April 30th, 2012, by

There are plenty of places to download music online–some legal, some otherwise. Somewhere in the middle are a network of blogs dedicated to preserving and sharing obscure and out-of-print music, not for profit, but simply for enjoyment. Electric Jive is my latest discovery in this realm and has led to a recent accumulation of a mountain of amazing African tunes from decades past.

In the documentary on the making of Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” Under African Skies, Simon remarks on how he became obsessed with a mixtape of South African accordion jive, and it was that collection which inspired him to record there. A search of the kind of music that Simon would have heard on that tape turned up Electric Jive, a lovingly-curated archive of African sounds, from traditional to jazz to the very same kind of accordion, sax and guitar tunes that got Simon so excited.

Electric Jive is more than just a depository of music, however. It also compiles everything from original cover art, to scans of records, to all kinds of biographical and cultural information, as well as copious photos and anecdotes about the artists it presents. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in world music to check out the collection on Electric Jive, starting with this dance-happy collection of accordion hits. Your money back guaranteed if it doesn’t get you moving.

April 30th, 2012, by

Knowing the details of financial aid can save you thousands in college costs.

To many students across the country, nothing is more exciting than an acceptance letter to the school of their choice. Thoughts of tailgate parties, lifelong friends and late nights in the library begin to fill the minds of these soon-to-be high school graduates.

But, enthusiasm alone won’t protect them from the skyrocketing costs of college. TIME magazine’s Kayla Webley has a must-read for anyone preparing to attend college. As a freshman in college years ago, I can tell you I wish I had something like this to keep me informed.

Students today must be made well aware of the costs, both in time and career earnings, of their student debt. As with any agreement, it’s always best to look at the fine print, and TIME‘s article definitely lays it all out for everyone to see.

Webley’s article points out the need-to-know basics of financial aid, as well as some of the little-known facts. For example, many colleges frontload in their financial aid packages for students. The term refers to colleges and universities giving students a higher amount of grants and scholarships early on in their academic career, which dwindle away as students continue their academics. This can make a college or university appear to be more generous for a student evaluating different financial aid packages.

Many students have worked diligently to prepare themselves for college by studying late hours, remaining academically competitive, networking and showing themselves to be well-rounded candidates to universities. With talks of job uncertainty, student debt and the unemployment numbers taking center stage in the national dialogue, Webley’s article is much needed, as millions of high school graduates take to the stage to receive their diplomas. Knowledge in any situation is half the battle to achieving one’s personal goals; so, take some time to get informed today. Not knowing can cost you seriously down the road.

April 29th, 2012, by

Image: LWVC via Flickr

As we move into what will doubtless be an extremely contentious pre-election season, there will be much to get upset about. Indeed, from Gingrich’s wacky moon base pitch to Romney’s rich-guy-isms to everything about Rick Santorum, there has already been much to dislike about the people standing between Obama and a second term in the White House.

It’s easy to loathe folks with opinions that diverge from our own, especially in election times. It’s even easier to forget that the people behind the divergent opinions and provocative soundbites are just that: people. Former Daily Show producer Michael Rubens makes this the point of a new editorial on, about his days booking interview subjects for the show and discovering that, despite their often bizarre and distorted views, they were as often as not incredibly decent people. This may sound obvious, not to mention a bit simplistic, but there’s much truth to it.

Rubens writes:

“I lived in a little bubble surrounded by people who think more or less like me. And when I considered people with opposing viewpoints I would turn into a fabulist, concocting an entire narrative of who they were and what they were like — and what they were like was yucko. Because I was not really interacting with them. I just thought I was, because, hey, look, there they are on the TV, or there’s that guy’s post in the comments section. But that stuff doesn’t count. Meeting people counts. Talking counts.”

So, let’s all just take a deep breath and remember that people are just people, and politics are politics, and if we all try not to loathe each other quite so much, we might just be happier and more prosperous as a result. Sounds crazy, I know.

April 29th, 2012, by

Well that’s the most depressing thing I’ve read all week. Still, if everyone in America read Edward Humes’ new book, Garbology, we might be able to begin to curb our nation’s world-leading addiction to throwing things away.

From literal mountains of methane-emitting refuse outside of Los Angeles, to the massive gyres of plastic bits that are spreading across the world’s oceans, Pulitzer-winner Humes shines a light on humankind’s dirtiest secret: our garbage.

Among his most surprising findings, from the LA Times:

America’s biggest export is trash — the scrap paper and metal we throw away. The Chinese buy it, make products out of it, sell them back to us at enormous profit, and we turn it into trash again. America, the country that once made things for the world, is now China’s trash compactor.

The average American community spends more on waste management than fire protection, libraries, parks and recreation and textbooks.

Things are much worse than the official stats suggest. The EPA, which publishes our annual “trash bible” of municipal waste statistics, uses an outdated method that vastly underestimates our waste and overestimates our recycling.

The situation is pretty bad, as you might imagine after reading those statements. But there are things we can all do. Like, for instance, throwing less stuff in the trash. You can read more from Humes in his recent editorial on

April 28th, 2012, by

Every now and then, the tables are turned and it’s Tavis sitting on the hot seat. Interviewed by the dean of the talk show genre, Phil Donahue, Tavis and Dr. Cornel West discussed their new text, among other social issues.

Speaking of social issues, actress and Southern belle Annie Potts stopped by to discuss her thoughts on conservatives who critiqued her show, GCB, and how her upbringing influenced her to accept her role in the show. Children’s author Judy Blume also paid us a visit and gave her two cents on censorship in the Internet age.

As summer quickly approaches, the influx of Hollywood blockbusters begins to create a buzz–just ask actor Clark Gregg. Summer is also the time for hitting the beach and relaxation, which means posting up with an interesting read or some soothing tunes. Between author Ayad Akhtar, actor-turned-author Frank Langella and crooner Steve Tyrell, you’ve got a head start on picking out some summer material.

Check out images of and quotes from the last two weeks and share your thoughts.

Phil Donahue image courtesy of Earl Gibson III. All on-set images by Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

April 25th, 2012, by

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

Airdate | Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hometown | Elizabeth, NJ

Parents | Esther and Ralph Sussman

Why You (Should) Know Her:

  • Her novels were some of the first that were geared towards teenagers and youths, targeting touchy topics such as racism, menstruation, divorce, bullying, masturbation and teen sex—and were a source of controversy.
  • She is the founder and trustee of The Kids Fund and serves on the boards of the Author’s Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Key West Literary Seminar and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Judy Blume Trivia

  • Over 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into 31 languages, according to
  • Blume graduated with a B.S. in education from New York University. NYU named her a Distinguished Alumna in 1996.
  • When she got the phone call from a publisher offering her the first publishing deal in her career, for The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, her celebrations sent her son’s friend home crying.
  • According to Blume, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is the only book she’s ever written that she didn’t have to revise; it was published just as it was when she submitted her manuscript to the publisher.
  • She has won over 90 literary awards.
  • Not only does Blume recall vivid memories of being read aloud to by her school teachers, but she is an advocate for teachers reading aloud to their students.
  • Blume is recognized as one of the United States’ most banned children’s authors. As a result of this reputation, she joined the National Coalition Against Censorship.


  • American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award (1996)
  • Library of Congress Living Legends Writers & Artists Award (2000)
  • National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (2004)


1969   The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo
1970   Iggie’s House
1970   Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
1971   Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
1971   Freckle Juice
1972   It’s Not the End of the World
1972   Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
1972   Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
1973   Deenie
1974   The Pain and the Great One
1974   Blubber
1975   Forever
1977   Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
1978   Wifey
1980   Superfudge
1981   Tiger Eyes
1981   The Judy Blume Diary
1983   Smart Women
1986   Letters to Judy: What Kids Wish They Could Tell You
1987   Just as Long as We’re Together
1990   Fudge-a-Mania
1993   Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson
1998   Summer Sisters
1999   Places I Never Meant to Be
2002   Double Fudge
2007  Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One
2008  Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One

April 24th, 2012, by

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re in a conversation with someone and you want to reference gnocchi. Or perhaps Nietzsche. Or famous Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre. Only thing is, you’re not 100% sure how to pronounce the name in question. Yikes. Talk about embarrassing!

So, after mumbling something under your breath or trailing off when you get the the word, you decide to settle this once and for all. How do you pronounce “quinoa,” anyway? As with all big questions of our time, the Internet will doubtless have the answers. Only, as with all big questions of our time, the first answer the Internet offers may be a lie. Or a funny joke.

Such is the case of Pronunciation Book vs. Pronunciation Manual. The former is an earnest attempt to help people correctly pronounce difficult words, like “schadenfreude” and “Deadmau5,” while the latter is a spoof, offering ridiculous interpretations of similar words. “Chipotle” becomes “Sssshantoodle,” “Gucci” becomes “gookathantchi” (or somethine like that). LOLs ensue, and probably a fair amount of confusion as well. Isn’t the Internet awesome? So much information, so many laughs, so much wasted time.

April 22nd, 2012, by

Image: Eric Smith-Gunn via Flickr

The music world has been abuzz this week following the surprise appearance of Tupac Shakur at the recent Coachella music festival in Indio, CA. Or rather, a hologram facsimile thereof. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the “Tupac Lives” rumors began to circulate once more, but I never imagined Suge Knight would be the source of them.

Knight, the co-founder of Death Row Records, who was riding in the car with Shakur that fateful night in Vegas, suggested this week in a radio interview that the rapper was still alive, saying “Maybe the question is…Pac’s not really dead…Pac’s somewhere else,” adding that no one ever saw Shakur’s body.

Most of us will dismiss this as hokum, which it likely is. And regardless, Suge Knight is hardly a credible source of information. Still, though, the murder–unsolved to this day–was and is shrouded by so much mystery that it’s easy to get caught up in conspiracy theories like this.

There’s also the question of Tupac’s posthumously-released songs, which as Dave Chappelle famously noted, are uncannily predictive.

April 22nd, 2012, by

One of the best videos I saw online this week was Carrie Manolakos’ haunting cover of the classic Radiohead song “Creep,” recorded earlier this month at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. According to Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman, who posted the video, Menolakos is a former Broadway actress who you may recognize from a turn as Sophie Sheridan in Mamma Mia! (although admittedly, I did not), and she is promoting a debut album by the name of “Echo.”

The cover is amazing (listen for yourself) and really allows Manolakos to show off her prodigious vocal ability. I also find it really cool how well Radiohead’s songs lend themselves to interpretation. Another classic example of this is Gnarls Barkley’s cover of the song “Reckoner” from Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” album, a cover I regularly return to for Cee-Lo Green’s singular vocals. Digging around the YouTubes, I was also able to turn up some more noteworthy Radiohead covers: most notably, Weezer doing “Paranoid Android” and Regina Spektor trying her hand at “No Surprises.”

Of course, Radiohead is known to do a cover every now and then as well–to fantastic effect. Their cover of The Smiths’ “The Headmaster Ritual” is on par with the original, as far as I’m concerned, and watching the band rock out in the studio only makes it better.

April 18th, 2012, by

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

Airdate | Friday, April 20, 2012

Hometown | Bayonne, NJ

Parents | Angelina and Frank A. Langella, Sr.

Why He’s Buzzing | Rather than utilizing the traditional autobiographical structure, his new memoir, Dropped Names, chronicles his memories and experiences with over 60 famous friends who have passed away. “I think my life story is more interesting told that way and…it’s only a piece of my life. I’m a supporting player. When I tried to do a biography of my own life, I fell asleep over the pen…I was disinterested in it,” Langella tells Tavis.


Frank Langella Trivia

  • Langella juggled the theater, film and television in his career. His first Tony Award was for his performance in Seascape. He appeared on Broadway in The Father, and won a Drama Desk Award, in Match, earning a Tony nomination, and won a Tony Award for his performance in Fortune’s Fool. He won his third Tony for playing Richard Nixon in Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon.
  • According to his IMDB profile, he is one of the few actors who were cast to play both Dracula and Sherlock Holmes. Other actors who fall in this category include Christopher Lee and Richard Roxburgh.
  • Langella attended Syracuse University, where he studied acting. He was also a brother of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity, Phi Epsilon Chapter, at the university.
  • He requested to go uncredited for his work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Minister Jaro Essa. He is reported to have said that he did the series for his children, rather than for exposure or to reap the financial benefits.
  • His IMDB profile also states that he has nystagmus, a condition that causes one’s eyes to move involuntarily.

Selection of projects and awards


1970 Diary of a Mad Housewife – Nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Male Newcomer
1970 The Twelve Chairs
1971 The Deadly Trap
1972 The Wrath of God
1974 The Mark of Zorro
1979 Dracula – Nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Actor
1980 Those Lips, Those Eyes
1981 Sherlock Holmes
1981 Sphinx
1987 Masters of the Universe
1988 And God Created Woman
1994 Junior
1995 Bad Company
1997 Lolita
2001 Sweet November
2005 Good Night, and Good Luck – Nominated for SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2006 Superman Returns
2007 Starting Out in the Evening – Won Boston Society Film Critics Award for Best Actor. Nominated for Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Male, Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor and Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama
2008 Frost/Nixon – Won African American Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor, Sant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor, San Diego Film Critics  Society Award for Best Cast. Also nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, London Film Critics’ Circle Award for Actor of the Year, Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor, Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2009 The Box – Nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
2011 Unknown

Frank Langella in New York Times Magazine’s 6th Annual Great Performers

Tavis tells a story about Langella’s image in the NYT Magazine feature. Watch the conversation to see what’s so special about this picture.

Photo by New York Times Magazine, 2009



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



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