Sunday, December 31, 2006

Star Trek XI? The Adventures of Young James T.Kirk? And why Brent Spiner has his doubts and what he says about Star Wars, and oh, just read it.

"One of the most respected names in the world of Star Trek other than that of the late ‘Great Bird’ himself Gene Roddenberry is Robert H. Justman. Justman during an impressive career played a crucial role in helping get Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation off of the ground.

"However due to stress related illness the producer retired back in 1987 after having helped launch the Next Generation. Since that time he has continued to support Star Trek and in a new interview for Star Trek Magazine he gave Star Trek Movie producer J.J. Abrams a message of encouragement.

"Though the new movie is likely to be a reboot with a younger Captain Kirk. Justman remains open minded.

"'I don’t know much about the new film, so I don’t see why I should write it off in advance,” Justman explains. “ I remember how some people tried to write – off Star Trek: The Next Generation before they saw the show. So all I’ll say at this point is that if J.J. Abrams can make a good movie that sheds more light on what has already happened and adds more creativity to the mix, that sounds great to me.

“'I’m looking foreword to hearing what he has planned for Star Trek and I’d be pleased if Mr Abrams contacted me and asked me some questions. I’d be happy to talk to him about Star Trek.'

Meanwhile, Brent Spiner has his doubts:

"FF: Can't let you go without talking about the future of Star Trek; we're hearing that JJ Abrams is going to be taking the reins of the next Star Trek film. Could this be the franchise's shot at reinvigoration? He has a solid history in quality television and movies.

BS: Yeah, look at Mission: Impossible 3... Oh... Never mind...

FF: It did OK, didn't it?

BS: It still lost money.

FF: If anything, though, that's because they spent too much.

BS: You're right. And that's the big fear with this Star Trek movie because this new regime at Paramount; I don't know that they understand the franchise. Maybe he'll be able to do it, maybe he'll be able to bridge the gap between the fans and the general public, but everyone's tried to do that - that's always been the intention - and they've never been able to do it. They've realised that if you spend any more than fifty million dollars on one of these movies you're going to lose money. There are only so many fans that are going to go. If they come along and make an one-hundred and fifty million dollar movie they're going to have problems. But I think he could be the guy to do it. He's a perfectly capable guy and his shows are fun and he seems to know what he's doing."

Direct-to-Video Babylon 5 anthology and Battlestar Galactica movie?

"The thrust of the news is this: straight-to-video BABYLON 5 adventures...involving B5 characters in an anthology format...should arrive late next year. Written and directed by JMS."

"Despite declining ratings for Battlestar Galactica on SciFi Channel, nearly universal critical acclaim along with robust DVD sales have led Universal Home Video to consider greenlighting a Battlestar Galactica direct-to-video telefilm, which will presumably air on The SciFi Channel, after debuting on home video, sources tell Geek.

"If it goes forward, the two hour telefilm will shoot in March during the series hiatus and prior to the commencement of production on the series fourth season in June. While there is no story for the telefilm at present, plans are afoot to come up with a screenplay that doesn’t step on existing continuity for the series, but utilizes most of its existing sets.

"There is also speculation the telefilm will somehow tie into the mythology for the Galactica spin-off series, Caprica, which has not been officially greenlit by SciFi Channel. The only potential obstacle is that the network (SciFi Channel) and studio (Universal) have not officially greenlit a fourth season of the series, which will presumably occur shortly after the remainder of the third season begins in its new timeslot on Sundays, beginning in late January. In the event, there is further ratings erosion, it is possible the series, and plans for the DTV project, will be scrapped entirely, although this seems unlikely."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Spike Lee to direct James Brown bio-pic


"The late "Godfather of Soul" James Brown will rise again -- on screen.

"Spike Lee has signed on to direct a feature film about the singer produced by Brian Grazer and Imagine Entertainment, Paramount Pictures announced Wednesday.

"'It's an authorized biography done with the cooperation of Mr. Brown before his passing," Paramount spokeswoman Nancy Kirkpatrick said.

"Lee will rewrite a draft by Jezz and John Henry Butterworth, the trade paper Daily Variety reported Wednesday. The script has been through several drafts since Steve Baigelman wrote the original. The movie could be in production by late 2007, Variety said....

"Brown's music career will come full circle when his body is brought to rest on the stage of the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, where he made his explosive debut, and the world changed to his beat.

"The public will be permitted to visit the Apollo today to have one more look at a man who helped steer modern musical tastes toward rhythm-and-blues, funk, hip-hop, disco and rap, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Tuesday. Sharpton has been a close friend of Brown's for decades.

"'It would almost be unthinkable for a man who lived such a sensational life to go away quietly,' Sharpton said in an interview from Georgia, where he was making funeral arrangements with Brown's children.

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown: 1933 - 2006

James Brown. The hardest working man in show biz. Together with Five Percent Islam and P-Funk, his gravity shaped hip hop in its earliest form and thus set it on its course.

I loved Brown's work... I even paid cash money for the rights to print just a few lines of his classic song "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" in my first novel, The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad:

"This is a man's world, this is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

"You see, man made the cars to take us over the road
Man made the trains to carry heavy loads
Man made electric light to take us out of the dark
Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark

"This is a man's, a man's, a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

"Man thinks about a little baby girls and a baby boys
Man makes then happy 'cause man makes them toys
And after man has made everything, everything he can
You know that man makes money to buy from other man

"This is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

"He's lost in the wilderness
He's lost in bitterness...."

The Chicago Defender printed the following on th
e Christmas Day death of James Brown:

"The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, issued the
following statement today following the death of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, who died early this Christmas morning in Atlanta at the age of 73.

"'James Brown was a great American story. He went from an at-risk child to a global cultural icon, and that is a part of the Christmas story. After all, Jesus was an at-risk child, who grew up to be King of Kings.

"'James Brown, who was born in South Carolina and abandoned by his mother, left us in a very dramatic and poetic way. Since we must die, why not on Christmas?

"'We all remember James Brown for his great contributions in the entertainment business. His top of the chart hits "Please, Please, Please, It's a Man's Man's World, "and "Say it Loud I'm Black and I'm Proud" shaped our lives and culture.

"'James brown was an entrepreneur. He owned radio stations. He encouraged artists to become investors, not consumers. He owned his masters, challenging entertainers to be business people, not just entertainers.

"'While some put their focus on his brushes with the law, I visited him in jail. They shot up the truck, blew up the tires, and unloaded guns at him. Fortunately, the bullets did not strike him.

"'When ever he had the chance, James Brown always visited the jails. He always reached out to youth trying to make it. He was a mentor to Rev. Al Sharpton. He reached out to me. He did benefits for our movement. He was a socially conscious entertainer.

"'If James was alive today, he would be on stage today in every house in America. This week, with all the focus on the war, James Brown will be center stage. He was an opponent of war, who toured Vietnam to give our soldiers hope. It would still be classic James Brown.

"'He was the hardest working and probably the longest working man in show business. He was not sitting on a stool performing. He was still dancing. He will be the topic of discussion all over the world. When people wake up this morning, looking for gifts under their trees, they will hear about James Brown. He would have it no other way.'"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: POLITIC LIVE

From my article in this week's Vue Weekly, and from tonight's edition of THE TERRORDOME, the sad and glorious story of how local hip hop sensation Politic Live got jerked all along the way to making a phenomenal album:

"So many of history’s greatest artists reached the heights of fame because some benefactor’s bucks put them there.

"But if you fire
up the ol’ the Alternate History Scanner and search under keywords 'Accident + Error + Scam,' you can scroll for years through the millions of would’ve-been-titans who, say, dropped dead halfway through writing the manuscript that would’ve been the world’s finest novel, or the composers whose memories and symphonies were erased by the unexpected meeting of skulls and speeding doors, or the musicians whose potential greatness was terminated by the intersection of their talent and a producer’s charlatanism.

"Pore over that list long enough and you might find the name of E-Town’s finest hip hop band, Politic Live. And if they get off that list and up into the ionosphere of celebrity, it’ll be due to skill, will, a social conscience and a stunning abundance of niceness.

"Unless you’re a true E-Town hip hop head or a listener of CJSR’s Saturday night Urban Hang Suite hosted by PL’s frontman Young Mav, you may not have heard of the band. But if you’ve seen Politic Live or heard their brand-new/not new/almost-died-in-birth record Adaptation (Music for Mavericks Entertainment), then you know why these young men deserve some of the MC attention that’s mostly been going to E-Town’s Cadence Weapon. Because they--and their new album featuring guests such as Souljah Fyah’s Janaya Ellis, songstress Oozeela and MC JJ Heaven--are freaking great."

TUNE IN TONIGHT AT 6PM
MOUNTAIN TIME on
CJSR FM-88 in E-TOWN,
or on CJSR.COM on the web!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Publishers Weekly gives FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF DOCTOR BRAIN a starred review!

UPDATE: FOR WHATEVER REASON, the link to the review works sometimes and doesn't others--thanks to those of you who let me know. So I'm including the review at the end of this post. And thank you in advance to President Chavez for talking up the book at the UN.

The book will make an excellent Christmas gift, of course, even though it won't be available until the end of January. Still, you can pre-order it... I believe there's a discount for orders of one thousand or more.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review.

"Masquerading as a self-help book for superheroes, this sharp satire of caped crusaders hides a deeper critique of individual treatment versus social injustice. Faust (The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad) provides funny and knowing caricatures of the famous figures of American comic books via an extended therapy session by Dr. Eva Brain-Silverman. Analyzing their various mental hangups, Dr. Brain attempts to help heroes like irascible billionaire crime-fighter Festus Piltdown III ('Flying Squirrel') overcome the rejection of his foster ward, Tran Chi Hanh ('Chip Monk'). But African-American hero Philip Kareem Edgerton ('X-Man') resists, insisting that recent events in 'sunny Los Ditkos' are signs of a coup within F*O*O*J ('Fantastic Order of Justice') and not RNPN ('Racialized Narcissistic Projection Neurosis'). Faust's well-aimed jabs spare no super sacred cows nor many pop idols and psychobabbling media stars. Underneath the humor, careful readers will find uncomfortable parallels to real-world urban tragedies in the novel's 'July 16 Attacks,' where Faust gives a double meaning to the 'Crisis of Infinite Dearths.' (Jan. 30)"
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Kathleen Cleaver on the History and Legacy of the Black Panther Party

Kathleen Neal Cleaver is the former National Secretary of Communications for the Black Panther Party. Born in Dallas in 1945, Kathleen Neal became involved in the American human rights struggle in the 1960s.

By 1967, she went to work full-time for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, before meeting author and Black Panther Party Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver. The Black Panther Party was a revolutionary street organisation whose activities ranged from observing and confronting police during acts of brutality, to operating a Free Breakfast for Children Programme and opening medical clinics to treat inner city residents.

After marrying Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Neal Cleaver helped coordinate the Party’s national campaign to free Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton from prison. After Eldridge Cleaver was wounded in a confrontation with police and another Party member was shot to death, Eldridge fled to Cuba and then Algeria. Kathleen Neal Cleaver joined her husband and helped found the International Section of the Party before later being purged.

After returning to the US in 1975, Kathleen Cleaver became a Yale University History and Law student. Divorcing Eldridge Cleaver, who’d renounced socialism and revolution in favour of born-again Christianity and US Republicanism, Kathleen Cleaver began teaching law at Emory University in Atlanta where she is now a Senior Lecturer in Law. She has also been a visiting faculty member at Yale.

In tonight’s feature presentation, recorded November 6 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, Kathleen Cleaver discusses the significance of the Party during the Black Power movement, and of its legacy today during globalising imperialism. She focuses especially on the often overlooked role of women in the Party.

TUNE IN 6 PM MOUNTAIN TIME on CJSR FM-88 or on CJSR.COM (check the links on the right).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Two former CIA analysts on the effects of Israeli occupation

You might expect that CIA analysts, present or former, would approve of the US-funded Israeli occupation of Palestine. Read on:

"We have long played with words about this, labeling Israel's policy 'ethnocide,' meaning the attempt to destroy the Palestinians as a people with a specific ethnic identity.

"Others who dance around the subject use terms like 'politicide' or, a new invention, 'sociocide,' but neither of these terms implies the large-scale destruction of people and identity that is truly the Israeli objecti
ve.

"'Genocide'--defined by the UN Convention as the intention 'to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religi
ous group' -- most aptly describes Israel's efforts, akin to the Nazis', to erase an entire people. (See William Cook's "The Rape of Palestine," CounterPunch, January 7/8, 2006 for a discussion of what constitutes genocide.)

"In fact, it matters little what you call it, so long as it is recognized that what Israel intends and is working toward is the erasure of the Palestinian people from the Palestine landscape. Israel most likely does not care about how systematic its efforts at erasure are, or how rapidly they proceed, and in these ways it differs from the Nazis. There are no gas chambers; there is no overriding urgency. Gas chambers are not needed. A round of rockets on a residential housing complex in the middle of the night here, a few million cluster bomblets or phosphorous weapons there can, given time, easily meet the UN definition above.

"Children shot to death sitting in school classrooms here, families murdered while tilling their land there; agricultural land stripped and burned here, farmers cut off from their land there; little girls riddled with bullets here, infants beheaded by shell fire there; a little massacre here, a little starvation there; expulsion here, denial of entry and families torn apart there; dispossession is the name of the game.

"With no functioning economy, dwindling food supplies, medical supply shortages, no way to move from one area to another, no access to a capital city, no easy access to education or medical care, no civil service salaries, the people will die, the nation will die without a single gas chamber. Or so the Israelis hope.

"A major part of the Israeli scheme--apart from the outright land expropriation, national fragmentation, and killing that are designed to strangle and destroy the Palestinian people--is to so discourage the Palestinians psychologically that they will simply leave voluntarily--if they have the money--or give up in abject surrender and agree to live quietly in small enclaves under the Israeli thumb. You wonder sometimes if the Israelis are not succeeding in this bit of psychological warfare, as they are succeeding in tightening their physical stranglehold on territory in the West Bank and Gaza. Overall, we do not believe they have yet brought the Palestinians to this point of psychological surrender, although the breaking point for Palestinians appears nearer than ever before....

"Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

"Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis. They spent October 2006 in Palestine and on a speaking tour of Ireland sponsored by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

"They can be reached at kathy.bill@christison-santafe.com."


David Simon of THE WIRE on African-American viewers, characters, directors and writers

The Wire is one of my favourite television shows ever, not only because so many episodes are directed by the superb Br. Ernest Dickerson, but because the writers have woven such a complex kente of American life, particularly the suffering that silenced people experience during the era of the so-called War on Drugs.

Below is an excerpt from Slate's interview with series creator, writer and producer David Simon, whose insights into the world he depicts come from years of work as a Baltimore Sun crime reporter, and a year's "ride-along" with the Homicide unit (which formed the basis for his nonfiction masterpiece Homicide and the excellent Tom Fontana TV series of the same name, for which Simon also eventually worked as a writer and producer).

"Slate: Some of our readers have been offering up what amounts to a racialist critique of white, middle-class writers presuming to tell black ghetto stories. And in Slate's "TV Club" on The Wire, Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz touch on a question that they have been asked (and asked themselves) over the years: Can a white person honestly and accurately capture black culture?

"Simon: Well, I have a couple answers to that. On one level, I'm becoming impatient, because I feel the work has answered the question. But let me answer. The people in that room on The Wire miss certain things because we're white. I'm sure we do. We miss certain things about black life—or not entirely; we miss the subtlety that a black writer of a commensurate skill could achieve. But it is possible that there are things we catch because we are who we are—we are not necessarily of the place, and this may allow for whatever distance is necessary to see some things.

"The other thing is that I didn't ask for this gig. I got hired out of University of Maryland by the Baltimore Sun to be a crime reporter in a city that was 65 percent African-Americans. If I didn't do my best to listen to those voices, to acquire some of those voices for my storytelling, I wouldn't have been doing my job. If I'd been a higher-education reporter, maybe I wouldn't have written The Wire. But I didn't ask for the job. They gave me that beat. I wasn't after these stories. (Likewise, Ed grew up in Baltimore and, after he came back from Vietnam, he became a patrolman, and they put him in the Western District.) If we tried to tell these stories, and they were not credible, and if the voices weren't sufficiently authentic, we'd have our heads handed to us—not only by social critics and literati, but by viewers, by regular folk.

"I don't know how popular The Wire is on the Upper West Side of New York or Westwood or Des Moines. But I know that in West Baltimore, Omar can't get to the set, because we have people going nuts. Or Stringer Bell or Prop Joe. The show has an allegiance in that community. That's its own answer—not that it's popular, but that it's credible. I was just on 92Q, the hip-hop station. The call came in with someone who said, why did you kill Stringer Bell when the real Stringer Bell is still alive? And I said, oh, you mean Mr. Reed? I explained that Reed was not the real Stringer, but that we mix and match stories. But there we were, talking intimately about the history of West Baltimore drug trade as if we were talking about baseball. If it was as lamely white and unnuanced as some people claim, we'd have been found out a long time ago.

"Having said all that, the show is very conscious of trying to bring in African-American writers. I tell agents in Hollywood, don't send me scripts unless they're by African-American writers. From the moment the show was conceived, I asked David Mills to produce it with me. I would have loved to have his voice in the show—not just because he's African-American but because he can write the hell out of it. A young writer named Joy Lusco did a few episodes. Kia Corthron, the African-American playwright (Breath, Boom), penned a fine episode for us this year. We've been trying to leaven the writers' room in that way. But it's a very hard show to write, as you can imagine. It's not as if all these scripts came in from agents, and we read them and think, 'Based on this spec script from NYPD Blue, I'm confident I'll get what we need.' You're looking for people who've worked on this level before, and when you find them, you beg them to help out.

"We have done better in having an African-American hand in some of our crew departments and in directing. Nobody has directed more episodes than Ernest Dickerson—he's Spike Lee's former cinematographer. We've also broken someone: Anthony Hemingway, AD, directed our first episode last year. And now we may not be able to get him back, he's got so much work.

"It's our hope—this is a little premature—to get Spike Lee for the first episode next year. He said he was interested last year, but we had some miscommunication. His agent said he wasn't available. We are very conscious of the race disparity. We look around the room and see, oh shit, we're a bunch of white guys! But you look at what Price and Pelecanos and Lehane and Burns have done. … We're not trying to exclude in any sense, and it's not a good-old-boy network, because some of these people never met before this show."