East of East: Using Vacant Space to Create Place in South El Monte

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[Editor's note: This article originally appeared under the Intersections column for the KCET Departures website, January 31, 2013] When the housing bubble burst in 2008, the fallout scattered widely. California and the metropolitan region of Los Angeles took it in the teeth. In Cleveland and Detroit, where unoccupied housing had long proven to be a drag on local economies and communities, vacant homes and lots accumulated rapidly. Rustbelt inner cities struggled mightily and their sprawling Sunbelt cousins endured crippling retrenchment. Phoenix, Fresno and Orlando witnessed declining economies and rising crime rates as vacant homes and lots proliferated. In "Sunburnt Cities," Tufts … [Read more...]

I’d Know Where to Find You: Art Laboe’s Charmed Life On Air

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Oldies stations are one of the most tried and true formats on the FM radio dial, seemingly ubiquitous if often absorbed subconsciously. Whether heard in the produce aisle at the local supermarket, planting an earworm for days, or while driving on the interstate through an unfamiliar city, “great hits of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, etc.” can reliably be found – or find you. Depending on the depth of a station’s playlist, a warm, nostalgic doo-wop track by the Penguins (featuring Cleve Duncan) might float past. Over the same stately chords as the Penguins’ best-known hit, “Earth Angel,” Duncan sings of lost love and happier times: “I'm all alone,/ Feeling so blue,/ Thinking about you,/ And the … [Read more...]

Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves: Best of AHA 2014, Part 2

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In part II of ToM’s AHA 2014 coverage our correspondents begin with papers on the efforts of Latin American students, workers, and rebels of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970 to use non-violent activism as a means to gain greater rights and autonomy in the face of increasingly repressive regimes.  We end with talks on media bias, conservatism, Rupert Murdoch/Fox News and the NAACP. What does it mean if we have more voices and greater diversity with those appearing in the media, but more and more of the airwaves under the control of fewer and fewer individuals? Remember, we went to the AHA so you didn’t have too.  For Part I of AHA 2014 - Bed-Stuy, The Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus … [Read more...]

When the Netflix Bingestrution Model Goes Wrong, or Why did Everyone Stop Talking about Orange is the New Black

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When Orange is the New Black first became available on Netflix, one could almost feel the wave of deserved critical praise that washed over podcasts for months afterward. It was like riding the Tidal Wave roller coaster at Six Flags Great America--exhilarating, breathtaking, and then, over.   Most critics felt obliged, rightly so, to only address the first couple episodes lest they ruin anything for those of us struggling to play catch up. “Orange burns with the kind of laughter that usually only comes after tears; it's audacious, shocking, intimate, and intense,” applauded Grantland’s TV critic Andy Greenwald. Normally a curmudgeon on the topic of the Netflix bingestrution model, … [Read more...]

Living on Noir Borders: Race, Sexuality, and Law Enforcement in Touch of Evil and Crimson Kimono

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“It has been argued that Touch of Evil is not so much the end of film noir as it is the beginning of a new kind of border film,” argued Kelly Oliver and Benigno Trigo in their 2003 work Noir Anxiety.[1] Indeed, much of the classic noir period, spanning roughly from 1941’s The Maltese Falcon to 1958’s Touch of Evil, seemed uncomfortable with borders. Racial, sexual, and moral boundaries all seemed blurred and dangerous.  However, borders change. What once might have been a space seen as problematic or dangerous can, in a short period of time, become normalized. For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, gay rights let alone same sex marriage appeared to have been located on the outer limits of … [Read more...]

Filtering Music through a ToM Lens

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"Starting with the affirmation of man/ I work myself backwards using cynicism," Mike Watt sings on the Minutemen's classic track "The Glory of Man." "I live sweat, I dream light years/ I am the tide - the rise and fall." For many of our writers individuals like Mike Watt and bands like the Shins or rap groups like Das Racist have served as a means to connect and filter our understanding of late 20th  and early 21st century culture and history. Needless to say it was a veritable red letter day when Watt tweeted at ToM regarding an article we had written about the band.  Undoubtedly, Watt remains a testament to the ethos of the hardcore punk movement—"Punk rock is an idea, not a musical … [Read more...]

Amazon and the Future of Free Media

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When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced his plans to purchase the venerable Washington Post last week, the American media were thunderstruck.  The $250 million dollar deal raised many questions: would Bezos use the newspaper as a political lever for his own, vast interests? And could the entrepreneur who revolutionized e-commerce find a way to turn around the flagging fortunes of print media, which have struggled to compete with freely available online options like blogs? Bezos seemed an apt, if ironic man for the job.  After all, his company has become a behemoth by getting books, movies and so many other goods to consumers faster, and at a lower price, than any brick-and-mortar bookstore … [Read more...]

Running the Jewels in a Government Town: Killer Mike and El-P in the Nation’s Capital

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In a city of student government types, D.C.’s general population seems awash in people who actually believed high school and college SG’s mattered, rebellion feels fairly relative. Anyone who has spent a time in the nation’s capital recognizes the countless freshly scrubbed college graduates that cling tightly to their newly won internships.  Saving the world one Xerox at a time, they tell themselves.  Raised on Aaron Sorkin like dreams of West Wing do goodery (when the reality is probably closer to the acidic and hysterical Veep), D.C.’s youth culture often reflects this dynamic. So when ATL’s Killer Mike led Saturday night’s crowd at the 9:30 Club through an impromptu battle cry of “Fuck … [Read more...]

Taking Chances on Chicago’s South Side: Acid Rap and Summer 2013

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Good God this summer’s been hot! Anyone living in the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, or Southeast knows the debilitating feeling of walking out the door to work at 8:30 A.M. only to be slapped around by 90% humidity and taunted by temperatures that rival blast furnaces at full capacity.   Despite the considerable heat produced by the weather alone, this summer’s been scalding in emotional ways.  Violence in Chicago – where over one weekend gun violence felled 21 people, five fatally – and the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman court ruling seemed to have raised emotions to their boiling points. The sweat on our collective brows joined by a cauldron of resentment and mistrust.  Undoubtedly, … [Read more...]

Modern Family: Mr. Mom and Fatherhood in the 21st Century

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“My brain is like oatmeal,” jobless auto worker Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) tells his newly employed wife Caroline (Teri Garr) in 1983’s Mr. Mom.  “I yelled at Kenny today for coloring outside the lines!”  Having lost his management position at a local Detroit auto manufacturer, Butler found himself adrift, watching over his two boys and infant daughter Megan while Caroline climbed the advertising industry ladder rising to executive as sort of comedic proto-Don Draper.  With a faux Grizzly Adams look replete with faded flannel shirt, scruffy beard, and an expanding waistline, Butler admits that his time as a stay at home dad had not gone smoothly. “Megan and I are starting to watch the same … [Read more...]

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