will soften and say things like, “Is this good enough? I want to make sure it’s right.” To which I respond, “I let that question hold me back from experiencing my own writing for a long, long time. I don’t want you to fall into the same trap. There is no right, and there is no good enough. There is only what is right for YOU. If it comes out of YOU, it is right, and it is always good enough.”

This was a specific incident. The girl was a talented writer with beautiful penmanship and a want in her eyes to express herself.  To be heard. All she needed was a little cajoling.

And, most times, a little cajoling is all it takes. It is amazing how quickly the girls can go from being reticent, hiding behind their journals and saying they don’t have anything to say, to having a (friendly) rap battle across the room. I have seen it take less than 20 minutes! And THAT makes mentoring fun and rewarding for us all.

Mentoring has changed my life for the better. I found WriteGirl by doing a Volunteer Match search. If you  feel you have any wisdom to impart or just time to give someone an ear, I highly suggest being a mentor. You’ll be glad you did it.

Happy Mentoring Month!

Kari Adwell is the Events Coordinator at WriteGirl. She mentors (when time allows) with the In-Schools program offered by WriteGirl at Camp Scudder in Santa Clarita, CA. She is also an essayist and aspiring screenwriter. She too loves to read aloud. [Photo by Brad Carter Photography.]

January 19th, 2012, by Staff

Welcome to our 9th season on PBS!

The first week of Season 9 is off to a wonderful start, with our recent three-part “Remaking America” panel discussion and two full nights of our conversation with Academy Award-winning actor and tireless human rights activist Sean Penn.

In addition to our Season 9 launch, we’ve got fresh digs, as our show is now housed in L.A.’s state-of-the-art Encompass Digital Media Studios, just minutes from downtown Los Angeles.

On-set photo. Encompass Digital Media Studios. Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

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

Hope you’ve been watching this week and will continue to tune in each night throughout the season.

And remember, as always, episodes are available on our site the day after they have aired on your local PBS station.

January 17th, 2012, by Staff

Photo by: Seher Sikander for Rehes Creative, WikiMedia Commons

Airdate(s) | January 19-20, 2012

Hometown | Santa Monica, California

Parents | Actress Eileen Ryan, Director Leo Penn

Awards and honors | The two-time Academy Award-winning actor (Mystic River and Milk) and critically acclaimed director (Into the Wild) was named ambassador at large to Haiti by Laurent Lamothe, the Haitian Minister of Foreign and Religious Affairs, in January 2012.

Political and social activism | The veteran actor is a dogged political activist, who was critical of the Bush administration and drew criticism for meetings with Cuban and Venezuelan leaders. Penn co-founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The mission of J/P Haitian Relief Organization:

[P]roviding emergency medical and primary care services, delivering badly needed medical equipment and medicine, rubble removal facilitating community regeneration, management of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, distributing food and water purification systems, improving communication systems, and developing housing and education facilities.

Penn also used his Academy Award acceptance speech for Milk – the 2008 film in which he portrayed slain San Francisco politician Harvey Milk – to speak out about gay rights:

I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.

Selection of performances and projects

1981 Taps
1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High
1983 Bad Boys
1984 Racing With the Moon
1985 The Falcon and the Snowman
1986 At Close Range
1988 Colors
1989 Casualties of War
1990 State of Grace
1993 Carlito’s Way
1995 Dead Man Walking (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor)
1997 The Game
1997 She’s So Lovely
1997 U-Turn
1998 Hurlyburly
1998 The Thin Red Line
1999 Sweet and Lowdown (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor)
2000 Up in the Villa
2000 Before Night Falls
2000 The Weight of Water
2001 I Am Sam (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor)
2003 Mystic River (Academy Award for Best Actor)
2003 21 Grams
2004 The Assassination of Richard Nixon
2005 The Interpreter
2006 All the King’s Men
2008 Milk (Academy Award for Best Actor)
2010 Fair Game
2011 The Tree of Life

1991 The Indian Runner
1995 The Crossing Guard
2001 The Pledge
2007 Into the Wild

What is your favorite Sean Penn film or television performance? Share your thoughts below.

January 17th, 2012, by Staff

Welcome to Season 9 of Tavis Smiley on PBS. Each week, we will use the “Primer” to highlight the works of one or more of our upcoming guests, including their films, books, albums and television projects.

We intend for the lists to be collaborative, so please add your favorites if we do not include them, or tell us why one or more of the works on our list has captured your heart or mind.

First up, Sean Penn.

January 16th, 2012, by Sean Nixon

Mitt Romney's recent remarks on economic equality could prove costly. Photo: Gage Skidmore

As the nation celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. King, today’s political landscape underscores just how far America has to go in realizing so much more of Dr. King’s dream of social and economic equality.

With one in two Americans living at or near poverty, you would think a presidential candidate would be in tune enough with the circumstances and conditions of the country and begin proposing ideas or solutions to help solve the problem.

Not Mitt Romney. His poor choice of words, or perhaps, brutal honesty in telling NBC’s Matt Lauer that issues of economic inequality should be discussed in quiet rooms suggests that he’s out of touch with everyday Americans.

As a result, he’s created a huge stir across the airwaves and is being lambasted in the media for his remarks and potentially running voters away from his campaign.

Dr. King spent his last days fighting for the economic rights of American citizens. He wasn’t an elected official, a mayor or even a presidential candidate, and yet, he recognized the needs of people and fought for them.

In economic terms, when you have half of any country’s population in or at poverty, you’re talking about a national crisis. And from a leadership standpoint, when a presidential candidate, running for the highest office in the land, state that conversations concerning these problems should merely be discussed in quiet rooms alongside issues of tax policy, on both counts, it shows a lack of moral conviction and an extremely large dose of cowardice.

If Mitt Romney wants to be a truly great leader for his party and this nation, he should want to move conversations like these from the quiet rooms to the public square. No apparent frontrunner, GOP or otherwise, should ever appear to have their head in the sand on issues like these.

TALK BACK: Do you agree with Romney’s statement that discussions of economic inequity should be discussed in quiet rooms?  You can respond with a Y or N in our comments section.

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