Think Before You Tweet: Journalist Nir Rosen

Wednesday night I was watching Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN. He covered the stream of tweets of journalist Nir Rosen about the attack on CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan last Friday. Separated from her security detail and crew, she was violently attacked and sexually assaulted in Tahir Square in Cairo. Click here to see Cooper’s exchange with Nir Rosen.

I find Rosen’s “apology” disingenuous.  His callous statements about Logan outraged the Twitter community. The reaction lead to his resignation of his fellowship at New York University and non-stop back-pedalling.  You can delete incendiary posts on Twitter, but once posts get re-tweeted they have a life of their own.  Sexual assault is not funny – and I’m not buying that Rosen didn’t know about the assault since he linked to the official CBS post in his first tweet. This guy is not a jerk – he’s an ass.

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Texas: The State of the Arts

Let the sausage making begin.  The 82nd Legislative session is underway in Texas.  Governor Rick Perry announced last week that there are no “sacred cows” in a state budget that has an estimated $15 billion shortfall. In his “State of the State” address he suggested the wholesale slaughter of several state agencies including the Texas Commission on the Arts, Texas Historical Commission, Public Utility Commission, as well as dramatic cuts to public schools, state-provided health care and the consolidation of a number of state agencies.

Governor Rick Perry delivers the "State of the State" address. AP

Not on the chopping block: Perry’s own pet project: the $150 billion Texas Enterprise Fund.

Fortunately for Texas the office of Governor doesn’t wield as much power as other states.  Also, most legislators use the platform of the budget of the 2010-11 biennium and develop their recommendations using those budget figures.

On February 2, 85 cultural arts professionals visited with 76 Texas legislators during Arts Advocacy Day orchestrated by Texans for the Arts.  Investment in the arts is good business.  The cultural arts generate $4.5 billion annually in taxable sales in Texas.  There are more than 700,000 employees in Texas that work in the creative sector with an average salary of $70k.  Statistically speaking that means 1 in 15 workers in Texas are employed in creative sector jobs.  These key messages and our collective support of House and Senate Bill 1 was shared by the arts advocacy team I was part of with the genial staffs of State Representative Beverly Woolley and Sylvester Turner; and Senators Joan Huffman and John Whitmire.

We get it. We understand the current fiscal crisis in Texas and we are willing to take our share of reasoned budget cuts along with other state agencies.  That’s why we advocate the passage of House and Senate Bill 1 as they currently stand which provide for continued investment in local arts organizations. TCA has requested $14.5 million over the next two years, down from the $15.9 million it received in the last budget cycle.  TCA may lose staff members, and grant allocations may be smaller, but a reduced budget will keep Texas art organizations afloat.

So, what can you do to support the cultural arts in Texas?  With a click of your mouse, you can become a dues paying member of the Texans for the Arts, the official arts advocacy organization for Texas. Or for $30 per year you can sport a State of the Arts license plate on your car. The proceeds go directly to TCA.

Buy your car a present for $30 a year and support art in Texas.

If you can’t work in a visit to Austin, simply visit http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ to determine who is your Texas State Senator and Representative.  Then write them a letter in support of continued funding for the cultural arts in Texas.

It’s your money – share your voice on how it’s spent.

Sausage making is an art and a process and so is balancing the needs of our state.  May 30 is the official final day of the 82nd Texas Legislative Session.  So take 15 minutes, collect your thoughts and let your voice be heard.  It’s the American way.  Pass me a link.

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Context Matters. The”N”Word

Words are powerful.  In a specific context we can find words exhilarating, polarizing or inspiring. In 2011 here’s a twist on a 19th century classic: this month NewSouth Inc. will release an edited version of two of Mark Twain’s novels: the Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)  and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) in which the word “slave” is substituted for the word “nigger.” For the record, there are 219 uses of the word nigger in Huck Finn and nine in Tom Sawyer.  Most American’s collectively shun the use of the word “nigger” regardless of their ethnicity or race.  Therein lies the reasoning for the NewSouth version of Twain’s classic novels.The revised editions have been edited by Dr. Alan Gribben, a Twain scholar and University of Auburn Montgomery English professor.  Several years ago, Dr. Gribben traveled across Alabama reading Twain’s novels to audiences as part of  The Big Read, an initiative of  the National Endowment for the Arts.  The goal: to inspire people to pick up a good book.  At these sessions Gribben read the Twain novels and  substituted the word “nigger” for “slave.”  He found his audiences were relieved at the elimination of the “n” word and were able to experience the novels anew.  Talks after the sessions with educators convinced him there was a need for a version of the Twain novels that eliminated these words. So Gribben edited out the words “nigger,” “Injun” and “half-breed” in the NewSouth version of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.  His hope is that school districts across America will include these classics on their reading lists.Twain wrote his novels in the 19th century describing life and its dialect along the Mississippi River.  His characters weren’t racist – they were expressing the beliefs and attitudes widely held among the white ruling class.  To me, removing these words from Twain’s novels destroys the context in which the novels are set.  It eliminates an opportunity for educators to discuss with students the evolution of language.  Thoughtful discussions could center on the student’s views of race, identity and social mores of today contrasted with those of Twain’s Mississippians. America needs critical thinkers – and these American classics could be part of the catalyst for thinking beyond the e-notes.Twain himself defined a “classic” as “a book which people praise and don’t read.  NewSouth’s edition launches this month and it will take time to see if the edited version of the novel gains traction in classrooms across America.  If so, I consider it a lost opportunity for educators to teach context and contrast social mores and acceptable expression in 19th century America to today.

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Jerseylicious? I’m dubious.

Tanorexia. Disco Fries.  The Glam Fairy.  Yes dear friends it’s Jerseylicious, another stultifying reality television show set in my fair state, New Jersey.  After a $2 million dollar make-over, the Gatsby Salon opens it’s doors in Central Jersey to inflict 1980s style on residents of The Garden State.  “Jerseylicious” features a dizzying array of humanoids from stereotype central casting including an Italian princess; the tan party girl/make-up artist; The Glam Fairy, who orbits her own planet; and the salon’s principals, a mother/daughter team that need to make the salon hum.

Here’s a clip from the show:

The most appalling individual: Tracey, a shell of a woman who lives to make the life of her “rival” Olivia miserable. Tracy needs a daily standing appointment with one of Jersey’s best psychiatrists. And to lay off the hair spray – it’s probably affecting the firing of her neurons which may account for her psychotic behavior.

I love New Jersey. It’s unfortunate it’s become the epicenter of trashy reality tv shows, but at least these programs provide a dent in the state’s 9.9% unemployment rate. Watch the program on the Style network on Sunday nights. Then let me know what you think about the show.

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Kwanda Klothing: From South Africa to Houston

My friend Selven O’Keef Jarmon, a designer and artist has had the rare opportunity to blend his passion for design, art and community involvement as the creative director of Kwanda Klothing which is based in South Africa.  A native Houstonian, Selven began a dialogue with the South African education ministries five years ago to develop a school uniform that reflected the tribal affiliation of its students versus the wearing of a standard British style uniform.

Kwanda skirt and necklace

While that project was not realized, Selven’s discussions and contacts led to a large-scale design project which was part of a reality television make-over, Kwanda, Communities with Soul that was broadcast last year on SBC1. Currently, Jarmon is the creative director of a team of six South African fashion designers who create the Kwanda Klothing line under Jarmon’s guidance.

Kwanda beaded pin

Kwanda Klothing creates African-inspired made-to-measure garments for men and women.   The line includes flare skirts; intricate beading; square buttons and hand-dyed fabrics.  Jarmon brought samples of the collection to Houston which he unveiled at an event hosted by peel gallery.  Zoe Jackson-Jarra of Fashion Plate is representing the line in the states.  You can reach her to schedule an appointment at (713) 398-2554.   This April, Selven will return with a fashion show of this distinctive line that connects Houston to South Africa.

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Career Builder’s Super Bowl Bomb

Part of the fun of the Super Bowl is watching and critiquing the television commercials.  This year an estimated audience of 106 million viewers tuned into the Big Game.  At a reported $3.1 million per :30 second commercial this is my selection for advertising bomb of Super Sunday: the sophomoric Casual Friday commercial for Career Builder. So if you were up getting more gumbo while it aired here it is:

To select this dazzler, Career Builder, a job search site, asked its users to select among several spots created to air for the Super Bowl through their Hire My TV Ad competition.  The “winner” is the work of videographer Matt Gahan.

I can’t imagine what marketing communications objective this fulfilled for Career Builder.  Yes, it’s memorable – but what does it communicate about the value of using Career Builder to find a new work situation?  The spot is juvenile and undoubtedly does not connect with talented individuals seeking top-level management positions.  Pereversly, this commercial has been voted one of the “Top Three 2010 Super Bowl commercials.” But did it transform viewers of the commercial into users of the site? I doubt it. Monster.com anyone?

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