Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Free Band Names! :: The California Budget Disaster Edition

How funky is your budget compromise? How loose is your accounting?

Instead of killing myself over how f-ed up this Cali budget “compromise” is going to be for me and most everyone I care about, I figured I’d devote my energy to coming up with something everyone really needs: a list of band names inspired by this disaster.

Because who knows better than The Big 5 that this is as good a time as any to start a band or a crew?

So here we go. Free. Just shout us out when you blow up on Myspace. And please add more. The budget you save may be your own.

The Worthless Bonds
The Mandatory Furloughs
The I-O-Meez
The No Solution
The Terminated
Proposition Xed
Eff The Children
Cancel My Future
Long Summer Shortfall
I Moved To California And All I Got Was This Lousy Prison
Corrections Killed The Biology Star
And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of The Idiots…
Cut Me Asshole
Fire Me Asshole
Pay Me Asshole
The Simple Majority
Masterrace Supermajority
Two-Thirds Of Death
The Oily Severants
Santa Barbara Oil Slick
Roll Over Pat Brown
The Michael Jackson Stimulus
The Gray Davis Revival

posted by @ 8:59 am | 3 Comments

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

On Hip-Hop, the New Depression, and the Creativity Stimulus


Here’s an interview I just did that focuses largely on the role of the arts and culture in the current economic crisis. Huge thanks to Jasmine Mahmoud, editor of the fantastic new magazine and webzine The Arts Politic.

The inaugural issue features work from and interviews with other people who were at the White House briefing in May, such as Judy Baca, Dudley Cocke, and the great Arlene Goldbard. Bonus: Mayda Del Valle!

Check out and if you dig, support them.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview w/your boy:

The inclusion of you and Davey D, among other arts activists, seems to be a big step forward from the 1990s when political wars waged on hip-hop, and culture wars waged on the arts. Would you call this progress?…

Yes, I do think this is progress. At certain points in history, change seems to accelerate and I think we’re in the flux of that kind of moment right now. We witnessed an outpouring of art, culture, and creativity around last year’s elections. People like Tom Brokaw compared it to the Velvet Revolution. In other words, politics and creativity seemed to converge to bring about a societal leap. Into what, I’m still not sure. But we all have a hand in guiding where we will land.

I work among artists and community organizers daily, and the thing we’ve all noticed is that we have a great urge to convene, to share, to talk, to try to puzzle out the moment. Liz Lerman likes to joke that “artists aren’t afraid of living in Depression-like conditions because that’s our lived reality.” Right now, there’s a sense among everyone that there isn’t much to lose, and that’s liberating. What I think many of us are coming around to understand is that creativity is at the heart of community sustainability and renewal. Hip-hop is the perfect example—here’s the picture of forgotten, abandoned kids hard at work defining how to play amidst chaos. Out of nothing, they literally forge the conditions for their own breakthroughs. They created a new language for a new global generation.

In this country, the debates over the arts are still haunted by questions of individual freedom raised in the culture wars. These are rooted in President Kennedy’s founding Cold War-era charge for the NEA (articulated best here) in which artists were positioned as the social outsiders an enlightened U.S. democracy was happy to bring into the fold. Communists in Russia and China, by comparison, were oppressing dissident artists. (This logic ran its course by the end of the 1980s, when anti-arts neocons took up—quite seriously—the role of Kennedy’s cartoon communists. The irony escaped them, apparently.)

But what if we looked at arts and creativity as society’s key to collective survival? In this re-imagining, artists and creatives—like community organizers—are not outsiders, so much as those who experiment and test and prod, but within the heart of the community. Their risk is indispensable not because it comes from the fringe, but from the center. When they succeed, they strengthen community and move it forward…

Catch the entire interview here.

posted by @ 2:37 pm | 0 Comments

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

The Death of Vibe And The Future Of Magazines :: A Roundtable with Alan Light and Raymond Roker


Vibe’s death yesterday sparked conversations across the blogosphere about the future of magazines, especially the kind many of us most care about–urban culture and music magazines. I wanted to surface one of them here.

It began with a Twitter post that reposted to my Facebook account. Here was that original post (re-rendered into something resembling proper english).

Jeff Chang: I could live with a smaller media landscape–but we need that middle between 1m+ circulation mags and circs of less-than-100,000 zines back.

And who should reply but Alan Light.

Alan was one of my first editors at Vibe. (He actually did me the favor of sinking a horrible Tribe Called Quest piece I did, easily the worst interview I ever did…a long story for another time.) Alan started at Rolling Stone and went on staff there from 1989 to 1993. He moved over to become Music Editor at Vibe in its inaugural year and took over as Editor-in-Chief the following year, where he worked until 1997. He edited Spin from 1999-2002, then broke out to start a new magazine called Tracks.

Tracks is a really interesting story. It launched with independent capital in November 2003 with a circulation of about 150,000. It targeted readers from 30-50, a bit of an older audience, more white than not. This group was thought to be the holy grail of the dying music industry–they were folks who actually still bought music. The writing got better, they started moving more urban (Prince was on the cover at the time of “Musicology”) and they built an audience, doubling their circulation.

But by April 2005, they folded. The magazine industry had shifted dramatically. The middle–as in all media and entertainment industries, hell, in American society–could not hold.

Let’s pick this up where Alan responded:

Alan Light at 1:00pm June 30
you have no idea how right you are…well, ok, you have some idea. but take it from one who’s been there – it has become almost impossible to make that model work. which is awful, because it’s obviously the most interesting place to be. (more…)

posted by @ 11:53 am | 37 Comments

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