Category Archives: Culture

Listening to “Slow Burn”

IMG_8479(1)Chuck Grassley once wore a “Free Lisa Myers” button to pressure NBC in 1999 to air an interview with Juanita Broaddrick about her twenty year old allegations against Bill Clinton. It’s interesting how the search for truth regarding decades old allegations and the standards the Republican Party and their supporters choose to apply can shift so dramatically. Grassley clearly demonstrated his party’s malleable morals with his complete disinterest investigating allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, while Juanita Broaddrick openly discounted Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. But these details about recent events are not the most intriguing moments in the final episode of the second season of ‘Slow Burn.’

Episode 8, “Move On”, was a fascinating and disturbing episode from ‘Slow Burn’, one of the best podcasts around. The first season is about Watergate, the second is on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and you need to go listen to both. They’re both a shocking look into how history repeats itself, especially when those who made that history are still in power and allowed to manipulate the course of society and politics.

The first season of ‘Slow Burn’ focused on Watergate and was shocking in everything that I had never learned went on. I was born a decade after Watergate and only knew the general bullet points; the break-in, the secret tapes, Woodward and Bernstein, looming impeachment, resignation, Roach from ‘Point Break’ wearing a Nixon mask and yelling, “I am not a crook” while the Ex-Presidents rob a bank.

IMG_8481(1)Leon Neyfakh goes much farther beyond that, introducing us to Martha Mitchell and Wright Pattman, as well as the team behind the special prosecutors looking into the whole thing, and ties the events of the 1970s to what is happening today.

But where season one introduced a wealth of previously overlooked or forgotten facts, season two was fascinating in how it rewrote what I thought I knew and how the people involved have been portrayed.

It also demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Republican Party, and probably the Democrats too for that matter, and reinforces the idea that when it comes to politicians and those in power, it’s never about the crime or allegations, and it isn’t about justice for the victim or a platform for truth. It seems instead to come down to whatever is convenient to maintaining their grasp on power, even if it means Chuck Grassley has to hide his Lisa Myers button.

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Remembering Joseph Mitchell

Joseph MitchellJoseph Mitchell was born July 27, 1908 and defined the spirit of New York City with his many interviews, profiles and intimate conversations with the men and women who truly built the city, brick and soul, in the 20th century.

Like Gay Talease, Mitchell reinvented journalism and did so by giving voice to the butcher, bartender and street sweeper; invigorating working class pride and putting the true unbreakable spirit of everyday people in the pages of countless magazines and newspapers.

Listening to Remade in America

Having been a guest on former Federal prosecutor Preet Bharara’s podcast, “Stay Tuned With Preet,” Bassem Youseff decided that if Preet could get a show from Cafe, so could he.

ReMade in America with Bassem YoussefBassem was a surgeon in Egypt who, during the Arab Spring, started a YouTube series to show what was really happening on the front lines of the protests. This grew in popularity until he was offered a TV show, and that grew in popularity until he was hitting 14 million viewers a week and being called the Egyptian Jon Stewart.  And until the government decided his humor and honesty was dangerous and tried to arrest him. He tells a hilarious story while speaking with Preet about being brought in for questioning by the authorities, and as much as I laughed at this, I can’t believe someone in the government  or a member of the pro-Islamist faction that also hated him, didn’t find some reason to execute him.

That’s the shorter, less funny version of how Bassem essentially had to flee to America, so definitely go and listen to his appearance on “Stay Tuned” when Preet went live at the Apollo theater, and then check out his new podcast, “ReMade in America.”

It’s the second episode of his show that made me stop what I was doing and really listen, as it seemed to be a convergence of multiple ideas and stories that had been circling me recently. In this episode, Bassem  speaks with Baratunde Thurston about controlling your own story, your narrative, and how the United States was essentially built on destroying an entire race’s ability to do just that. As George Orwell said, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

As Baratunde begins to talk about that, about the history of slavery and the systemic, institutional racism that is the inoperable cancer of our nation, I was reminded of a passage by James Weldon Johnson that I came across the other day, that I believe comes from his book “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man”.

“…but if the Negro is so distinctly inferior, it is a strange thing to me that it takes such tremendous effort on the part of the white man to make him realize it, and to keep him in the same place into which inferior men naturally fall.” 

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