Category Archives: Headline

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Shad is the new host of Q

CBC’s Q Radio Program has been embroiled in controversy the last little while.  Ever since the fall of Jian Ghomeshi 4 months ago (as of the date of this article), it has been a whirlwind of a search to find a worthy successor.

And they have one.  A cerebral, excellent, talented rapper and interviewer.  Shad has been announced as the new permanent host of Q.

A Juno Award-winning musician who has been nominated three times for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, the performer known as Shad takes the reins of the show after CBC managers were impressed by his ease in speaking with other artists during a week-long audition as a Q guest host in late January, Shad interviewed a range of artists including cartoonist Art Spiegelman, opera star Christine Goerke, filmmaker and author Miranda July and actress Evangeline Lilly.

We here at 4080 welcome him.  While Shad has never reached the market saturation he deserves, his albums have been incredible.  He’s a critical darling, and one who is a worthy successor to such an institution.

And I leave you with Rose Garden:

Awareness Headline Music

Zion I is breaking up

Photo by Ron Henry
Photo by Ron Henry

Let me start this off by saying I have not independently verified this.  Relying on Teambackpack.net (which, if you haven’t checked them out on the web or on Facebook, you are missing out) which in turn relied on MassAppeal.com, I discovered this morning that Zion I has released what they claim to be their last project as the original duo.  The EP, Sun, Moon and Stars is 5 tracks.  An eclectic mix for an already eclectic group, it’s worth a listen (check it out below).

According to TBP, the duo is going their separate ways, but AmpLive will continue to contribute the occasional production while Zumbi continues on under the Zion I banner.  What’s unclear to me is whether Zumbi will be getting new talent in on a full time basis, or just bring in the occasional featured artist.

Awareness Headline

Reflections on Collecting

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In the course of my aimless internet nomadism, I stumbled across a reference to an essay written by Walter Benjamin on book collecting, titled “Unpacking my Library”. It’s a profound and moving piece written by someone who clearly loves books, and loves the act of collecting books even more.

I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order. I cannot march up and down their ranks to pass them in review before a friendly audience. You need not fear any of that. Instead, I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with the dust of wood, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after two years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood – it is certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation – which these books arouse in a genuine collector.

Even better is this point:

On the other hand, one of the finest memories of a collector is the moment when he rescued a book to which he might never have given a thought, much less a wishful look, because he found it lonely and abandoned on the market place and bought it to give it its freedom – the way the prince bought a beautiful slave girl in The Arabian Nights. To a book collector, you see, the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves.

You see the same is absolutely true about those who collect music. There’s something beautiful about seeing albums on your shelves, but there’s something almost equally poetic about sitting among the piles. About being surrounded by the clutter of music and liner notes and amazing cover art. About finding something in the dollar bin, or a record at a garage sale, or as an mp3 on some now-defunct message board, posted by a hopeful young musician to whom no one ever replied. The true freedom of all music is somewhere in our collections.

I’ve had it both ways. I’m fastidious about organizing my collection. I want to be able to find my music, most of the time. At one time my CD binder (yes, I had one of those massive zippered binders, and yes, I had a CD collection) was alphabetized and organized by genre. Same with my LPs. In fact, my mp3 collection is still that way. And yet many times the biggest joy I get is just setting my player on shuffle. I like the surprise. Although less tactile than what Walter Benjamin experienced, it never fails to make me smile on the subway when a song is suddenly seeing daylight again after years of darkness.

Headline Politics

Pro-Gun Arguments Are Unconvincing

The recent tragedy in Arizona has reignited the debate about the role of guns in American society. Frankly, I don’t understand the pro-gun argument; it seems wrong on several levels. Here are my thoughts on the usual pro-gun talking points, and why I think society would be better off without firearms. If you’re more familiar with this issue than I (and I bet most people are), please let me know where I’m going wrong.

Argument 1: Bad people have guns, therefore we need guns to protect ourselves

This argument is flawed for two reasons, one logical and the other practical. The first flaw is obvious: it’s called begging the question. The argument is saying, essentially, that guns are present in society, and for that reason we need guns to be present in society. Of course, this doesn’t mean the argument is wrong, it just means it’s poorly constructed.

The second flaw, then, is where the argument really falls apart. Whenever a mass shooting occurs, pro-gun people decry the fact that there weren’t more guns present. They wonder aloud about how the incident would’ve played out if only more bystanders had been packing heat. According to this fantasy, the gunman would’ve been shot almost immediately by well-armed civilians, preventing further casualties.

Reality, though, is typically far messier than fantasy. Take the Arizona shootings, which happened outside a busy supermarket with dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the immediate area. Even if only a small percentage of these bystanders had been armed, that’s still tens of people shooting at each other. How would they tell the original shooter from the others? What if an undercover or off-duty police officer was present? Wouldn’t the ensuing chaos provide perfect cover for the original shooter to escape? Friendly fire casualties still occur in modern war zones, even though soldiers wear uniforms and use sophisticated communications equipment; just think of the innocent life that might be lost from dozens of untrained, panicked and isolated civilians shooting at each other. It seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

Argument 2: The right to bear arms is in the Constitution, therefore it’s okay

Another logical flaw: slavery was in the Constitution, too, but that didn’t make it okay (I’m assuming, of course, that you’re just pro-gun and not also a racist). But besides that, my problem with this argument is that it’s inconsistent with other right wing positions (I’m conflating pro-gun people with right wing people – if you consider yourself one of the former but not of the latter, I apologize). Take for example the controversy over so-called ‘anchor babies.’ Some conservatives are pushing for a constitutional amendment to rescind the clause guaranteeing citizenship for anyone born on American soil. Why is the 14th Amendment less sacred than the Second?

Argument 3: We need guns to keep government in check

This is probably the oldest pro-gun argument, and it actually stems from debates that occurred during the writing of the Constitution (the Wikipedia article on the drafting of the Second Amendment is quite good, and well worth a read). While the right to bear arms has been entrenched in common law since the English Bill of Rights of 1689, it was included in the American Constitution for several reasons, most of which are no longer relevant in the 21st century. Nevertheless, some gun supporters argue that the Second Amendment is necessary because a well-armed citizenry is the only way to ensure the continued freedom of the people. To me, this comes across as laughably naive. I’m not saying government tyranny is a good thing, but I am saying that should the government decide to go down that road, civilians wielding guns aren’t going to stop it.

The pro-gun argument just has too many flaws. Until I read something that addresses at least one of these problems, I’m staying firmly in the anti-gun (or, more accurately, pro-gun control) camp.

Image by: esc.ape(d)

Featured Headline Politics

The Truth About Taxes in America

Taxes are a contentious thing in America, seemingly more so than in any other western country. Despite the advice of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who famously described them as the cost of civilization, Americans detest all forms of taxation – especially on income. And the idea that President Obama has raised income taxes seems to be well-entrenched on the right. After all, it fits nicely with the their understanding of Obama as a socialist (a conclusion reached long ago in Tea Party circles).

It’s a testament to the epistemic closure of the current political climate that this notion has gone unchallenged for so long. Because the truth is that Obama has in fact lowered income taxes. According to an article published yesterday on the New York Times website, since 2008, Democrats have cut taxes “by up to $400 a year for individuals and $800 for married couples.”

But no one seems to have noticed:

In a New York Times/CBS News Poll last month, fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that the Obama administration had lowered taxes for most Americans. Half of those polled said they thought that their taxes had stayed the same, a third thought that their taxes had gone up, and about a tenth said they did not know. As Thom Tillis, a Republican state representative, put it as the dinner wound down here, “This was the tax cut that fell in the woods — nobody heard it.

The article offers several reasons for why Americans may be unaware of the cuts, including rising state taxes.

And yet the Obama administration remains unfazed by the confusion. In fact, it may have designed the cuts specifically to go unnoticed (!):

Faced with evidence that people were more likely to save than spend the tax rebate checks they received during the Bush administration, the Obama administration decided to take a different tack: it arranged for less tax money to be withheld from people’s paychecks.They reasoned that people would be more likely to spend a small, recurring extra bit of money that they might not even notice, and that the quicker the money was spent, the faster it would cycle through the economy.

(Ignoring economics for a second, it’s remarkable to consider that an American president would forgo an opportunity for political gain in order to implement the correct fiscal policy.)

It’s also worth considering that income taxes remain low by historical standards. Taxes for the top income bracket are the lowest they’ve been since 1990, and are nearly three times lower than 1953 (the supposed halcyon days of unfettered capitalism and American values that Tea Partiers yearn for). Moreover, income taxes in the U.S. are lower than in most other developed economies, including Germany and the United Kingdom.

Considering this, it seems ridiculous that pundits and politicians are able to claim in all seriousness that the U.S. is slipping towards socialism. The truth is that America remains a decidedly capitalist place.

(Photo by voteprime)

Headline

Guru is in a coma!

gang starr

My goodness, this is tragic news.

According to BoingBoing, Guru (one half of the legendary Gang Starr) collapsed after an apparent heart attack.  He’s now in a coma in New York.

While it’s always an awful thing to hear, I find it especially tough because Guru (on the right in the picture at the top of this post) was a huge influence on my love for hip hop growing up.  I can’t even count the number of times I listened to the Moment of Truth album on my discman.  The news is saying that Guru’s to undergo surgery today, so keep your fingers crossed.

[UPDATE:]

Thank god.  MTV is reporting that Guru underwent surgery and is recovering.  They say:

An unnamed source told AllHipHop.com that the rapper was doing “fine” and is expected to make a full recovery. “Guru is alive and recovering from his surgery. Doctors are expecting a full recovery luckily.”

Here’s hoping.

Awareness Headline Music

99problems.org Promotes Census among Youth

Numbers Don't Lie: The Mixtape

99problems.org, the news website of The League of Young Voters Education Fund (LYVEF) – an American organization dedicated to empowering “young people nationwide to participate in the democratic process” – has launched a new “online intiative”  to educate urban youth about the importance of the 2010 Census.  According to a press release, the campaign will feature

a viral video PSA series hosted by DJ Willie Shakes (Core DJs, Star Trak’s Chester French) … [that] will enable each featured interview (sic) to give their own spin on why the 2010 Census is important to them, as well as the neighborhoods they reside in and come from, in order to reach young voters in an organic and impactful way on such a meaningful issue.

The campaign has also released a free mixtape, with cuts from Jay Electronica, Lupe Fiasco, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Joe Budden and more.  Atlhough I haven’t listened to it yet, the album’s lineup and message has certainly piqued my curiosity, and I’m looking forward to giving it a spin.  Click here to download it, courtesy of 2dopeboyz.  And scroll down to see the tracklist.

Regardless of the quality of the mixtape or the ‘viral’ PSA, it’s great to see an organization try to raise the profile of the census among young people.  The census is massively important because it informs public policy and spending at all levels of government.  Indeed, since government spending is often allocated on the basis of population, it is absolutely critical that policy makers have an accurate understanding of the population and demographics of a given community or neighbourhood.  Inaccurate census results can jeopardize funding for social programs, education and other government services.  As the LYVEF press release notes:

“The Census is so important. It decides how trillions of dollars will be spent in our community … Every 10 years young people don’t get counted because they don’t understand how important this process is. We are going make sure this doesn’t happen. We are going to meet young people where they are at, and make sure they understand how important this process is to their future.”

Numbers Don’t Lie: The Mixtape

1. Shakes Don’t Lie
2. State of Emergency – Toki Wright
3. Dollar And A Dream – J. Cole
4. Exhibit A – Jay Electronica
5. Problems In The Hood – Miss Nana
6. Wonder Why – Chip The Ripper
7. Everybody’s Nobody – XV
8. Shakes Break
9. Daisy – IB3
10. Dealings – Jay Electronica
11. Ayo – Melanie Fiona
12. I’m Beaming – Lupe Fiasco
13. Where Were You – Drake
14. One For The Money – Mr.Finley
15. All About That Money – Gucci Mane, Rick Ross
16. Numbers Don’t Lie – Yo Gotti, Lil Wayne
17. Certified Gangstas 2 – Game, Jim Jones
18. Crazy Since The 80’s – Wiz Khalifa
19. I Keep On – Joe Budden
20. Wyclef Broadcast
21. Jimmy Outro

DOWNLOAD: Numbers Don’t Lie: The Mixtape