There was much reaction. Some questioned why a man my age would watch a show about girls in their twenties, as if they’d just discovered me hanging around a school playground with a shopping bag full of candy in one hand a fluffy puppy in the other. Of course, these critics are right. When I read Moby Dick I first had to convince the bookseller that I was a former whaler named Queequeg. When I read the poetry of Sylvia Plath, I had to pretend I was a depressed white woman with daddy issues. Don’t worry, I used a fake ID.
Why did I review Girls? As I said in the review, we should all be intently listening to voices of the next generation, hearing what they have to say and, when they are struggling to say it, help them to articulate better. That’s the advantage of growing older in this youth-centric society — maybe the only advantage.
The overwhelming reaction to my review was complimentary which, because it was my first foray into pop culture reviewing, made me feel both appreciative and humbled. But even among some of the positive response was an underlying head-scratching theme: isn’t it amazing that a former jock can have opinions on pop culture and articulate it with words and references to books and movies? Some mentioned my height, as if I was so tall that the air up here could not support intellectual development. It was as if, after climbing the Empire State Building and swatting bi-planes all afternoon, I suddenly decided to write a fashion article critiquing Ann Darrow’s dress (“The tattered jungle look is so five minutes ago.”).
What do people expect when an ex-jock discusses pop culture? “Hmmm. Magic light box have good shows. Me like some. Others make me puke Gatorade. Me give it three jock straps.”
Maybe this will help: I have a degree from UCLA. I’m an amateur historian who has written books about World War II, the Harlem Renaissance, and African-American inventors. I read a lot of fiction as well as non-fiction. I watch TV and movies. I have acted in both. I have been a political activist and an advocate for children’s education. How should an aging, black jock like myself know anything about pop culture? Man, I am a living part of pop culture and have been for nearly 50 years. Beyond that, I think pop culture expresses our needs, fears, hopes and whole zeitgeist better than some of the more esoteric and obscure forms of art.
It is a fact that many died at the convention center and Superdome (7 and 10 respectively, according to the most recent reports from the coroner), but according to a Sept. 15 report in The Chicago Tribune, it was mostly from neglect rather than overt violence. According to the Tribune article, which quoted Capt. Jeffery Winn, the head of the city’s SWAT team, one person at the convention center died from multiple stab wounds and one National Guardsman was shot in the leg.
There are 20 million workers throughout the U.S. food system, who harvest, process, ship, sell, cook, and serve the food we eat every day. Over half of them - 10 million -work in restaurants, in literally the lowest-paying jobs in America. 90% of these workers don’t have paid sick days, and with a minimum wage for workers who earn tips stuck at $2.13 for the last twenty-one years, most of these workers can’t afford to take the day off when they have the flu or worse. That means that two-thirds of these workers report that they’re forced to cook, prepare, and serve our meals while they’re sick. These startling statistics are the result of corporate lobbying groups’ influence on Congress. So even if we’re choosing healthier menu items when we eat out, our health and well-being is impacted by the fact that the people who touch our food are impoverished and sick.
Increasingly, Americans are choosing to dine at restaurants that offer organic, fair-trade, and free-range ingredients for reasons of both health and ethics. But not many people think about the workers who helped bring that food to the table.
Saru Jayaraman, the co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and the Director of the Food Labor Research Center has written a book titled “Behind the Kitchen Door” that looks at workers’ rights in the restaurant industry.
On January 28, 1986, NASA Challenger mission STS-51-L ended in tragedy when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after takeoff.
All seven astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia died, including Kalpana Chawla the first Indian American astronaut and first Indian woman in space.
Also on board was physicist Ronald E. McNair, who was the second African American to enter space. But before he became an astronaut he was a young boy in Lake City, South Carolina ‘who was never about the norms.’
McNair’s brother, Carl McNair shared a charming story about him with StoryCorps. Take a look at the illustrated interview at the top of the page.
Whether you’re a fan or not you have to admit Beyonce’s Knowles performance at the Super Bowl was full of explosive energy. Her 13-minute performance included a 120 dancers, a 10-piece all female band and several back up singers.
Then there’s the Super Dome staff, stage, lighting and costume designers, the choreographer, the hair and make up folks, the list goes on.
It’s no surprise Beyoncé is getting all the attention but since no one else is talking about the musicians that made that performance happen it’s a great opportunity to highlight the band.
Beyoncé says she started the 10-piece all female band called “The Sugar Mamas” so young girls could have more role models.
“When I was younger I wish I had more females who played instruments to look up to. I played piano for like a second but then I stopped,” Beyoncé said in a statement. “I just wanted to do something which would inspire other young females to get involved in music so I put together an all-woman band.”
Meet some of the band members that make up Beyonce’s band “The Sugars Mamas.”
Beyonce’s band was tucked away from the cameras during the performance but there was one band member who made it to the center of the stage, guitarist BiBi McGill.
McGill has been playing the guitar since she was 12 years old. She has a degree in Music Scoring and Arranging from the University of Colorado and has gone to play for artists like Pink, Paulina Rubio and the Latin pop group La Ley.
As the musical director, she says her job is to “tell everyone what time they have to be there, being responsible to give the cue for the stage to rise, being responsible if Beyoncé wants to change something in the middle of the show, talking in my mic to everyone who has in-ears [earpieces] and making it look seamless.”
The push to reform the country’s immigration laws, launched last week by a group of Senators, will continue full steam ahead tomorrow at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration laws. Eyes are fixed on House Republicans to gauge their temperature on immigration, and this morning the Committee released a roster of speakers who will set the tone.
Tomorrow’s hearing will have two panels of witnesses, one on the “current legal immigration system and ways to improve it,” and another on “the extent to which our immigration laws have been enforced.”
Both panels include a mix of voices—the full list is posted below—but the enforcement panel is likely to include significant saber rattling.
Julie Myers Wood will start the panel. She was the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement during part of the Bush administration and an advocate for “targeted” immigration enforcement and deportation policies. She’s likely to strike a moderate tone. Similarly, Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute who coauthored a recent report documenting that the Obama administration invested more in immigration enforcement than any other president, will probably argue that current enforcement levels are enough.
Then the panel will turn sharply to the right. Chris Crane, the president of the ICE employees union, is expected to say that Obama administration officials have undermined immigration enforcement and prevented ICE agents from doing their job. He’s likely to attack Obama for his administrative actions to halt the deportation of people who have not been convicted of a crimes.
Last on the list, the Committee will hear from Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, one of the country’s leading immigration restriction organizations. Vaughan and her fellow CIS staffers regularly call for more immigration enforcement and tighter bars on legal paths to immigrate.
Tomorrow’s hearing will have two witness panels. The first witness panel will examine our current legal immigration system and ways to improve it. Witnesses for the first panel include:
Vivek Wadhwa, Director of Research, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, Fellow, Stanford Law School, and Vice President of Innovation and Research, Singularity University;
Michael Teitelbaum, Senior Advisor, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Wertheim Fellow, Harvard Law School;
Dr. Puneet S. Arora; and
The Honorable Julian Castro, Mayor, San Antonio, Texas.
The second panel will discuss the extent to which our immigration laws have been enforced. Witnesses on the second panel include.
Julie Myers Wood, President, Guidepost Solutions LLC;
Chris Crane, President, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118, American Federation of Government Employees;
Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies; and
Muzaffar Chishti, Director of the Migration Policy Institute’s Office at New York University Law School Office.
Chrysler’s photography-led commercial featuring their RAM trucks is a memorable tribute to farm operators. The two-minute commercial that aired during the Super Bowl was centered around Paul Harvey’s 1978 “So God Made A Farmer” speech and featured more than a dozen faces of people working in agriculture.
But the commercial leaves some groups of farmers out.
The 2007 Census counted a total of 79,703 American Indian or Alaska Native operators on 61,472 farms and ranches across the United States.
The 2007 Census counted a total of 20,417 Asian operators on 15,360 farms and ranches across the United States. The count of Asian operators grew 40 percent from 2002, significantly outpacing the 7 percent increast in U.S. operators overall.
A total of 55,570 U.S. farms had a principal operator of Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origin in 2007, up 10 percent from 2002.
The 2007 Census counted a total of 41,024 black operators on 32,938 farms and ranches across the United States. The number of black operators grew 9 percent from 2002, outpacing the 7 percent increase in U.S. farm operators overall.
Of the 3.3 million U.S. farm operators counted in 2007 Census, 30.2 percent — or more than 1 million — were women.
“God Made a Farmer. Then USDA decimated black ones,” tweeted Melissa Harris-Perry shortly after the commercial aired, referencing the ad’s narration and USDA’s problematic history.
In 2011, a federal judge approved a $1.25 billion settlement in a lawsuit filed against the USDA by thousands of black farmers. The group of farmers said that they experienced widespread racial bias from the department when they were denied loans and other programs throughout the 1980’s and ’90s.
Today the USPS is released a commemorative forever stamp in honor of legendary civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
The stamp is the second in a series of three civil rights stamps celebrating freedom, courage and equality and being issued this year. Last month, the USPS issued a stamp honoring the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and, later this year, will recognize the 50th anniversary the March on Washington.
The Rosa Parks Forever Stamp will go on sale nationwide Feb. 4, which would have been Parks’ 100th birthday, at local Post Offices, online at usps.com/stamps or by phone at 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724).
They were there to celebrate personal triumph. And to celebrate life.
(Update: 2/3/2012 2:35p—The Fairfield Citizen reports the commercial will be “broadcast before kickoff and later during the football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.”
We reached out to the Smilow Canter Hospital at Yale-New Haven (YNHH) and there are currently no plans to broadcast this video on TV. YNHH is a 1,541-bed teaching hospital for the Yale School of Medicine.
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The U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs in January, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. Retail trade, construction, health care, and wholesale trade added jobs over the month, according to the report.
The Labor Department breaks down the numbers by worker groups:
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (7.3 percent), adult women (7.3 percent), teenagers (23.4 percent), whites (7.0 percent), blacks (13.8 percent), and Latinos (9.7 percent) showed little or no change in January. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.5 percent (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier.
Generation Opportunity, a non-partisan organization advocating for Millennials ages 18-29, breaks down January jobs numbers for millennials. The data is non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) and is specific to 18-29 year olds:
The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds specifically for January 2013 was 13.1 percent (NSA).
The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year old African-Americans for January 2013 was 22.1 percent (NSA); the youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year old Hispanics for January 2013 was 13.0 percent (NSA); and the youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year old women for January 2013 was 11.6 percent (NSA).
The declining labor participation rate has created an additional 1.7 million young adults that are not counted as “unemployed” by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, meaning that those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.
If the labor force participation rate were factored into the 18-29 youth unemployment calculation, the actual 18-29-unemployment rate would rise to 16.2 percent (NSA).
“President Obama says America should be ‘investing in the generation that will build its future,’ yet four years of his government-driven economic policies have left us with record youth unemployment and an economy that is literally shrinking. My generation is suffering disproportionately,” said Terence Grado, Director of National and State Policy at Generation Opportunity, in a statement. “Instead of staying the course and doubling down on failure, we need a new strategy that encourages the private sector to grow, invest, and provide real opportunities for the millions of young people who have great skills, are ready to contribute, and have waited long enough.”
And he might be the coolest 65-year-old ever. His review touches on race, sex, name drops “My So Called Life” and says filmmaker and artist Miranda July may be a more accurate “voice of a generation adrift.”
Seriously? Abdul-Jabbar knows who Miranda July is? And “My So Called Life”? Even if someone else wrote his review you have to give him props for stamping his name on it. I had to scroll up in the middle of his review to confirm that it was indeed Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA Hall of Famer, who was referencing a 1994 TV show about a 15-year-old white girl that only ran for one season.
Abdul-Jabbar was named a cultural ambassador last year by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The goal of his position is to talk “with young people on the importance of education, social and racial tolerance, cultural understanding, and using sports as a means of empowerment,” according to the state department.
In fact, 56 percent of the show’s audience is male. Some say it’s because of the frequent nudity and graphic sex. That doesn’t hurt. But the main reason to watch Girls is because the show obviously is struggling to be a voice of its generation, just as The Catcher in the Rye, Go Tell It on the Mountain, The Naked and the Dead, On the Road, Beloved, Generation X, The Joy Luck Club, Slaves of New York, Less Than Zero, and Bright Lights, Big City were voices of their generations.
Last season the show was criticized for being too white. Watching a full season could leave a viewer snow blind. This season that white ghetto was breached by a black character who is introduced as some jungle fever lover, with just enough screen time to have sex and mutter a couple of lines about wanting more of a relationship. A black dildo would have sufficed and cost less.
I don’t believe that people of color, sexual preference, or gender need to be shaken indiscriminately into every series like some sort of exotic seasoning. If the story calls for a black character, great. A story about a black neighborhood doesn’t necessarily need white characters just to balance the racial profile. But this really seemed like an effort was made to add some color — and it came across as forced.
Need something to talk about during the commercials on Super Bowl Sunday?
This may come in handy right after a Coca-Cola commercials airs: University of Virginia history professor Grace Elizabeth Hale points out in a New York Times op-ed that Coca-Cola kept their products away from African-Americans for years. While Pepsi deliberately marketed to black customers.
In the NYT op-ed titled “When Jim Crow Drank Coke,” Hale writes about Coca-Cola co-founder Asa G. Candler and why the company kept its drinks away from customers of color:
A new CDC study found binge drinking is reported by one in eight U.S. adult women and one in five high school girls.
“Binge drinking increases the chances of breast cancer, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, and many other health problems,” the CDC said in its report, released in early January. “Women who binge drink do so frequently—about three times a month—and have about six drinks per binge.”
White and Latina women, and those with incomes over $75,000, are more likely to become binge drinkers, according to the study.
Black women and girls were least likely to binge drink, with only 10 percent reporting that they drink excessively.
Women who did not graduate from high school had the lowest prevalence of binge drinking (8.5%), but those who binge drank had the highest frequency (4.2 episodes) and intensity (6.2 drinks) relative to women with higher educational levels.
Jorge Rivas, Thursday, January 31 2013, 12:23 PM EST
A new report from Families for Freedom (FFF) in collaboration with New York University (NYU) Immigrant Rights Clinic found U.S. Border Patrol agents are encouraged to apprehend immigrants through various incentive programs.
FFF, a New York-based defense network by and for immigrants facing deportation, obtained data from the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) station in Rochester, New York and the Buffalo Sector through a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
According to the report this is the first public data on USBP discretionary bonus programs that include cash bonuses, vacation awards, and distribution of gift cards to border patrol agents from Home Depot and Macys. Data shows bonuses reached up to $2,500 a year per agent.
The report also found close to 300 cases of wrongful arrests have been reported, the vast majority are people of color from Africa, South and East Asia, and the Caribbean.
Below is a summary of key findings from the report “Uncovering USBP: Bonus Programs for United States Border Patrol Agents and the Arrest of Lawfully Present Individuals [PDF]:
Jorge Rivas, Thursday, January 31 2013, 11:29 AM EST
Phillip Walker Sailors, the man who shot and killed 22-year-old Rodrigo Diaz for pulling in to his driveway is out on bail.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the details:
Phillip Walker Sailors, 69, of Lilburn, was released after posting $11,200 bond, according to Gwinnett County jail records. Sailors was arrested Sunday afternoon and charged with murder in the death of Rodrigo Diaz of Duluth.
Jorge Rivas, Thursday, January 31 2013, 10:41 AM EST
More than 111 million people tuned into the 2012 Super Bowl, the most-watched program in television history. Super Bowl 2013 is expected to be another record-breaker.
The commercials that air during the game are becoming a large part of the Super Bowl experience and companies will pay top dollar to be included. CBS sold out its ad inventory for Super Bowl XLVII at prices averaging between $3.7 million and $3.8 million for each spot, according to Ad Age.
The commercials will make some people laugh, some people cry and infuriate others.
Take a look at the commercials below and tell us if you think they’re a win, a big fail or racist.
After you vote share this post with your friends and we’ll publish the results Sunday.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow said this Volkswagen ad is like “blackface with voices.” But Jamaica’s minister of tourism celebrates the commercial. What say you?
Volkswagen’s new Super Bowl ad doesn’t star any black actors but it does feature a happy-go-lucky white man speaking with a Caribbean accent. The ad has received criticism for stereotyping the island’s people and mocking their dialect.
“I don’t like it all. It’s like blackface with voices. I don’t like that,” CNN correspondent and New York Times columnist Charles Blow told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Wednesday.
Christopher John Farley, a Jamaican-born journalist, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the accents reminded him of the ‘Star Wars’ character Jar Jar Binks, who used a Caribbean accent and broken English for comedic effect.
“The Jamaican aesthetic-shaped by such Jamaican-born notables as Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and the revolutionary Nanny of the Maroons-is founded on positive vibration, not mindless happiness.”
“What happens in this ad is that the culture becomes a punch line, and that is offensive,” Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, chief hispanic marketing strategist at Walton Isaacson, told USA Today.
Still dozens of publications have reported Jamaican’s embraced the ad because the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment sent out a press release celebrating the ad.
“I think this is a very creative commercial which truly taps into the tremendous mass appeal that brand Jamaica and its hospitable people have globally,” said Dr. Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism and Entertainment.
The Jamaica Gleaner went out and asked the Caribbean island’s citizens how they felt about the ad and found some didn’t agree with the minister of tourism.
“If they want use a Jamaican dialect then they should definitely get a Jamaican then,” said one man interviewed by the Gleaner.
Tim Mahoney, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Volkswagen of America, said on CNN that the company consulted with 100 Jamaicans and used a speech coach on-set to ensure that the accents were accurate.
‘We obviously did our homework to make sure that we weren’t offensive,’ he said.
Jorge Rivas, Wednesday, January 30 2013, 5:01 PM EST
On Friday Louisiana will end cut health-care services for HIV patients and low income moms and children. The cuts are part of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rebalancing of the budget to close a midyear deficit.
State officials say they only cut programs that were also available through other federally funded programs but acknowledged some residents will lose care:
Scheduled for elimination are programs that provide behavioral health services for at-risk children, offer case management visits for low-income HIV patients and pay for at-home visits by nurses who teach poor, first-time mothers how to care for their newborns.
The Medicaid program will no longer cover physical therapy and speech therapy rehabilitation services for nursing home residents. Dental benefits to pregnant women through Medicaid will be cut off. Hospitals and doctors will be paid less when they care for Medicaid patients.
Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein said he targeted programs that were duplicative, costly and optional under the state’s participation in the state-federal Medicaid program.
Greenstein said in many instances, people can get the care they’re losing through other government-funded programs. But he acknowledged that won’t happen in every case, meaning some people will simply lose the services or receive reduced services.