PRIMER
June 29th, 2012, by Carla Amurao

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

Airdate | Friday, June 29, 2012

Hometown | Baldwin, Nassau County, NY

Why You (Should) Know Him

  • Surely you’re familiar with the brilliant, cannibalistic villain Hannibal Lecter portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Well, Demme directed Silence of the Lambs…and won the Academy Award for best director for the film.
  • He also directed 1993′s Philadelphia, one of the first Hollywood pictures to address issues of HIV/AIDS, homosexuality and homophobia.
  • Demme is also making a mark as a documentarian and concert movie-maker, as evidenced by his trilogy of Neil Young documentary concert films and the Talking Heads concert movie, Stop Making Sense.

Why He’s Buzzing | The Oscar-winning filmmaker is out with not one, but two projects—a post-Hurricane Katrina documentary, I’m Carolyn Parker, and his third feature-length documentary on folk-rocker Neil Young, Neil Young Journeys. You can watch the 2007 conversation with Demme below, where he describes why he decided to make a documentary about post-Katrina New Orleans.

Trivia

  • He’s a protégé of big-time film producer Roger Corman.
  • Demme’s film The Silence of the Lambs was the third film to win Oscars in the five biggest categories: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was also the first horror film to be awarded Best Picture, after being only the second to be nominated for that category. 1973′s The Exorcist was the first.
  • He directed indie film Rachel Getting Married—and even cast some of his friends to counter the “real” actors Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt. The film was shot in a naturalistic style, like a documentary.
  • According to his IMDB profile, his trademarks include: frequently casting Charles Napier, Chris Isaak, Buzz Kilman, Tracey Walter and Paul Lazar; working with Taj Fujimoto as his director of photography; using New Order songs in movie soundtracks.
  • On June 3, 1990, he was awarded an honorary degree by Wesleyan University.
  • Entertainment Weekly voted him the 45th greatest director of all time.

Selection of projects and awards

Film

1974    Caged Heat
1978    Columbo (episode “Murder Under Glass”)
1979    Last Embrace
1984    Stop Making Sense (documentary)
1986    Something Wild
1987    Swimming to Cambodia
1988    Haiti Dreams of Democracy (TV documentary)
1988    Married to the Mob
1991     Silence of the Lambs (won Academy Award for best picture and best director; nominated for a Golden Globe, BAFTA Award, Saturn Award; won Berlinale Silver Bear for best director)
1992    Cousin Bobby (documentary)
1993    Philadelphia (nominated for Berlinale Golden Bear Award)
1998    Storefront Hitchcock (documentary)
2001    Bruce Springstreen: The Complete Video Anthology 1978-2000 (video-documentary)
2004    The Manchurian Candidate
2006    Neil Young: Heart of Gold
2007    Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward (PBS TV mini-series)
2008   Rachel Getting Married
2009   Neil Young Trunk Show (documentary)
2011    Neil Young Journeys (documentary)
2011    I’m Carolyn Parker (documentary)

Demme’s May 25, 2007 conversation with Tavis
On his decision to film a documentary on post-Katrina New Orleans, featuring the namesake of his latest documentary, Carolyn Parker.

(View full post to see video)

 

PRIMER
June 27th, 2012, by Carla Amurao

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

Airdate | Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hometown | Dedham, MA

Why You (Should) Know Him

  • As one of the world’s most renowned boxing trainers, Roach also boasts a clientele that pack a punch—this includes Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
  • He’s the owner of the world famous Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA.

Why He’s Buzzing | While his presence is seen mostly ringside or closely behind his clients, Roach’s life is dissected, and we are given a raw, behind-the-scenes look in the HBO cinéma-vérité series, On Freddie Roach. Emmy-nominated director Peter Berg joins Roach for the conversation. Furthermore, he’ll be on the radar again come July 14, when his fighter Amir Khan goes head-to-head against Danny Garcia.

Trivia

  • He was voted Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
  • His father, Paul Roach, was the New England featherweight champion.
  • Roach trained as a boxer as a youth alongside his brothers, Dominic Pepen “Pepper” and Joey. By 1978, he began professionally fighting in the lightweight class. On June 11, 1982, the Fighting Roach Brothers all had bouts at the Boston Garden. Pepper and Joey won their bouts, but Freddie lost in a unanimous decision at the main event against Rafael Lopez.
  • By age 26, Roach went into retirement after showing early signs of Parkinson’s disease. The disease is held at bay with medication and training with boxers.
  • After retirement, Roach worked odd jobs around Las Vegas before becoming an unpaid assistant to his former trainer Eddie Futch.
  • Roach helped train Mark Wahlberg for his role as Micky Ward in the 2010 film The Fighter. Roach and his brothers fought and grew up with Ward and Ward’s brother, Dicky Eklund, as discussed in the video below.

Selection of Honors

2006     California Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee (as a non-boxer)
2008     World Boxing Council Lifetime Achievement Award

Freddie Roach: how I trained The Fighter star Mark Wahlberg

On Freddie Roach trailer, directed by Peter Berg

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 27th, 2012, by Sean Nixon

Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) is proposing loan debt reform Photo: U.S. House of Representatives

With the economy still reeling from the Great Recession, many Americans are scraping by on lowered wages and, sadly, lowered prospects. With everything from car notes, housing payments, food and basic necessities, asking Americans to pay on their student loans right now can be a tall order.

If you haven’t heard by now, loan debt in America has reached $1 trillion. And while bankruptcy may have been a welcomed answer for many Americans, according to current laws, many cannot receive approval for it.

In my last post, I talked with Robert Applebaum about the near 1 million signatures he’s helped to acquire to get lawmakers to further work on loan forgiveness. So, my next step was to reach out to one of the lawmakers and hear some ideas on how to get the measure passed in Congress. Here’s my exchange with Rep. Hansen Clarke, of Detroit, about the bill he’s been working on to reduce the repayment process that saddles most Americans.

NIXON: Where did the idea for this bill come from and what’s the number one thing you would like to see this bill accomplish once passed?

CLARKE: Over the past few years, I’ve met more and more people in my community who have college degrees, but lack financial security. They have the diploma to hang on their wall, but they lack the means to support their family and pay the interest on their debt. This is because the cost of getting a college degree has increased at a far greater rate than wages over the last decade. Tuition rates rose 72% at public universities between 2001 and 2011. People of all ages, from all walks of life are drowning in student debt. And, our national economy is suffering as a consequence. People are putting off major purchases and investments, which is stifling job creation. My objective with this bill is to make student loan repayment more simple and fair and to give people more purchasing power in order to jumpstart the economy.

NIXON: How have your peers in Congress responded to this bill? How difficult do you believe it will be to gain consent and cooperation from other members on the House on this bill?

CLARKE: We so far have 16 Congressional co-sponsors on the bill, and, while it’s all Democrats at this point, I feel confident that we will convince our friends on the other side of the aisle to join this movement. The 975,000 signatories on the national petition for this bill come from many different political persuasions. When it comes to this issue, I believe both Democrats and Republicans want the same thing: for Americans to be well-educated and free from the shackles of debt. This bill provides a responsible way to help realize that vision. It requires that borrowers pay 10% of their discretionary income for 10 years before receiving forgiveness.

NIXON: The city of Detroit is working hard to stabilize and grow its economy. Have you heard from your own constituents on this issue of student loan debt? And secondly, how impactful would a bill like H.R. 41 be for citizens of the area?

CLARKE: Thousands of people in Metro Detroit who don’t have a college degree are still struggling with student loan debt. The people who took non-degree courses or had to leave school for one reason or another are often those who are struggling most with the weight of this debt. I meet these folks, as well as struggling graduates, every week in Michigan’s 13th district, and I hear about financial situations that could be transformed by this assistance.

NIXON: Given the nation’s current economic outlook, how critical is it to ensure that this bill is passed, as it relates to Americans’ ability to start families, a new business, buy a home, etc. and not have to worry about student loan debt?

CLARKE: It’s critical. The only way we can get out of this recession is by ensuring that working people have more purchasing power. We took several months to hear from education experts, activists and—most importantly—struggling students and graduates in order to develop the plan that ultimately became the Student Loan Forgiveness Act. The process started this past September, and the bill was finalized in late January.

NIXON: Some people are skeptical of politicians who show up and claim they are on the people’s side on certain issues. However, you’ve gone to, arguably, some of the best schools in the country, and you work in the public sector; so, there’s a sense that you understand the economic frustrations people are facing on this issue. What could you say to a constituent to give them an idea that you are more than familiar with the economic strains of higher education costs and student loan debt?

CLARKE: I took out loans to attend school back in the ’80s, during a time when universities were far more affordable and loans were much more manageable. My passion in dealing with this issue comes from talking with people in my community—ranging from retirees in their 80s to teachers in their 20s—who are struggling with student loan debt right now. It comes from seeing motivated, talented young people in my community given no choice but to accrue massive debt in order to get an education. We don’t want our young people in that situation. You can join the movement by signing our online petition and asking your member of Congress to co-sponsor the bill. All the information you’ll need is available at HR4170.com. We are so inspired by the grassroots movement for a student loan solution!

You heard it here folks. By most estimates, it appears Rep. Clarke is off and running. Those interested in learning more about HR4170 can visit the website.

SEEN & HEARD
June 18th, 2012, by Carla Amurao

In this round of guest quotables, a bold line between the realms of imagination and reality was drawn. On team “imagination/daydream,” we had actors Christina Ricci and John Slattery. On team “reality,” we had writer Buzz Bissinger, singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin and “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Capt. Chesley Sullenberger.

Love is a frequent topic of discussion, and this week was no exception, thanks to blues musician Buddy Guy, sportswriter Frank Deford and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Check out the gallery for some extra photos and notable quotes from the last two weeks of interviews and share your thoughts.

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


PRIMER
June 12th, 2012, by Carla Amurao

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

 

Airdates | Wednesday, June 13

Hometown | Baltimore, MD

Why You (Should) Know Him

  • For starters, he’s logged in 50 years with Sports Illustrated, where he is now the senior contributing writer. See this video clip on his thoughts of the evolution of sports writing.
  • You can catch him on National Public Radio and on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel from time to time.
  • According to his NPR profile, he’s been referred to as “the most influential sports voice among members of the print media” and “the world’s greatest sportswriter.”

Why He’s Buzzing | After such an illustrious career, he’s somehow managed to chronicle his life and fit it all into one book. That book, Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter, is now published and up for grabs.

Trivia

  • To date, Deford has been named Sportswriter of the Year a total of six times. He’s also been voted Magazine Writer of the Year by Washington Journalism Review.
  • In 2012, he received the Red Smith Award. He’s the first magazine writer to be honored with the award.
  • His novel Everybody’s All-American was named one of Sports Illustrated’s Top 25 Sports Books of All Time in 1981. It was also adapted for a film of the same title.
  • For a time, Deford served as editor-in-chief of The National and wrote for Newsweek and Vanity Fair.
  • He’s an advocate for the research and treatment of cystic fibrosis and served as chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for nearly 20 years; he’s still chairman emeritus. His daughter, Alex, was diagnosed with the illness and passed away at age 8. Deford honored her memory in the text Alex: The Life of a Child and, subsequently, a movie was made in 1986.
  • He’s a member of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
  • Even though he’s a sportswriter, most of his novels do not take place in the world of sports.
  • Deford’s life and work are highlighted by ESPN’s “You Write Better Than You Play” documentary.

Selection of Awards and Accomplishments

1988     Emmy Award for his work as a writer during the Seoul Olympics
1994     CableACE for writing Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World, an HBO sports documentary
1999     National Magazine Award for Sports Illustrated article on Bill Russell
1999     Peabody Award for writer on Dare to Compete, an HBO documentary

Selected works (Bibliography)

1971      Five Strides on the Banked Track: The Life and Times of the Roller Derby
1981     Everybody’s All-American
1983     Alex: The Life of a Child
1993     Love and Infamy
2001    The Other Adonis: A Novel
2002    An American Summer: A Novel
2005    The Old Ball Game
2010     Bliss, Remembered
2012     Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter

 

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 5th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

As one of the cities hardest-hit by the 21st century’s economic downturn, Detroit has more than its share of troubles. One of the few good things to come of the city’s woes, however, is a blossoming of art amidst the ruins. One such endeavor is Mike Kelley‘s “Mobile Homestead” a life-sized model of a ranch-style home, similar to the one he grew up in on the outskirts of the city.

Begun in 2005, Kelley took the homestead on a tour of downtown Detroit, where it has now found a permanent home adjacent to the Detroit Museum of Modern Art. Set to open next month, the “Mobile Homestead” exhibit will house free classes, a barbershop and a studio for local artists.

Kelley died earlier this year, and the house will stand as something of a memorial to both the artist and his hope for the return of prosperity to Detroit.

PRIMER
June 4th, 2012, by Carla Amurao

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

Airdate | Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hometown | Lettsworth, LA

Birth name | George Guy

Parents | Sam and Isabel Guy

Why You (Should) Know Him

  • As a member of Muddy Waters’ band, Guy is credited as the pioneer of the Chicago blues sound, and he’s often credited as the bridge between blues and rock and roll.
  • He’s ranked 30th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time.
  • His flair for entertaining, whether it’s playing his guitar with drumsticks or walking into the audience during a solo, helped him make a name for himself.
  • On March 14, 2005, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Eric Clapton and B.B. King. (See video below)

Why He’s Buzzing | On May 8 2012, he released his autobiography, When I Left Home: My Story.

Trivia

  • He was born to a sharecropper’s family and raised on a plantation.
  • By the time he was seven years old, he made his first instrument. According to his website, he ‘fashioned his first makeshift “guitar”–a two-string contraption attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins.’
  • His Harmony acoustic guitar was donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • He owns Legends club in Chicago and performs there frequently.
  • By the time he started recording his own music, he was already a major influence on other artists, such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He notably picked the guitar with his teeth and played it over his head–two tricks that later influenced Jimi Hendrix.
  • In 2008, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
  • His daughter, Rashawnna “Shawnna” Guy, was the first female artist to be signed to Def Jam through Ludacris’ Disturbing the Peace Records.
  • His late brother, Phil Guy, was also an American blues guitarist.
  • His song “Stone Crazy” was ranked 78th in the list of 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time, also of Rolling Stone.
  • He is the recipient of 23 W.C. Handy Awards, which is more than any other artist. He is also the second recipient of Billboard magazine’s The Century Award.

Selections from discography and awards

2003 Awarded the National Medal of Arts
1965 “Hoodoo Man Blues”
1967 ”I Left My Blues in San Francisco”
1968 “A Man and the Blues”
1991 “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” – Won 1991 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album
1993 “Feels Like Rain” – Won 1993 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album
1994 “Slippin’ In” – Won 1995 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album
1999 “Buddy’s Baddest: The Best of Buddy Guy”
2001 “Sweet Tea” – Nominated for 2001 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album
2003 “Blues Singer” – Won 2003 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album
2009 “The Definitive Buddy Guy”
2010 “Living Proof” – Won 2010 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album)

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2005

Eric Clapton and B.B. King Induct Buddy Guy into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Buddy Guy’s Acceptance Speech

“If you don’t think you have the blues, just keep living.” – Buddy Guy, 2005

Rock and Hall of Fame Induction Performance

 

A LOOK BACK
June 4th, 2012, by Carla Amurao

On May 29, 2012, President Obama awarded cultural and political icons with the Medal of Freedom at a ceremony held at the White House. Among the recipients were past show guests Madeleine Albright, Toni Morrison and Delores Huerta.

The Medal of Freedom ranks as the highest civilian honor. According to the Los Angeles Times, ‘the year 1962 looms especially large in President Obama’s picks: that was the year [Bob] Dylan put out his first album, when [Delores] Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association and when [John] Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.’

Madeleine Albright

On January 23, 1997, Albright was sworn in as the first female to become the U.S. Secretary of State, under former President Bill Clinton.

On October 28, 2009, she sat down with us to weigh in on the situations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, discuss her memoir Madam Secretary and her token brooches as fashion statements and diplomatic tools. Watch the 2009 conversation and share your thoughts.

(View full post to see video)

“Life is grim, and we don’t have to be grim all the time.” – Madeleine Albright, 2008

 

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
June 3rd, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

One of the most famous mysteries of the 20th century surrounds the disappearance of Amelia Earhart on her quest to circle the globe in 1937. A female aviation pioneer, she was the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic ocean, for which she received the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Congressional medal.

Ever since Earhart’s circumnavigation was cut short 75 years ago, there has been much speculation around the circumstances of her disappearance and death. This week, new evidence has emerged suggesting Earhart, along with navigator Fred Noonan, spent her final days subsisting on fish, mollusks and seabirds on a remote and uninhabited Japanese coral atoll.

From the Christian Science Monitor: “(TIGHAR), a non-profit foundation promoting aviation archaeology and historic aircraft preservation, reported new details Friday leading researchers to this conclusion: Earhart and Noonan, low on fuel and unable to find their next scheduled stopping point – Howland Island – radioed their position, then landed on a reef at uninhabited Gardner Island, a small coral atoll now known as Nikumaroro Island.”

According to the same article, researchers from TIGHAR will return to the site next month and use submersibles to search for remnants of Earhart’s plane.

As well as being historically relevant, and adding a final chapter to one of the most fascinating American stories of the 20th century, the revelation that Earhart’s plane didn’t simply vanish (despite what innumerable conspiracy theorists say) serves as a potent reminder that it’s far easier to put forth an outlandish theory, than it is to actually prove what happened. Conspiracy theories may be provocative, but they are rarely even close to accurate.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
May 27th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

The untimely death of famous white-boy-rapper and Beastie Boys co-founder MCA produced an outpouring of affection for the hip-hop pioneer, who, along with his bandmates, proved that if a bunch of middle-class Jewish guys could become legit rappers, anyone could.

The appearance recently of teen-girl-rapper Kitty Pryde–a 19-year-old from Florida with lyrics about Justin Bieber and casual drug use–shows the next step in that evolution. At worst, Kitty Pryde (who takes her name from an X-Men comic book character) could be written off as another vapid brat-rapper in the school of Uffie or Kreayshawn, but, initially at least, it seems like there’s more to her than that.

The laid-back laconic rhyming of her new single “OK Cupid” isn’t on par, technically, with the best rappers of our day (or even those who cover them), but Kitty Pryde’s perspective and melding of teenage girly-ness with a genre totally at odds with that seems significant. Much like MCA and the Beastie Boys, Kitty Pryde doesn’t look or sound like your average rapper, but her self-effacing lyrics–she knows she’s a skinny white girl from Florida as well as anyone–allow people to enjoy it without necessarily taking it seriously.

It’s highly unlikely that Kitty Pryde’s impact on our culture, or her longevity, will come anywhere near that of the Beastie Boys, but at the very least she’s an important milestone in the evolution of rap and proof that hip-hop is becoming the most democratic musical genre of our time.

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