SNL Adds Sasheer Zamata to Cast, Actress to Make January 18th Debut


It’s official, SNL has added Sasheer Zamata to their cast.

Before I get into the back and forth that resulted in her hiring and why this is a big deal I just want to take a second to say hooray!

Congratulations to Sasheer Zamata!

Have you guys heard of her? In all honesty I hadn’t prior to learning she’d been added to the cast. The Hairpin has quite an archive of her work that’s definitely worth perusing, and then of course there’s her Tumblr, and YouTube channel which I may or may not have spent a considerable amount of time on yesterday evening. Her comedy definitely incorporates a perspective that you don’t hear every day.

Case in point– her standup bit on “racist radio” (above).

There’s also the time she talked about street harassment.

In internet stalking her I learned her StepMom is white and sometimes accidentally racist, and that she intends to invent a personal racist consultant sometime in the future.

Zamata got her start through the Upright Citizens Brigade’s diversity program in 2009 and she’s been developing her craft ever since.  Here are some more fun facts from Colorlines, some more background from Slate and some thoughts from comedian Sheryl Underwood on CNN who sums up what this all means:

More chocolate on TV!

She’s joking but also not really.

For the first time in 6 years there will be a black female cast member on SNL.  What that means is we won’t have to wait for a black performer to make a guest appearance (or tolerate Kenan Thompson in a dress) in order to have content that’s representative of the rest of the world.

That’s a big deal!

Sasheer Zamata’s hilarious and I’m excited for her. I’m hopeful that SNL isn’t just placating the Internet uproar over their lack of diversity with this one symbolic gesture.  That would be an insult to Sasheer Zamata and to all of us who called them out in the first place.  I’m hopeful they’ll start to show a genuine commitment to diversity, and that even if they fail that, other programs will step up in a way that proves audiences want content that’s reflective of the rest of the world.

Our worlds are becoming increasingly complicated and integrated across all the differences. Our lives are full of complex human beings who don’t fit into check boxes.  It’s not enough to just add some color to the cast– add some color to the content.  The things that Zamata opines about in her comedy are unique to her perspective.  It’s a perspective that we haven’t heard enough of– so I hope that her hiring not only succeeds in getting more chocolate on TV but also in elevating her perspective.

To be the first in 6 years puts a ton of pressure on Sasheer Zamata to not only do well but to be perfect.

Fuck that.

Be yourself, Sasheer.

It’s gotten you this far and it will undoubtedly have us rolling in the isles come your debut on January 18th.

Good luck!

RIP James Avery: We’ll Miss You Uncle Phil

Man do I love The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

I haven’t quite relegated it to my brain basement with the rest of my childhood memories.  No, I still sing the theme song in the shower and watch episodes on television whenever I can catch them.

Part of the show’s magic to me relied on how well cast it was.  The characters were eccentric, elaborate and lovable despite the fact that they lived in a crazy big mansion and were often oblivious to how privileged they were.  Hilary was shopping all the time! Is Carlton whining again?? Ashley was the instabestfriend I hadn’t met yet and oh, Jeffery! Jeffery was hilarious with his spot-on dry humor and he was also so strong! There he goes throwing Jazz out the window again!

I wanted to grow up to be Will.  He was a good kid with a big heart, determined to figure things out on his own terms despite being forced out of his element. Aunt Viv was cool but her character always confused me (she was played by two actresses in a show that otherwise maintained character consistency in its 6 seasons on air) and of course there was Uncle Phil.

Parents just don’t understand!

Despite being short-tempered and full of lectures, he was truly looking out for his family’s best interest.  He worked hard to earn for his family and yet he was always there to listen and lecture and laugh and dance with them.  He was more than his job, and while he took Will into his home reluctantly; with time he came to love him as his own.

The development of their relationship was a testament to the acting chops of Will Smith and James Avery– and yet it was also a reflection of what was going on behind the scenes. Life long friendships were formed on that show.

Do you remember when Carlton, played by Alfonso Ribeiro, made a cameo as a cowboy extra in Will Smith’s Wild Wild West music video? How about how Will was 100% behind Tatyana Ali‘s leap into the music industry following the show’s end? They all stayed friends decades after the last episode aired.

Smith shared a photo of the cast reuniting outside a charity event as recently as 2011 and he spent this New Years Eve alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff (his Fresh Prince best friend both on and off screen) in Dubai.

Also this happened and the Internet nearly exploded!!

You see the folks of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air really and truly developed a family on that sound stage. As an avid viewer of the show, it was hard not to feel like whether they knew me or not I was part of that family, too.

When I heard that James Avery passed away yesterday at 68 years young I was, and remain, sad beyond words.

Joseph Marcell, who played the Banks’ family butler Jeffry had this to say on CNN about Avery’s long standing impact:

It was important to him that people understood that the striving of the African American ought to have been shown on television and that this was the moment, this is the moment, and he was happy with it and he strove to present an Uncle Phil that is lovable, that everybody wishes was there Uncle but who was very good at what he did.  He was a marvelous man and a truly wonderful actor and what he has done for television, for African Americans on television is unsurpassable really.

He concluded;

We loved each other…and today is the day where we celebrate our life as one of our special ones.

 
Below is a special scene from a truly remarkable television program.

We’ll miss you, Uncle Phil.

Game of Thrones: My Favorite New Thing of 2013

Warning: Slight (unspecific) spoilers ahead. Click here for more on the SNL skit above.

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, direwolves in the tundra and The Wall and gratuitous nudity, and Ygritte is so annoying and sword play and WINTER IS COMING GAME OF THRONES IS THE BEST.

The land of Westeros was by far my absolute favorite discovery of 2013.

HBO’s hit series built off of the cult following generated by George RR Martin’s popular series A Song of Ice and Fire. Widely watched– and as it turns out even more widely pirated largely due to HBO’s strict third party policy.  The show was recently dubbed the most torrented show of 2013, beating out shows like Breaking Bad which saw the series finale come and go this past year. (RIP Breaking Bad.)

I could try to summarize what GoT is about but I don’t know how to do so in a way that’s spoiler-free and does justice to the amount of magic, mayhem and absolute and perpetual badassness of Arya Stark.

Even HBO’s website for the show contains immediate and critical spoilers, don’t click on the link it will ruin everything!

As the series rounds its way into its 4th season there’s still time to catch up.

I binge-watched the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, and the first episode of season 3, just in time to catch the 2nd episode of season 3 and join the masses in waiting week to week for each new episode.

The experience has been thoroughly satisfying.

Check out some spoiler-free Game of Thrones treats courtesy of the world wide web below!

 

Game of Thrones Theme song by Break of Reality

Arya and Sansa Stark (played by Massie Williams and Sophie Turner respectively) are actually BFFs in real life! Video above via of Sophie Turner’s Instagram.

A parody video of the most awkward dinner party at Tywin Lannister’s house of all time

Enjoy and Happy New Years Everyone!!

The Power to Reach More People: Tis The Season of Twitter Storms?

Welcome to the future where your Holiday mischief and mishaps run the risk of trending on Twitter, bringing joy to the masses and/or ruin to your life.

Be warned, kids– this year and every year moving forward, Santa’s not the only one making lists.

In fact he’s joined by BuzzFeed all the time.

NOTHING IS SAFE!

From your spelling mistakes to your turkey mistakes to your brain farts– the whole world is watching.

Really.

With great power comes great responsibility so this holiday season I leave you with two examples of competing and divergent paths that you can take with your newly realized prowess.

You can harness it to bring laughter and joy to the world– vis-à-vis Steve Kardynal’s Chatroulette rendition of Mariah Carey’s classic All I want for Christmas Is You – OR you can neglect it and watch your comically insensitive and ill-worded tweet about AIDS go super viral and cost you your job vis-à-vis this:

At 10:19 a.m. ET on Friday, Justine Sacco , a PR director at InterActiveCorp (IAC), posted this tweet shortly before an 11-hour flight from London to Cape Town, South Africa.

BuzzFeed has a timeline of the events comprising the latter.  By the time Justine actually got to Africa 13 hours later her tweet (and #hasjustinelanded yet, the hashtag sparked by the tweet) was not only trending but her now former employer had already contacted the reporter who “broke the story” with a comment.

The evolution of the Tweet is truly spectacular with hashtags and what not providing us with the ability to see where and how the snowball developed. Recall that Justine’s about as famous as you and I are.  She just had a Twitter account and therefore she’s a person with the power to reach more people.  In that regard she’s no different than Chatroulette Steve.  As of this writing Steve’s Chatroulette Merry Christmas Card has already amassed over 5 million views.

If you’re reading this then you too are a person with the power to reach more people.

Yet I can’t help but feel, jokes aside  there’s something both tremendously wonderful and perpetually sad about being a person with the power to reach more people.

Mistakes happen– and this mistake cost Justine her job.  It’s funny to read about “What was she thinking!”, but can’t you also imagine a reality where her tweet was just another desperate attempt for some retweets fueled by the desire to be acknowledged? It was gross but was that part intended?

We’re all conditioned to refresh our feeds for new likes or comments or shares.  If nobody did any of those things then did they see it? Did we get noticed? Do we matter?

We hope to make a difference or a dent and we’re afforded all these tools that allow us to keep track of how big of a dent and a difference we’re actually making, in real time.

Who cares how many followers you have, you never know where it could go and how many people could see it!

We’re all people with the power to reach more people!

We want to be heard and appreciated and frankly loved and once you get there the maintenance required is exhausting!

If a tragedy occurs and you don’t acknowledge it or say something uplifting and sincere– does it make you less sympathetic, empathetic and a part of the process of mourning that tragedy?  If a Holiday comes and you don’t extend your warmest wishes to all your followers, friends and fans,  does it make them any less in your thoughts and hopes and prayers? If you don’t participate in celebrating or opining or piling on to the latest twitter hashtag then does that make you any less present in the world?

We try to “unplug” when we’re with our friends and families, but even then our cell phones are just an arms reach away from capturing the next viral Instagram picture or a stranger away from live tweeting the latest holiday debacle.  We might even resort to outright making shit up with only the slightest chance of internet fame as incentive.

Asinine things happen on the Internet every day,  but every once in a while a thing will result in a THING which will result in a book deal.  Same goes for random acts of kindness and attempts at capturing and sharing magic.

If it’s not retweeted dozens of times does it even matter?

Did it even happen!?

Welcome to the future.

Louis CK (aka one of my favorite human beings on the planet) had this to say about cell phones earlier this year and it feels particularly applicable:

 

 

You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something- that’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. Like this. That’s being a person, right? No one can- ugh- they’ve gotta check because underneath everything in your life there’s that thing that empty, forever empty. You know what I’m talking about?  Just that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re a lone, it’s down there.  And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching it, you’re in your car and it starts to visit on you- just this sadness.  Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it.  And so you’re driving and then you go uhhh- that’s why we text and drive.  I look around and pretty much 100% of people are texting and everybody’s murdering everyone with their cars.  But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be a lone for a second.

 

He goes on to say that sadness is poetic, that you’re lucky to feel sad.

Not everybody is having a  joyous holiday season.  Shit happens and sometimes it feels better to just be online and not be alone with our own shit.  That said, I can’t help but feel the over saturation of shit everywhere contributes to that dynamic.  Simple things are taken for granted.  Simple pleasures.  You can’t just enjoy a moment for yourself.  Quiet moments force us to face ourselves– so we gift wrap our lives and continuously give the specifics to strangers and friends a like.

Did they like it?

Oh good, they liked it!

Unless they don’t.  Unless a post goes unshared and a joke goes unretweeted.  Then what?

I’m not sure what I think about any of this beyond knowing that I’m guilty of participating in it.

It feels good when lots of people like and comment but then that good feeling comes from something outward.

Perhaps having the power to reach more people renders us powerless in some ways. Perhaps it ensures that we’re all at the whims of each other. If that’s the case, then perhaps we could try a little harder to be good to each other.  Maybe we could even do it offline.

Additionally, maybe this Holiday season we might all try a little harder to just appreciate the feelings that come with living and breathing and being human.  To appreciate our moments without turning them all into a spectacle.

But then again, what do I know.

What do you think?

Feel free to sound off with your thoughts in the comments.

(Or not!)

Joan Jett To SeaWorld: Cease and Desist on “I Love Rock N Roll”

Vegetarian bad girl rocker Joan Jett has served SeaWorld with a cease and desist order over what she claims is the unauthorized use of her signature hit, “I Love Rock N Roll”, the song which kickstarted her solo career after the Runaways broke up. Gothamist reports that PETA member Jett, in an open letter to SeaWorld president Jim Atchison, wrote:

I was surprised and upset to see on YouTube that SeaWorld used ‘I Love Rock ‘n Roll’ as the opening music for its cruel and abusive ‘Shamu Rocks’ show. I’m among the millions who saw Blackfish and am sickened that my music was blasted without my permission at sound-sensitive marine mammals. These intelligent and feeling creatures communicate by sonar and are driven crazy in the tiny tanks in which they are confined. If I don’t receive written confirmation that SeaWorld will cease and desist from using any Joan Jett & the Blackhearts music, I will be forced to take further action, and you’ll find me among the PETA protesters outside your parks. SeaWorld’s reliance on cruelty and captivity for commerce has been widely exposed. I hope you’ll take the respectable path and release the captive orcas to coastal sanctuaries so that they can live out their lives with other orcas in nature. This move would show that your company is truly family-friendly. This message is not a complete statement of my rights and remedies, all of which are expressly reserved.

It’s Blackfish backlash. The film, which documents what former trainers call abusive treatment of orcas, has raised awareness of SeaWorld and other marine parks’ practices. Gothamist reports that since the film’s release, Heart, Willie Nelson, and Barenaked Ladies all canceled their upcoming shows at Sea World’s Orlando park. Last year Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee already prohibited SeaWorld from using the band’s songs in the “Shamu Rocks” show.

Here’s Jett playing two more of her hits live this year at the San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Don’t expect to see her ever at San Diego’s SeaWorld–unless it’s outside protesting.

(more…)

Heavy Metal in Latin: Arxplendida, Swiss Entry to Eurovision Song Contest

Latin nerds and metal heads may clash in the schoolyard, but damn, they rock in combo.

With metal gaining acceptance in the Eurovision Song Contest–Azerbaijan’s debut ESC 2008 entry is legendary, and Latin having been the reigning language back in ye olde olden days, well, it was only a matter of time before some metal band made a Eurovision-centric entry in Latin. Though part of the goal of Eurovision seems to be to not win because the winning country has to host the following year, some countries still take ESC pretty seriously.

The German Swiss entry, Arxplendida, with their song “Mercurii Diei” takes on the absurdity of Eurovision: Dorky national costume jackets and matching neckties;  super square haircuts; soaring metal vocals set against tragic green screen stock footage of farms, forests, and abandoned buildings; and a Eurovision nod in the lyrics. In Latin that looks and sounds super metal, and reflects in translation to German (and then into English) a contemporary slacker ennui. The band sees themselves as underdogs, commenting in the lyrics that they didn’t  do so well on Swiss Idol and were told they had no chance at Eurovision. However fans disagreed, and Arxplendida was voted into ESC.

Mercurii diei

Hebdomada miserrima fuit, nihil bene evenit.
Primum adamata me dimisit.
Tum locator me domo eiecit.
canis crus vicini mordicus paene abstulit.

Nunc est vesper Mercurii diei et nihil animum sollicitat,
Cum ad mensam nostram sedens cum amicis cervesiam poto.
Si mane corpus ad officia explenda non est paratum,
nihil interest. Talis enim est vesper operae pretium.

The week was a scream, it worked absolutely nothing,
At first I was thoroughly polished off [by]my girlfriend.
The landlord has kicked me out on it out of the apartment
And the neighbor’s dog has almost bitten off my left leg.

But today is Wednesday night and I whistle it,
If I on the trunk with my friends a beer sauf.
And if the body in the morning the service denied
That does not matter, such an evening is worth it.

Punk Rock Hero Johnny Rotten Malibu Home Sold: Asking Price $1.995 Million

 

Is punk rock dead because Johnny Rotten sold his  four bedroom, three bathroom Malibu home with beach rights at around the asking price just under $2 million?  It was listed as

Needs TLC, sold as-is

which sounds pretty punk rock. Judging from the photos of the interior, Rotten–who has gone by his birth name John Lydon for decades–and his wife, German heiress Nora Forster, may want to hire an interior designer for the next home. Seriously disappointing style. If  meant to be hipster ironic, it missed the mark. The house itself, minus the fixer caveat, sounds pretty nice:

It comes with a pool, beach rights, a big deck, pool with waterfall and spa, pool bar, cabana/gym, fruit trees, and two-car garage plus parking for four more.

I actually like it when punk rockers do well. It’s not selling out, it’s making the most of what you do, and it’s better than starving. Lydon has created great music and has had some fun with image as well, like in this  butter commercial, which helped reunite PIL and get a new album out. But again, John, please consider some decorating help!

Banksy: Walmart Selling Ripoffs, Mislabeled Street Art. So Are Amazon, Other Mega-Retailers

Walmart is selling copies of Banksy. Unauthorized copies of Banksy for anywhere from $26.87 to $868.99 if you want it super-sized. And yes these, like the Banksys you can get on eBay are not official Banksy art, which makes them not really worthless or valuable. But this is not one Banksy’s pranks.  Jo Brooks, Banksy’s publicist told LAist:

The Banksy canvases you showed me are counterfeit reproductions and we are currently dealing with Walmart about them.

Walmart appears to simply list these prints which are actually sold and shipped from other websites like Wayfair.com and PlumStruck; and those sites, which sell the pieces for the same price as Walmart, don’t reveal where they get the work. But wherever it’s from, it’s not authorized by the artist. Now granted, Walmart or any retailer could sell a picture that you or I took of a Banksy, but they couldn’t say it was art by Banksy, instead it’s a photo by me or by you of a Banksy. But that isn’t what’s being done.

And some of the images aren’t even Banksy! There’s a Mr. Brainwash, Life is Beautiful, that’s identified as Banksy (and apparently being sold through Walmart without the artist’s permission). And Eddie Colla–whose artwork stenciled with

If you want to achieve greatness stop asking for permission

and mislabeled as a Banksy is being sold (without permission) through Walmart–told L.A. Taco exactly how he he felt about mega-Borg-mart selling his art

I made a piece about individuals controlling their own fate and not making their success contingent on the approval of others. It then gets adopted by a neo-feudal corporation like Walmart. A corporation whose employment practices have created a 2 million person underclass in this country. That’s where this becomes an issue of conviction…Walmart is right there on the wrong side of history. As far as the Banksy thing, that’s just ignorance. It’s common when a group of people try to cash in on something they know little or nothing about. All they see is an opportunity to exploit something and make some money. They see a stencil and call it a Banksy.

Colla took matters into his own hands, creating a new print mocking Walmart with the words

It’s Only Stealing If You Get Caught

The print run is sold out. Colla’s original If you want to achieve greatness… is also being sold by Amazon as a Banksy.

Amazon and eBay both have lots of “Banksy” available, so this is a large problem of artists’ work being appropriated stolen and sold though online retailers who either have no clue or don’t care.


One is Banksy, one isn’t.

This is Mr. Brainwash:

These are Eddie Colla:


Eddie Colla says:

Walmart waves American Flags, kowtows to a hypocritical right wing Christian ideology but that’s merely a marketing strategy. If Walmart actually believed in any part of that ridiculous rhetoric they would certainly never put work by an artist like me in their stores.

 Art geek side note: The term “rip off” comes from the turn of the 19th century when posters would be slapped up to advertise operas, plays, circuses and the like. Crooks would follow behind the postering crews and literally “rip off” the posters from the walls, either to sell or because they worked for rival productions.

Racism Is Not Over, Bob Dylan Getting Sued

Yesterday, the Republican National Committee sought to honor the memory of Rosa Parks with a tweet which read:

Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in ending racism.

While the mistake inspired its own hashtag #RacismEndedWhen, a collective Scooby Doo “EURP?” from the vast majority of Americans, and a correction– it also likely comes as news to Bob Dylan who is currently being sued in France for “racist” remarks made in a September 2012 Rolling Stone interview.

The remarks in question- when considered in light of the RNC’s gaffe and recent reports indicating Americans don’t trust each other anymore- offer insight into the messed up priorities of “post-racial” America.

During Dylan’s Rolling Stone interview he was asked to draw parallels between America today and America in the 1860s to which he said:

Mmm, I don’t know how to put it. It’s like . . . the United States burned and destroyed itself for the sake of slavery. The USA wouldn’t give it up. It had to be grinded out. The whole system had to be ripped out with force. A lot of killing. What, like, 500,000 people? A lot of destruction to end slavery. And that’s what it really was all about.

This country is just too f***** up about color. It’s a distraction. People at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back – or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery – that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.

It’s doubtful that America’s ever going to get rid of that stigmatization. It’s a country founded on the backs of slaves. You know what I mean? Because it goes way back. It’s the root cause. If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today. Whoever invented the idea “lost cause . . . .” There’s nothing heroic about any lost cause. No such thing, though there are people who still believe it.

The bolded portion above, specifically the reference to Serbs and Croats, two groups with a long-standing and bloody conflict, is the basis of the lawsuit filed in December of 2012 in France by a Croatian Community Center.  Europe’s strict free-speech laws are such that Dylan can be sued and fined if charged despite not being a citizen of France.

Now I’ll admit, Dylan’s sentiments are a bit cringeworthy, but it’s important to remember that despite being a huge proponent of the Civil Rights Movement he remains a man of that era.  You don’t call people “blacks” anymore and the concept of one group being able to sniff out another group’s blood is “poetic”, sure, but also pretty cynical.

What it isn’t is racist.

Racism isn’t over.

We’re far from the point of being “post-racial” in part because there’s a perpetual sense of distrust hanging over all of our rhetoric, as well as an instinct to call lots of things racist.  I don’t think Bob Dylan meant to say something disparaging of Croats.  And while the RNC is definitely responsible for advocating on behalf of policies that are harmful to people of color, I don’t think their Rosa Parks tweet was intentionally striving to fan the flames.

That doesn’t stop everyone from being on edge, and while public shamming has its place, what does it accomplish?

We don’t trust each other to the point where it’s reflected in our rhetoric and by what dominates our attention.  Controversy sells!  How often do good things get covered?  To what scale?  We’re inundated with the sideshow in a circus with no main act.

What do we actually stand for?

GoldieBlox Backs Down, Withdraws Beastie Boys Lawsuit

GoldieBlox withdrew their preemptive Fair Use lawsuit against the Beastie Boys.  That was a smart move, since the odds were not looking good for the Silicon Valley toy company: They had used the band’s name as well as their music without permission, and had in an earlier video, used Queen’s “We are the Champions” and the Toys “R” Us name without permission. The “Girls” ad went megaviral, but GoldieBlox had never asked for permission to use the song, even in parody form, figuring they could just call it a “parody” and get away with it Because GoldieBlox is all cool and new hip and copyright is for old people and The Man who is keeping us down. Neener.

What they didn’t realize, but a simple Google search would have shown, is that they had gone against the dying wishes of Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch who had hand-written a clause in his will that none of his music, likeness, or art be used in ads.  GoldieBlox looked like self-entitled, selfish brats, so they pulled the music and wrote an apology, in which GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling said

We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans.

quite a different tune from their preemptive lawsuit which called the song

sexist

They company claims it didn’t realize that Yauch had made a pre-death legal standing regarding his music, and that the surviving Beastie Boys supported and endorsed Yauch’s wishes.  Of course that doesn’t absolve GoldieBlox from their conscious and willful appropriation of the band’s music; and that then when approached by the band’s attorneys with a query letter, they went on the offensive, smacking back with the lawsuit claiming Fair Use.

The video now has a new music, and the Beastie Boys name has been taken off the video. But the bad taste over how this company behaved still lingers.

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