Weekend Endorsements: Old TV Shows, Torture Memos, and Football.

quadmoniker: I’m finally catching up on Homicide: Life on the Street, the NBC drama that ran from 1993 and 1999. Though it’s not The Wire, it’s based on the David Simon book (Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets) and is still pretty good. I’m a little amazed it actually ran on a network. I’ve only seen a few episodes, but so far the hokey network-necessitated sentimentality has been pretty sparse and the cynicism has been pretty steady. They pulled out the best and saddest of the book’s scenes right away, so I don’t know how it gets later on. While I’m at it, I highly recommend going back and reading the book.

slb: Around Wednesday of this week, I suddenly got into K’Naan. First, I watched two parts of an interview about his native Somalia and his take on the issue of Somalian piracy. I found him to be insightful and interesting, so I downloaded his latest album, Troubadour. Two tracks in, I knew he’d be my endorsement this weekend. I have not been able to stop listening to this album for four days. Of the fourteen tracks, there are only three I skip — and that’s very rare for me. From the first cut, “T.I.A.” to the last “People Like Me,” you’ll feel like a tourist riding the city bus through a foreign land, feeling alternately awed and humbled by all the dopeness and devastation you’re witnessing. Or else you’ll feel like a participant in a Dance-a-Thon where the proceeds benefit a fund to establish a Somalian central government. Stand-out tracks: “America” (featuring Mos Def and Chali Tuna), “Somalia,” “Fire in Freetown,” and the aforementioned “T.I.A.”

shanio: This week, I’m endorsing Tudou.com. It’s the Chinese YouTube, but better, because video clips aren’t limited to 10 minutes, and it has tons of U.S. shows available. Although I can’t read Chinese, I haven’t had any trouble typing in search terms in English.  So far I’ve watched all 7 seasons of Star Trek: Voyager, the first season of Daria (it’s criminal that that show’s not on DVD) , and I started Justice League yesterday.  The only drawbacks are the Chinese subtitles. And for those of you who want to watch current TV, or every episode of the fantastic Arrested Development, check out Hulu.com. It’s a partnership between FOX and NBC and has minimal ads. Between these two sites, I haven’t turned on my TV in months (not that I would, as I haven’t had cable in about a year).

nicholep: Ann Petry began writing short stories while fulfilling her family’s desires that she become a pharmacist. After moving to New York after her marriage, Petry felt compelled to write about the poverty she witnessed in Harlem, resulting in The Street, which landed her the distinction of becoming the first black woman writer with book sales reaching over one million copies.

In the novel, set in 1944, Lutie Johnson works as a live-in nanny and maid, leaving her husband and son behind to take care of themselves as she looks after someone else’s household. Upon discovering her husband’s infidelity, she takes her son and finds an apartment on 116th Street in Harlem and must learn how to survive the poverty, racism, sexism, and violence that has begun to nibble at the edges of her life.  Lutie’s beauty is a threat both to her employer’s wife and to herself. While searching for another career and trying to raise her son the best way she can, Lutie begins to use those same dangerously tempting assets to her advantage, with life-changing results. The delicate but forceful way Petry forces the reader to confront some thorny issues  places this novel among my favorites.

blackink12: It may seem the obvious pick this weekend, but I’m going to spend some time going through the torture memos. I’m steeling myself for the worst. Here’s a brief description from Salon’s Glenn Greenwald: “They are unbelievably ugly and grotesque and conclusively demonstrate the sadistic criminality that consumed our government.”

What’s important to remember, I think, is that the ACLU was particularly tenacious in getting the government to hand over the information. This surprised me. Not because it was the ACLU.  But because they seemingly went about this fight for basic transparency alone, without much assistance from the media or our government. The ACLU deserves our kudos. 

And when I need to cool off from that bout of light reading, I’ll turn to the season finale of VH-1’s For the Love of Ray J on Monday. I just can’t help myself. And I’m placing my bets on Cocktail.

G.D.: John Madden is calling it a career, taking his penchant for increasingly inane but occasionally still-very-enlightening color commentary with him. Yeah, we know the ledge:  a Super Bowl victory as the coach of the Raiders, Tinactin, Turducken. But his cultural import actually  goes much further: the reason football fans can sit rapt as Ron Jaworski breaks down game tape on ESPN is because of Madden’s emphasis on making the details interesting. His lending his imprimatur to the behemoth Madden Football video game franchise  took that even further:  it’s not a stretch to say that the game designers’ penchant for verisimilude has changed the way an entire generation consumes football. (I found myself watching my beloved Eagles play the Giants in the playoffs this year, wanting to change the camera angle because I couldn’t see how deep the safeties were.)  We’re much more sophisticated football fans because of it. Whenever someone (usually a girlfriend) says they don’t understand football, I would always gamely try to explain, before eventually throwing up my hands. “You should just play Madden.”


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13 thoughts on “Weekend Endorsements: Old TV Shows, Torture Memos, and Football.

  1. Steve April 18, 2009 at 6:02 pm Reply

    Homicide was my favorite show it got a terrible friday timeslot though. The gay plot twist with the one detective toward the end was interesting…and the “subway” episode is one of the best television episodes ever made.

  2. maria m April 19, 2009 at 3:57 am Reply

    have loved k’naan since i saw his video for soobax when i went home (kenya) for christmas a few years back. check out his first album “the dusty foot philosopher”, amazing stuff on there.

    • slb April 20, 2009 at 11:37 am Reply

      i plan to, believe me. as soon as i can pull myself away from this second album a little, i’ll definitely get into the first one.

  3. Jessica April 19, 2009 at 8:48 pm Reply

    This line from nicholep jumped out at me: “Lutie’s beauty is a threat both to her employer’s wife and to herself.” I haven’t read the book you’re reviewing, but I wonder if you considered phrasing this sentence as “Her employer’s sexual harassment threatens Lutie’s safety and angers his wife.” You know, placing the blame where it belongs, since I’ve never heard of _beauty_ actually threatening anyone.

  4. Grump April 20, 2009 at 11:26 am Reply

    Watching old episodes of Homicide makes me cry that Andre Baugher doesn’t get more respectable roles. The episode where the cops got ambushed by Steve Buschemi, and he is in the box interrogating him is classic for me! “Now, this is what the jesuits taught me about Latin…”

    • quadmoniker April 20, 2009 at 5:47 pm Reply

      In the beginning, he annoyed me a little, but now he’s growing on me. The acting is really good across the board. Again, a little amazed this was a network show.

  5. Scott April 21, 2009 at 10:25 am Reply

    I didn’t start watching Homicide when it very first start but become a regular fan shorty thereafter. I thought the cast was great and enjoyed the writing and the episode music.

  6. blackink12 April 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm Reply

    I’m thinking of how many academic careers “Madden” laid to waste, including my own.

    But I don’t know what I would have done with all that down time in my teen years. And hell, my early 20s. It was all well worth it, I think.

    • G.D. April 21, 2009 at 9:24 pm Reply

      indeed. in retrospect, i’m grateful i never had the online hookup, and could play people remotely.

  7. Scott April 21, 2009 at 8:39 pm Reply

    According to a memo discussed by the New York Times, the torture of certain al Qa’ida did in fact result in useful information. So I guess the torture was useful after all.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/us/politics/22blair.html?_r=1&hp

    • shani-o April 21, 2009 at 9:41 pm Reply

      Did you make it to this part, Scott?

      “The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means,” Admiral Blair said in a written statement issued last night. “The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”

      • G.D. April 21, 2009 at 9:50 pm Reply

        beat me to it.

        Scott also seems to have ignored the fact that in the cases of KSM and Zubaydah, the torturers went beyond the Bush administration’s own guidelines.

        So: two two-hour sessions a day, with six applications of the waterboard each = 12 applications in a day. Though to get up to the permitted 12 minutes of waterboarding in a day (with each use of the waterboard limited to 40 seconds), you’d need 18 applications in a day. Assuming you use the larger 18 applications in one 24-hour period, and do 18 applications on five days within a month, you’ve waterboarded 90 times–still just half of what they did to KSM.

        So even by the Bush-Cheney standards of legality, the waterboarders far exceeded what was allowed. They broke the law even by Bush’s standards. And why, pray, is breaking the law in such a grave matter as a war crime no longer subject to prosecution or even investigation in the United States?

        The US is a banana republic if this stuff is allowed to go unpunished. A banana republic with a torture apparatus.

        http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/04/they-waterboarded-him-183-times-in-one-month.html

        • Scott April 22, 2009 at 8:54 am Reply

          Shani-o:

          I did read that part. However, according to another story on the subject linked below, neither KSM nor Zubaydah were cooperative when first interrogated so I don’t give much credence to Blair’s statement. On another note, it can be very hard to prove a negative so when people makes statements like that I’m suspicious. Next, if Blair says in the memo that “high value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country” how can Blair then say that the information was “not essential to our national security”? The two statements contradict each other, he can’t have it both ways. Besides, I thought the security of this country and the lives of Americans are more important than our image around the world, but I guess that is not what Blair thinks. Also, considering that the 9/11 Commission Report called KSM “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks” I really don’t care how many times they dripped some water on him.

          http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=46949

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