For the love of P-Funk
1. Website of the Week: Undercover Black Man
I’m embarrassed to say I wasn’t until recently aware of this terrific website overseen by the first-rate TV writer (NYPD Blue, Kingpin) and journalist David Mills. Mills discusses politics and music (okay, we share an obsession with George Clinton’s P-Funk, and the archives to Mills’ old fanzine ”Uncut Funk” are worth bookmarking alone). And be sure to contribute to his regular feature, ”Misidentified Black Person,” which calls out media outlets who regularly cannot, as he puts it, ”tell black people apart.” Even really famous ones. Check it out.
2. Radical Politics Are Juicy in Eat the Document, by Dana Spiotta
I just caught up with one of the best novels of 2006: Spiotta’s tale of early-’70s radicals who commit crimes in the name of revolution, go underground, build new identities, and inevitably suffer for it. This scenario has been told many times in fiction and non-fiction, but not with Spiotta’s remarkable gift for period detail and clear-eyed lack of sentimentality. Speaking of radicals, I loved the late Abbie Hoffman, but do not, as his book title has it, Steal This Book: Buy it, now.
3. Most Artful Superhero Comic of the Month: Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil
In the first part of this four-issue miniseries, writer/artist Jeff Smith has retold the origin of the classic superhero Captain Marvel, and his not-so-secret identity, the little boy Billy Batson, and in the process has done something remarkable: created a comic book that can be savored and admired by everyone from kids to the most sophisticated graphic-novel devotee.
4. Finally, Stuff to Watch on PBS
Frontline‘s ”News War” (Tues., 9 p.m.) and Independent Lens‘ ”Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes” (Tues., 10 p.m.)
As PBS continues its steady slide into utter irrelevance (my truncated advice to the network: grow a spine), Frontline remains its sole beacon of consistently adventurous programming. This week, Frontline continues its acerbic four-part examination of the mostly sorry state of the press, as it covered our entry and continued involvement in the Iraq war and our government’s resistance to allowing the press to do its job. The far more uneven Independent Lens series follows Frontline (in most markets) with a fascinating hour, exploring everything from the glorious verbal and musical creativity to the woeful misogyny and homophobia that remains hip-hop’s vexing paradox.
5. Power Pop Song of the Month, Maybe the Year: Jeff Murphy’s ”I’m a Tool for You”
From the CD Cantilever (BlackVinyl)
Murphy, one-third of the legendary Illinois power-pop trio Shoes, has released his first solo album, and begins it with this glorious instant classic, an irresistible proclamation of love, with chiming harmonies, guitars, and propulsive drumming — all played and produced by Murphy himself.