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ella & marilyn


tumblr_mml5zaMyMe1rnpyyeo1_1280 a great pic of two icons in their respective fields, jazz songstress ella fitzgerald & actress marilyn monroe.  here’s some background on their special bond, first via pieces of me:

I never get tired of this photo.

Ella Fitzgerald was not allowed to play at Mocambo because of her race. Then, one of Ella’s biggest fans made a telephone call that quite possibly changed the path of her career for good. Here, Ella tells the story of how Marilyn Monroe changed her life:

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt… she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

npr affiliate kplu also points out that ella influenced marilyn’s career as well:

[Y]ears prior to the Mocambo phone call, Monroe was studying the recordings of Fitzgerald. In fact, it was rumored that a vocal coach of Monroe instructed her to purchase Fitzgerald’s recordings of Gershwin music, and listen to it 100 times in a row.

Continued study of Fitzgerald actually turned Monroe into a relatively solid singer for about a decade.

related: real recognize real | bonnie greer talks about her play “marilyn and ella”


behind kanye’s mask

06/12/13 2 Comments


I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: “This is the level that things could be at.” So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities.

with the coming of yeezus a few days away, mr. west shared with nytimes’s jon caramanica his thoughts on family, the new album, motivations behind his other projects, changes in his identity, fighting restrictions, etc.  some quotables:

When your debut album, “The College Dropout” came out, the thing that people began to associate with you besides music was: Here’s someone who’s going to argue for his place in history; like, “Why am I not getting five stars?”

I think you got to make your case. Seventh grade, I wanted to be on the basketball team. I didn’t get on the team, so that summer I practiced. I was on the summer league. My team won the championship; I was the point guard. And then when I went for eighth grade, I practiced and I hit every free throw, every layup, and the next day I looked on this chart, and my name wasn’t on it. I asked the coach what’s up, and they were like, “You’re just not on it.” I was like, “But I hit every shot.” The next year — I was on the junior team when I was a freshman, that’s how good I was. But I wasn’t on my eighth-grade team, because some coach — some Grammy, some reviewer, some fashion person, some blah blah blah — they’re all the same as that coach. Where I didn’t feel that I had a position in eighth grade to scream and say, “Because I hit every one of my shots, I deserve to be on this team!” I’m letting it out on everybody who doesn’t want to give me my credit.

You look at Jay or Diddy, and I’d say like, 90 percent of the time, you think they’re having a good time. With you, I would say, I don’t know, 50-50 maybe? Or 30-70?

Maybe 90 percent of the time it looks like I’m not having a good time.

A lot happened between “Graduation” and “808s,” obviously: a lot of struggle, a lot of tough things for you. [Mr. West’s mother died in 2007.]

Creative output, you know, is just pain. I’m going to be cliché for a minute and say that great art comes from pain. But also I’d say a bigger statement than that is: Great art comes from great artists. There’s a bunch of people that are hurt that still couldn’t have made the album that was super-polarizing and redefined the sound of radio.

One of the things that you’ve thrived on over the years is sort of a self-conception as an outsider, that you’re fighting your way in. Do you still, in this moment, feel like that?

No, I don’t think I feel like that anymore. I feel like I don’t want to be inside anymore. Like, I uninvited myself.

What changed?

I think just more actual self-realization and self-belief. The longer your ‘gevity is, the more confidence you build. The idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous. But I’ve put myself in a lot of places where a vain person wouldn’t put themselves in. Like what’s vanity about wearing a kilt?

check out the full interview here.

“have you heard?”: a photo essay directed by alfred hitchcock

06/02/13 2 Comments

 "At the Friendship Cafe the manicurist tells her boyfriend: 'A customer told me today that lots of our troopships are sailing to Australia on Friday at midnight.' The shady-looking man standing next to them listens attentively. (Note bartender played by Alfred Hitchcock, center)."

scene from alfred hitchcock’s “have you heard?”

at the behest of the fdr administration & life magazine, alfred hitchcock directed a bit of wartime propaganda in the form of a photo essay.  while doing a photo essay might seem like a diversion from hitchcock’s day job, the best directors often create still moments within their motion pictures that are worthy of being displayed at a museum.  details via the july 1942 issue of life:

From Stephen Early, [White House press] secretary to President Roosevelt, recently came the suggestions that LIFE tell a picture story of wartime rumors and the damage they are liable to do. In accordance with this request, the editors asked Alfred Hitchcock, famed Hollywood movie director, to produce such a story, with LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon as his cameraman. When Mr. Hitchcock graciously agreed, a script was prepared, the director picked his characters from the ranks of movie professionals and LIFE’s Los Angeles staff, and shooting commenced in Hollywood.

Have You Heard? is the result of their cooperation in photo-dramatization. A simply sexless story, it shows how patriotic but talkative Americans pass along information, true or false, until finally deadly damage is done to their country’s war effort. One false rumor is silenced by a man who later is unwittingly responsible for starting a true rumor which ends in a great catastrophe. Moral: Keep your mouth shut.

check out “have you heard?” in the gallery below (click for captions + a closer look).  compare the project to hitchcock’s films & note any similarities/differences in style & execution.

lena horne & the tuskegee airmen

05/27/13 2 Comments


in honor of memorial day, here’s a pic of actress lena horne with the tuskegee airmen during ww2.  via vintageblackglamour:

Lena Horne with a group of Tuskegee Airmen on January 1, 1945. There are countless photos of Ms. Horne visiting Tuskegee Airmen and other military personnel to show her support for their service. She also showed her support for them by refusing to perform for segregated military audiences during World War II. Photo: Associated Press.

scrabble-inspired brain teaser

05/19/13 1 Comment


since my mom had me playing scrabble at a young age, i was naturally attracted to today’s mental exercise (via the great puzzle site the master theorem).  details via the puzzle’s creator:  

There are lots of games and puzzles that I’m into, but Scrabble tops the list of challenging ways for me to show off my hardcore anagramming skills. And what better thing to be known for?

I’ve spent hours plotting and scheming to get the very best words in the perfect spots so I can knock out my lexical opponents. My favorite way to earn points is to layer word upon word so that each of my moves actually creates a couple words at once. 

Again, I’m pretty good. How do you think you would fare against me? 

You might not want to invite me to a game of Words with Friends quite yet. 

This is today, 

take a close look at the scrabble board above (click on it for a closer look) as well as m’s message.  then, use your deductive skills to figure out the one-word answer to this puzzle.  if you need some help, look out for a hint on atolemdro’s facebook page.

more brain teasers: when shouldn’t you trust love?the stable marriage problem | see if you can solve this math square | who is right? the professor or the student? | the integer called bleen | genius logic | einstein’s riddle

director célia rivière blends animation with live action in this excellent spot for chérie 25.  the clip matches the buoyancy of elvis’ “spring fever” as it shows different parts of city life.  it’s cool.  it’s sharp.  it’s all kinds of impressive.  i only wish that the video was longer.

spring fever

04/24/13 1 Comment

“I’m playing these records. The phone rings and I pick it up: ‘WAHR’. And this lady’s voice–I can still hear her voice–she goes: ‘I want you.'” 

in an interview with esquire mag, larry king shares a funny tale of seduction from his time working late-night radio in miami.  unearthed and animated by the multimedia nonprofit blank on blank (click for the transcript).

related: muhammad ali goes to mars: the lost interview

larry king on getting seduced


common “congratulations” f/ jhene aiko & james fauntleroy

i love the cocaine 80s movement.  artists coming together to make good music.  not for pop radio or to sell light beer.  just for the “pursuit of dopeness.”  here’s the latest offering from the crew “congratulations.”  on the song, common takes listeners through the story of his boy’s wedding.  he’s backed up by vocals from jhene aiko & james fauntleroy as well as smooth production by no i.d. (spotted on his tumblr).

related: cocaine 80s “express og” ep | cocaine 80s “the pursuit” ep


not doing something wrong isn’t the same as doing something right

04/05/13 1 Comment

april, among other things, is national poetry month.  to celebrate, i will be posting more poems than usual over the next few weeks. check out this one by cristin o’keefe aptowicz (via pigmenting).  in it, the speaker tries to make sense of herself and the decisions she made about love/sex.  let me know what you think:

Not Doing Something Wrong Isn’t the Same as Doing Something Right
by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

In my defense, my forgotten breasts. In my defense, the hair
no one brushed from my face. In my defense, my hips.

Months earlier, I remembered thinking that sex was a ship retreating
on the horizon. I could do nothing but shove my feet in sand.

I missed all the things loneliness taught me: eyes that follow you
crossing a room, hands that find their home on you. To be noticed. Even.

In my defense, his hands. In my defense, his arms. In my defense,
how when we just sat listening to each other breathe, he said, This is enough.

My body was a house I had closed for the winter. It shouldn’t have been
that difficult, empty as it was. Still, I stared hard as I snapped off the lights.

My body was specter which haunted me, appearing when I stripped
in the bathroom, when I crawled into empty beds, when it rained.

My body was abandoned construction, restoration scaffolding
which became permanent. My body’s unfinished became its finished.

So in my defense, when he touched me the lights of my body came on.
In my defense, the windows were thrown open. In my defense, spring.

related: see/hear aptowicz perform some of her other work on her youtube page


i never got with the odd future wave.  love what frank is doing on the r&b front, but most of what i heard/saw from their rappers (tyler, earl, hodgy, etc.) was mostly wack and/or weird.  that said, i’m glad i gave tyler’s new video a shot.  his song “ifhy” adds some color to the gray areas of love.  visually, it reminds me of the imaginative stuff busta rhymes was doing out in the 90s (see here & here for examples & nostalgia).  on both fronts, he does a good job negotiating that subjective line between weirdness and creativity.  check it out and let me know what you think.  also on the strength of this, i’m gonna give tyler’s new album wolf a run-through (will update ya on it when i do).

update: i listened to the album.   he shows flashes of talent throughout, but it’s buried under the aforementioned weirdness too often for my taste.

video: tyler, the creator “ifhy” f/ pharrell

03/29/13 5 Comments

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