Weekend Endorsements: Old TV Shows, Torture Memos, and Football.

quadmoniker: I’m finally catching up on Homicide: Life on the Street, the NBC drama that ran from 1993 and 1999. Though it’s not The Wire, it’s based on the David Simon book (Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets) and is still pretty good. I’m a little amazed it actually ran on a network. I’ve only seen a few episodes, but so far the hokey network-necessitated sentimentality has been pretty sparse and the cynicism has been pretty steady. They pulled out the best and saddest of the book’s scenes right away, so I don’t know how it gets later on. While I’m at it, I highly recommend going back and reading the book.

slb: Around Wednesday of this week, I suddenly got into K’Naan. First, I watched two parts of an interview about his native Somalia and his take on the issue of Somalian piracy. I found him to be insightful and interesting, so I downloaded his latest album, Troubadour. Two tracks in, I knew he’d be my endorsement this weekend. I have not been able to stop listening to this album for four days. Of the fourteen tracks, there are only three I skip — and that’s very rare for me. From the first cut, “T.I.A.” to the last “People Like Me,” you’ll feel like a tourist riding the city bus through a foreign land, feeling alternately awed and humbled by all the dopeness and devastation you’re witnessing. Or else you’ll feel like a participant in a Dance-a-Thon where the proceeds benefit a fund to establish a Somalian central government. Stand-out tracks: “America” (featuring Mos Def and Chali Tuna), “Somalia,” “Fire in Freetown,” and the aforementioned “T.I.A.”

shanio: This week, I’m endorsing Tudou.com. It’s the Chinese YouTube, but better, because video clips aren’t limited to 10 minutes, and it has tons of U.S. shows available. Although I can’t read Chinese, I haven’t had any trouble typing in search terms in English.  So far I’ve watched all 7 seasons of Star Trek: Voyager, the first season of Daria (it’s criminal that that show’s not on DVD) , and I started Justice League yesterday.  The only drawbacks are the Chinese subtitles. And for those of you who want to watch current TV, or every episode of the fantastic Arrested Development, check out Hulu.com. It’s a partnership between FOX and NBC and has minimal ads. Between these two sites, I haven’t turned on my TV in months (not that I would, as I haven’t had cable in about a year).

nicholep: Ann Petry began writing short stories while fulfilling her family’s desires that she become a pharmacist. After moving to New York after her marriage, Petry felt compelled to write about the poverty she witnessed in Harlem, resulting in The Street, which landed her the distinction of becoming the first black woman writer with book sales reaching over one million copies.

In the novel, set in 1944, Lutie Johnson works as a live-in nanny and maid, leaving her husband and son behind to take care of themselves as she looks after someone else’s household. Upon discovering her husband’s infidelity, she takes her son and finds an apartment on 116th Street in Harlem and must learn how to survive the poverty, racism, sexism, and violence that has begun to nibble at the edges of her life.  Lutie’s beauty is a threat both to her employer’s wife and to herself. While searching for another career and trying to raise her son the best way she can, Lutie begins to use those same dangerously tempting assets to her advantage, with life-changing results. The delicate but forceful way Petry forces the reader to confront some thorny issues  places this novel among my favorites.

blackink12: It may seem the obvious pick this weekend, but I’m going to spend some time going through the torture memos. I’m steeling myself for the worst. Here’s a brief description from Salon’s Glenn Greenwald: “They are unbelievably ugly and grotesque and conclusively demonstrate the sadistic criminality that consumed our government.”

What’s important to remember, I think, is that the ACLU was particularly tenacious in getting the government to hand over the information. This surprised me. Not because it was the ACLU.  But because they seemingly went about this fight for basic transparency alone, without much assistance from the media or our government. The ACLU deserves our kudos. 

And when I need to cool off from that bout of light reading, I’ll turn to the season finale of VH-1’s For the Love of Ray J on Monday. I just can’t help myself. And I’m placing my bets on Cocktail.

G.D.: John Madden is calling it a career, taking his penchant for increasingly inane but occasionally still-very-enlightening color commentary with him. Yeah, we know the ledge:  a Super Bowl victory as the coach of the Raiders, Tinactin, Turducken. But his cultural import actually  goes much further: the reason football fans can sit rapt as Ron Jaworski breaks down game tape on ESPN is because of Madden’s emphasis on making the details interesting. His lending his imprimatur to the behemoth Madden Football video game franchise  took that even further:  it’s not a stretch to say that the game designers’ penchant for verisimilude has changed the way an entire generation consumes football. (I found myself watching my beloved Eagles play the Giants in the playoffs this year, wanting to change the camera angle because I couldn’t see how deep the safeties were.)  We’re much more sophisticated football fans because of it. Whenever someone (usually a girlfriend) says they don’t understand football, I would always gamely try to explain, before eventually throwing up my hands. “You should just play Madden.”



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • Steve

    Homicide was my favorite show it got a terrible friday timeslot though. The gay plot twist with the one detective toward the end was interesting…and the “subway” episode is one of the best television episodes ever made.

  • maria m

    have loved k’naan since i saw his video for soobax when i went home (kenya) for christmas a few years back. check out his first album “the dusty foot philosopher”, amazing stuff on there.

  • Jessica

    This line from nicholep jumped out at me: “Lutie’s beauty is a threat both to her employer’s wife and to herself.” I haven’t read the book you’re reviewing, but I wonder if you considered phrasing this sentence as “Her employer’s sexual harassment threatens Lutie’s safety and angers his wife.” You know, placing the blame where it belongs, since I’ve never heard of _beauty_ actually threatening anyone.

  • Grump

    Watching old episodes of Homicide makes me cry that Andre Baugher doesn’t get more respectable roles. The episode where the cops got ambushed by Steve Buschemi, and he is in the box interrogating him is classic for me! “Now, this is what the jesuits taught me about Latin…”

  • Scott

    I didn’t start watching Homicide when it very first start but become a regular fan shorty thereafter. I thought the cast was great and enjoyed the writing and the episode music.

  • blackink12

    I’m thinking of how many academic careers “Madden” laid to waste, including my own.

    But I don’t know what I would have done with all that down time in my teen years. And hell, my early 20s. It was all well worth it, I think.

  • Scott

    According to a memo discussed by the New York Times, the torture of certain al Qa’ida did in fact result in useful information. So I guess the torture was useful after all.