Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Sunday, Mar 21, 2010

“This is what change looks like”—President Obama on the passage of the health care bill 2010.
“How y’ah like me now”—Kool Moe Dee on passage of fly lines and breaking beats.
“Phew! Now let’s continuing governing”—The American people as we persevere in lining up with one another, and marching to a steady beat.


Now that “We, the People” can get late breaking news without the big media fixture… we can watch the admin online. “This is what change looks like.” I didn’t know, and I wasn’t sure, so thanks for clearing that one up, Big B. I’m a gen-XYer, which means that I was exposed to plenty of MTV and more than my share of bad governance. Governance was so bad under that mesmerizing era when the late Mr. Jackson was singing “Beat It!” that our leaders actually boasted of out-sourcing the care taking of most public goods. Social inequality expanded exponentially, but on MTV all we saw were those who came out on top; now we call it bling! Big bucks bred big benefits for what was presented as a benign few. Money just grew for anyone who worked hard was what the TV was selling. Now, at least, more folks know that to be untrue, not when public goods like a nation’s health security are compromised. But these are all the facts one misses when these stories are consumed and regurgitated to us by big media. Thanks to the Internet, we can surf the White House’s channel directly. “How y’ah like me now!”


Bollywood’s got their Big B, Mr Amitabh Bachchan himself, a 68-year-old film star that continues to appropriate pop cultures’ latest trends to reproduce his stardom. Bollywood’s Big B and his son each have commercial hip-hop videos—outtakes of sing ‘n’ dance film in full Bollywood array. Then Big B’s son married Bollywood’s fairest maiden. (And fair skin is big bucks in India, hence dames like Big B’s daughter-in-law are necessarily Fair and Lovely like the popular skin-bleaching cream. See the picture here of Big B, Aishwarya and Lil B before the major-event-wedding in 2007, and back when Indian chicks on screen could still boast some flesh—now thin is absolutely IN!) This courtly affair commands the attention of millions, and is its own marketing machine that could sustain that family’s wealth for generations to come even if none of them ever worked again. Until just over a year ago, it felt like America only had those sorts of stars—that kind of Bollywood Big B—the wealth alliances and fantasies sold to the masses of poor, one rupee at a time. But, apparently I was blind, because now I see watershed decisions made by those elected to govern. Like crack to a fiend, or like dark chocolate to me, Sunday, March 21st, 2010 feels like Tony Toni Toné: It feels good, yeah. It feeeeeels good!”



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Wednesday, Sep 16, 2009

What goes through your mind when having an alcoholic beverage? Apparently for Russia and Poland, alcohol, or more specifically vodka, is much more than a consciousness-numbing substance—it is a key to history, tradition, and cultural pride. Since the late 1970s, both countries have been at war over where vodka originated, who has the right to call their product “vodka”, whose version is the knock-off recipe, and who gets to claim the drink as their own. The battle for vodka credit has even made it to the International Trade Court on multiple occasions.


After decades of fighting, The Vice Guide to Travel sent correspondent Ivar Berglin on a mission to find out once and for all if vodka originated in Russia or Poland. The Wodka Wars, a 33 minute documentary streamed on VBS.tv, presents the argument from a variety of perspectives. Berglin’s participatory approach took everything from history, nationalism, culture, and beliefs into consideration. He included diverse opinions and views on the debate from around the world. After watching the film one may ponder if history sufficiently proves claims to vodkas origins, or if opinion and pride are proof enough.


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Tuesday, Jun 16, 2009
US Citizens Constitutional Rights continue to be trampled. Thanks, Obama (Not!)

I’ve a colleague who is getting married in Cairo. When she and her husband come to the States, their marriage will be recognized by the US federal government.


My right to marry my wife of 9 years is a Constitutional issue. It is not a state-by-state, individual-by-individual topic that anyone has a right to determine for people like me. This issue should never have been up for vote/open for public debate. It’s a disgrace that we’re still—STILL—discriminated against like this in this country. 



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Tuesday, Jun 16, 2009
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Tuesday, Mar 17, 2009
Through the White House’s YouTube account, for example, or the myriad of reports, reactions, reductions and sponsorship exploring popular politics, we have all iconic information at hand. It’s not all about Mike’s air time anymore.

“Your president’s on TV,” my aunty kept saying in the days after the election of Barack Obama. I could not be home for the inauguration, but I am told that families like mine all through the South grilled meat, made dressings and salads, fried fish and chicken, smoked ribs, got together, played cards, laughed and drank, slapped hands and talked politics.


The politics they talked had to do with education: “The sooner we get our young girls out of the city schools, the better off we’ll all be.” Black folks talked about nutrition: “Are they steal taking away those kids’ lunch at school?” Folks talked about the war: “How’re my cousin, his wife and their two kids? Are they in any danger of being deployed?” The war lingers and all bets are off for military families.


Over a games of Spades, folks talked about the economy: “Winn Dixie is having a sale on shoulder bones, and Kroger is selling out just about everything.” Plus, I would add, gas is down. Over a slice of Pound Cake or Seven Layer Bars while recapping the Reverend Lowery’s benediction, folks spoke about infrastructure: “It’s cheap to build houses here; materials might be a little bit cheaper, but folks are out of work and will work for less.” In our area outside of Montgomery (YES one of those areas from which folks walked during “the” Boycott), the only industry to have not come to a grinding halt is healthcare, oh, and fast food. So, during Obama’s inauguration, while I was unable to fly back from my sunny south Delhi apartment, to the sweet Southern sun, I am told that the folks are all just fine.


I wanna be like Mike. I wanna fly like Jordan, soaring, throwing hoops.”
President Obama’s first 50 Days is popular news spreading faster than the tribulations of a young couple struggling with stardom, fame, and the inheritance of violence in our lives. “Take a cue from your president,” aunties like mine would tell Chris and Rihanna, “he’s on TV”. Obama is the new icon for every little brother and sister, despite the emergence of the new “Black Overclass”, examined by reporter Lee Hawkins regarding these near miracle moneymakers. They have their hoops and their dreams, but here is something more real, no disrespect to Mike Jordan, Jackson, Tyson, Steele, or any other stiff who fails to speak prophetic truth.


Go Obama, go!”
Instead of wanting to be like some pop icon, I’d rather be like Obama. Or, I wanna be the kind of guy Obama would hire. We can address the economy, healthcare, war and peace in isolation and never coordinate our efforts into anything meaningful. Now, in the comfort of your own home and with he power of the Internet, you can take notes on the president’s weekly chats. It’s not all about Mike’s airtime anymore.


Through the White House’s YouTube account, for example, or the myriad of reports, reactions, reductions and sponsorship exploring popular politics, we have all iconic information at hand. You can decide to inspire yourself to aspire to something greater, not just some piece meal approach of ‘if and then’. “If I can save up enough, I’m gonna buy me a pair of Jordans.” Or we might say, “If I can loose ten pounds, then I can fit back into those old jeans and just feel better about myself.” We sit at our desks and wonder, “If I can just do this job a little longer, then…” And this cycle never ends. “If I could just get my credit together, then…” or “If I could just finish/go to school, then…”


Will we end see the perpetual cycle of hunger and unfulfilled desire we feed ourselves? We even feed this hunger—literally—with fast food, stuffing the emptiness we otherwise feel at home, dissatisfaction in our careers, troubles in our relationships, or generally residing to one’s old own lot. Piecing all this back together would take an eternity. We need a more holistic approach, and fast. “Everybody knows about Mississippi, Goddamn!”


Desegregation? Too Slow! Mass participation? Too slow? Reunification? Too slow! Do things gradually and folks will suffer further tragedies of loosing their homes, more civilians and combatants will die in war, and still more teenage girls will get pregnant, especially by older guys. Families collapse in those climates, and communities erode, lest we take good care. Folks will feel demoralized if not for the mass participation. Obama? Just in time.


Barack Obama’s historic speech on race, inequality and resolution


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