"Great as David Simon’s series have all been, Treme underlines his weakness for painting those outside the show’s generously considered inner circle with too broad and too contemptuous a brush. And make no mistake: As viewers, we’re very much on the outside here. There are times when I worry I’m simply not cool enough to hang out with Treme. It gets mad when I neglect it, but it isn’t happy with my interest, either. Because no matter how hard you try, you’re never gonna be New Orleans enough for it. (The New Yorker’s Nancy Franklin puts it more succinctly: “The series virtually prohibits you from loving it, while asking you to value it.”) --Scott Tobias
And for cliff notes on every single moment of every episode, go to this great blog.
Let's go back sometime between 2003 and 2004, a friend of mine had a job at Comedy Central and through a connection there, he got a shot to interview with Dave Chappelle to be a writer's assistant on the "Chappelle's Show."
After spending an appropriate amount of time discussing just how cool the prospect of working on the show was, just how great of a break through it would be for him, and just how amazing it was to be presented with such a great opportunity, we turned towards interview. What would it be like? What would Dave Chappelle ask? What would you say to Dave Chappelle? How can you stop being a fan and be a man who needs a job?
And this eventually went into, "what if he asks me what kind of music I listen to? I mean, I'll say hip-hop, cause that's true, that's what I listen to, but..." Of course the real question was what do you tell Dave Chappelle, as a suburban white kid whose been listening to hip-hop since day one to prove that you are exactly that, a suburban white kid who grew up listening to all styles of hip-hop since you first started listening to music.
And of course, being the over thinking, intellectually lazy white-guilt laced liberal young adults we were (and still are) we felt it was important not to be able to pick a favorite album or artist that fell somewhere in between mainstream popularity and bowels of the hip-hop underground. Something not too obvious but not too obscure. It was easy not to pick something too popular, Juveniles 400 Degrees wasn't gonna make the cut, but the obscure thing was an issue. It was clear that Tim Dog's Penicillin On Wax was just screaming out, "I'M PICKING THIS BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO KNOW VERY CLEARLY THAT I HAVE KNOW A LOT ABOUT THE RAP MUSIC BECAUSE I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO IT FOREVER," but what about his former group The Ultramagnetic MC's Critical Beatdown? Did that say the same thing?
And it hit us (me to be honest) "Moment of Truth." Here was an album perfect for our purposes. Not the biggest seller of all time, and not an I-know-more-about-underground-hip-hop-than-you album either. It's not just a serious contender for best hip-hop album of all time, but a hip-hop litmus test. To own this album said a lot about you and your tastes. (good) And to NOT own it said even more. (moron) It's too bad we never got to test the theory, the interview never happened, my friend went on to find success elsewhere writing screenplays, Chappele went off the air, and Guru died two days ago.
Let's go back to Spring, 1998, when Moment of Truth, the album that proves you know what the fuck you're talking about came out. Back when people still bought cds, there was that special feeling of unwrapping it, putting it in, hearing the first song, and just knowing the whole goddamn album was gonna be spectacular. Similar to feeling you get at 17 years old blasting The Militia till you eardrums bleed while making a right off Green Tree to speed down Jean Nicolet.
Now let's go back to a time when talking and proving just how good a certain rap song was a lot more difficult. In the last ten years, the world at large has accepted hip-hop and gained a lot of knowledge. For all the shit rap you hear, the average dude does know more these days about what makes a good beat, and how a good flow sounds. Back then, it wasn't so easy.
But with Gang Starr things were different. You could talk about them in a far more intellectual way with any level of rap fan. To a casual hip-hop ear, the intricacies of the beat on Above The Clouds. To a hardcore dude, a debate on whether or not The Militia could be considered a posse track. (I've actually witnessed this very debate) And everyone in between can spend years dissecting Guru's flow on DWCK.
Now I'm going back to 2000. Gang Starr came to Madison, Wisconsin and killed it at the Orpheum. It was an odd thing, a one-off show in the middle of nowhere for them, but they came, and set it the fuck off. To this day, it was the single best rap related event I have ever attended. Premier put in work, actually performing duties on the turntables most at that time left for the DAT. Guru never lost his breath, always stayed right on top of the beat, and only had Premier's occasional help as his hypeman. The two of them put on a show, running through their whole catalog with crazy energy without subjecting the crowd to such live hip-hop fuckery as the first-verse only performances of every song you want to hear, nor did we sit through constant instructions on what to do with our hands and what type of noises to make.
Guru wasn't just one half of Gang Starr, and perhaps in his death, he can finally be acknowledged as the brilliant rapper he was in his own right. Noz wrote "...(Guru is) the greatest case against the modern, dogmatic definition of lyrical lyricism. Because Guru’s strength lied not in hot punchlines or clever multi-syllable rhymes but purely in his ability to instill wisdom." I'd go further. Guru's strength as a rapper went far beyond his pure ability to instill wisdom. He was able to instill said wisdom while being displaying amazing feats of "lyrical lyricism." And while his strength didn't start and end with hot punchlines or multi-syllable rhymes, he did both well, instilling wisdom at the same time. Come on, Guru's rhymes were "rhymes were whipped with swift execution/one verse could coerce your girl to prostitution."
And if you look at typical rap song story lines, Guru took them and made them his own. In Take 2 and Pass, he did the unthinkable and wrote an ode to marijuana and getting high with his friends but avoided making it a pot-head style tribute. With "The Militia" he gave us a posse track (or not) that didn't suck, and is still one of the greatest club-bangers to this day. And even as a club-banger, it's still different. Ex Girl To The Next is perhaps the greatest rap song about love, and loving the wrong the girl. "Full Clip" is also the greatest new song to be featured on a greatest compilation by any artist of any genre. And as track one on their greatest hits double album, it also functions as one of the better hip-hop statements of purpose. This is who we are, this is what we do, I'm two magazines fully loaded to your one, plus I ain't gonna quit spitting till you're done.
In the next few days I'll get more in depth on certain specific moments, songs, and what not of Guru's career, I mean I haven't even touched on Jazzmatazz, and kept my Gang Starr talk relating mostly to Moment of Truth just because of the terrible anecdote at the beginning. That being said, if you ever have a chance to work for Dave Chappelle, tell him it's your favorite album.
In the last month, McDonald's either came out with or stepped their advertising up for the double fillet-o-fish. And motherfuckers have been going ham. A few weeks ago, a man in New Jersey climbed through the to-go window, slapped the shit out of the dude behind the counter and walked out with his sandwich. In the words of a better blogger than me, "this case should be immediately dismissed, on the grounds that he was actually able to grab his sandwich and walk out with it."
Only two weeks later, in Brooklyn, a similar incident occurred. This time, the man was not lucky enough to escape with his sandwich. I too have a fillet-o-fish inspired tale to tell:
Saturday night, the same night a man in Bushwick was arrested for climbing into a McDonald's to steal his fillet-o-fish, only a short world away in Bed-Stuy, Annie and I went through the drive-through around 4.30 am. After waiting a long, long time, the woman in the car behind us got out and started screaming at the drive through window calling the woman behind the counter "dyke." Not "a dyke" but just "dyke." Dyke! It's an amazing word. Even better heard in the pitch-blackness of Brooklyn at 4.45 am in line at McDonald's.
Apparently the angry lady, after being forced to wait a ridiculously long time to even place her order, finally arrived at the speaker and when finally given a chance to order her food, "dyke" told her McDonald's was closed and was no longer serving food. So after screaming for five minutes, the angry lady got back in the car, and her entourage pulled off.
I was pissed the show was over, but only two short minutes later, the car comes speeding back around and pulls up alongside the car at the to-go window. Angry lady rolls down her window and starts screaming. The taunting and threats continued. She rolled down her window and the screaming, the taunting, the threats continued. Physical violence of the most heinous sort was guaranteed. And then angry lady screamed, "get out from behind that window, let's do this dyke. Let's do this. I WANT YOU. I WANT YOU." This I had never heard. "I want you." It was truly terrifying.
Eventually, she rolled up her window and the started to drive off when a cop car comes flying in and pulls over the wrong car leaving McDonald's. We pull forward, pay for our two items--three if two fillet-o-fish for three bucks counts as one thing or two--and are about to leave when the woman behind the counter, "dyke," asks us if we would like any fries.
And why not. At this point, after witnessing what we just saw, and now getting free fries, we thought it was our lucky day, or night, or whatever it is at 4.55 am when you are at the drive through at McDonald's.
So she reaches down, and pulls out to big ass to-go bags, just bursting apart unable to handle the load of all that is inside. And we're thinking that free fries are great, but at a certain point it’s just wasteful, this is far beyond the critical mass of free fries anyone would desire. But we thank her, pull away, and open the bag. And inside there were not fries, but every single item McDonald's has on the goddamn menu! I mean nuggets, select strips, big macs, McChickens, even a goddamn Angus burger! I tore it apart, thinking it was a magic bag, perhaps somewhere in here there was an old McRib they found laying around, or Baruch Hashem, a McDlt.
I opened the second bag to find more of the same, but also a cornucopia of dipping sauces, an item you would overlook when handing out free food, but this dyke behind the counter wasn't just generous, she was truly kind.
Realizing we had more food than anyone could or should handle, we went to a bar that stays open all night long and handed out the food. What this guy at the corner of the bar did to the Angus Burger, holy shit, in the words of my mother, "I wouldn't do to a dog."
In 2008, a man had an idea. Former Milwaukee County workers were getting absurd pension checks and not paying taxes. Garbage men who topped out at 60,000 thousand a year were collecting six-figure checks. Something odd was happening. David Umhoefer looked a little deeper. When all was said and done, the county had paid out over 60 million in bogus pension money, the system was changed, people prosecuted, and David Umhoefer walked away with a Pulitzer Prize.
While the Milwaukee is no stranger to big-time intellectual awards, it's always a welcome surprise. And again, just yesterday at 2pm, the city got another welcome surprise, Raquel Rutledge racked up another Pulitzer for the Journal Sentinel.
In Wisconsin, the state allows parents to leave their children, 4 or 5 years old, at day car centers or kindergarten. Kindergartens must be accredited organizations, while increasingly, these day-cars have become more of a fly-by-night organization. Rutledge looked into a complex web of deceit allowing parents to open up dodgy day care centers, bill the state, and operate with little to no oversight. In some cases, the children they billed for didn't even attend the day care. A years worth of investigation shamed the State into changing their policies.
Oh but there's more. Not only did we win the award this year, but Journal reporter Dan Egan was a finalist in the explanatory reporting category for "his path-breaking coverage of how invasive aquatic creatures have disrupted the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and other bodies of water, illuminating the science and politics of an important national issue."
2 Pulitzers for local reporting in three years. This is unprecedented. This is unheard. This is beyond expectations. In a time when print newspapers fail left and right, Milwaukee has set a new bar for American journalism.
Also worth checking out are the two winners for investigative reporting:
"Deadly Choices At Memorial" by Sheri Fink This is one of the most riveting and disturbing things you will read. The article asks serious questions about medical ethics while also giving a blow by blow, white-knuckled, minute by minute account of what it was like to be trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
And from The Philadelphia Daily News, "Tainted Justice" These articles read like one of the best police dramas you have ever seen. Corrupt cops, snitches, tainted evidence, FBI probes, hundreds of false convictions, it goes on and on. Crazy stuff.