Archive for the 'Profiles & Interviews & Reviews' Category
Tuesday, May 5th, 2009
While visiting a friend in Highlands Ranch, Colorado I discovered that Denver now has a restaurant that serves Indian style bread. No, not Naan. That bread is baked by dot heads from the Far East. It’s good too, but the bread I speak of is that sinfully greasy kind made by North American Indians who enjoy a good greasy piece of bread top with various, and equally greasy (or sugary & spicy) ingredients like honey and powdered sugar, choke cherry preserves, roasted buffalo meat, green chilies and pinto beans to name but a few. The Denver Westword had a lengthy review of the restaurant with a cultural overview of Indian style fry bread.
Reading this rhapsodic review (written by a white dude, of course) I had flash backs to my first piece of fry bread. It truly is one of those food experiences that sticks in your memory as much as it does to your ass or thighs. You never forget your first time. My first time occurred in 1998. I was visiting a friend who lived in Tempe, Arizona. We decided to drive down to Tuscon to visit her childhood friend and check out an old Catholic Mission that was built on one of the Indian Reservations. She knew I was really into Ecclesiastical Art especially the baroque bloodiness of Catholic missions with all their crazy statuary and white candles.
When we arrived at the mission we were pretty much drunk. And hungry. Fortunately there was a taco stand set up just right of the mission gift shop (of course there was a gift shop!). I sauntered over thinking the old guy sitting under the awning was a Mexican who’d set me up with some Tacos Arabes drenched in sirrachi sauce. I was wrong. It was an ancient looking Indian guy who didn’t budge from his folding chair when I approached. In fact he didn’t even look at me. Instead a strikingly tall man/woman (I couldn’t figure which and still don’t know) popped out from behind a Ford truck parked behind the makeshift stand to ask me how I wanted my fry bread. It actually whispered the question. I had to ask several times to repeat his/her question, “How would you like your fry bread?”
“Fry Bread? What the hell is fry bread? I thought this was a taco stand?”
S/he didn’t respond to my query merely slapped the dough onto the hubcap/grill removing it once it had puffed into a golden halo of yumminess. Holding it aloft on a paper napkin s/he gestured to a shaker of powdered sugar. Not understanding I had options (the meats and chilies hidden from view behind the plywood counter) I nodded “Yes.” She doused that fucker good. I gave her my buck fifty and walked off to see the gory alters inside the iglesia.
Holy fuck! That church was beautiful. A visual feast for the senses but that fry bread was orgasmic. My taste buds were having multiple orgasms. I’m positive I was drooling. I had to have more. And, I did. I’m greedy like that. When something is that mind blowingly good – one is never enough. So I had four more. One with chokecherry jelly. One with honey. One with pintos and green chillies and another with powered sugar. Then I started to feel sick. The Dude-Lady seemed amused by my fry bread fixation knowing full well too much of a good thing has it’s consequences, like diabetes, or diarrhea, but s/he did not refuse me service.
I actually went back for the fifth go round but the Indians had vanished. I never had fry bread again – until recently. After a spring snowstorm kept me inside three of my seven day visit to the Denver area I ventured out to find the new American Indian eatery. My friends and I arrived ten minutes before it opened. We, and a growing group of other fry bread enthusiasts, hung around the front entrance impatiently. Once the door was opened we shuffled to the front counter, set up cafeteria style, where you select the freshly made ingredients to be added to your fresh piece of fry bread.
As many of you know fry bread can be eaten in many different ways: as a dessert, as a main course a la pizza, as a sandwich, etc. I started with a traditional taco topped with black beans, buffalo meat, tomatoes and this excellent Osage style salsa. For those who have never had an “Indian Taco” it really is a hand and gullet full. I can’t imagine eating more than one but that didn’t stop me from ordering one as a dessert topped with honey and powdered sugar. Thankfully my companions helped me eat it; gone are the days when I could eat four at a time! Though no new experience is ever as good as the first the fry bread at Tocabe did not disappoint. So if you’re ever in the Denver Metro area stop in and support this Native owned establishment.
Check out this video to see how Ben Jacobs and Matt Chandra make their bread; then visit Tocabe’s website here: Tocabe, An American Indian Eatery.
All images and video copyright: Maria Colon
Monday, January 12th, 2009
Silver Summit Girls/Photo: M Colon
Silver Summit is a Brooklyn based Prog-folk band founded by musician/friends David Shawn Bosler and Sondra Son-Odeon. They’ve been playing around the NYC area in support of their recent self-titled release on Drag City records with an extended back up band that includes The Dust Dive’s Laura Ortman
Their most recent, and last gig in NYC for 2008, was in support of Vetiver (an unimaginative hippy band) at Le Poisson Rouge down on Bleeker Street near Washington Square Park. Certainly, not a bad spot for live music. The acoustics were fantastic, the bar had a few decent brews, and the floor was big enough to hold a sizable crowd but remained an intimate atmosphere.
Clearly Silver Summit have fans because when I arrived the venue was pretty well packed though not as patchouli suffocating as it would become once Vetiver went on at 11 P.M. Their music calls to mind Mazzy Star mixed with L.A.’s War Paint as all three combine an ethereal vocal affect with dissonant string instrumentation. The exception is that Silver Summit isn’t as droning as Mazzy, less hipster than War Paint, and more musically skilled than either one of those bands. In fact, one thing is for sure, the musicians in Silver Summit are actually, you know, musicians rather than ingénues
with high profile musician boyfriends. Still, there is a common thread in regards to their sound, style, and vocal affect.
The best description I could come up with was that there was a feeling of ennui in singer Sondra Son-Odeon’s vocals that was probably unintentional or perhaps the ennui was on my part and I was just projecting? But an especially ennui-tinged tune was In-Between Place – though a rousing hand- clapper of a tune, it had the potential to instill a feeling of over-whelming melancholia with it’s repeated refrain of we are a dying tribe. Either way, the effect lent itself to immediate self-reflection, like a moody soundtrack to a profoundly mundane existence in which every attempt at self-actualization meets with minimal success, but some minimal success nonetheless.All in all, Silver Summit was the highlight of the night, and probably should have been the headliner rather than Vetiver (blech!) with their hippie, pseudo-soul blues intonations.
Silver Summit will begin a two-week tour of the West Coast January 15th in support of Wovenhand. Check out their Myspace page for dates. If you happen to be in the area you check them out. They really are a great live band, not to mention, the hot chick quotient is pretty high . So if you dig actual talent in a female form this band is for you. Oh yeah, there are two dudes in the band as well, but they don’t look as good in skirts, dresses and sparkly wear.
Thursday, December 11th, 2008
Mofongo, con carne frita: Your ass just got fat!
Mah gootness, I am having way too much fun being unemployed in New York City!
I was stressing out about finances but now realize the vast potential of sitting on my ass reading other people’s blogs all day because then I can comment on them here on Longviews. As stated elsewhere we have decided to play linksies, the blogosphere’s version of footsies, with Newspaper Rock – a subsidiary of Rob Schmidt’s long standing Blue Corn Comics website. Evidently that guy has plenty of time to comb the ‘Net for any ole thing related to Indians and their crossing of culture shananigans.
Being that I am Boricua I found this news item of particular interest Oneida/Puerto Rican Restaurant
Seems Tamar Cornelius, Oneida, had her a nice little vacay en el Isla del Encanto and got all encantada with the mofongo. She’s also engaged to a Papì Chulo who has the same last name as me! OMG, OMG, OMG could we be related?! If so, would I get a discount on the roast pork cracklings with famed P.R. delicacy – mayonaise and Thousand Island Dressing dipping sauce?! Chances are pretty slim ’cause Puerto Ricans are notoriously stingy and even worse restaurant owners!
Actually I am shocked to hear anyone not visiting the island due to family obligations say they enjoyed the local cuisine. Surely she must have got a taste of home cooking from her fiance’s abuelita’s crib ’cause I know from experience if she went to a restaurant they damn sure didn’t serve her anything that miraculous. Moreover, they probably took her plate away, half full insisting her ass was done, and to pay up and jet ’cause the waitstaff got better things to do than serve paying customers. Like, yo, stand around waiting for more customers to not pay attention to and/or rush them out of the restuarant but also insisting on a good tip. You can see I have had some bitter experiences, can’t you?
Try and rush me…got food still on the fork, mid-bite, carajo!
Tamar goes on to relate how her benign tribe helped her out with a loan so she could bring some flavor to an otherwise flavorless Green Bay Wisconsin. I have been to Green Bay, yo…trust me…flavorless. Anyway, I was doubly shocked to read that shizz ’cause ery’body knows you do not lend money to Puerto Ricans, and since she’s about to hitch up with one, that counts her in. I mean, fo real, you will see that cheddar go up in a firey liquid not unlike flambed’ bananas of the plantain variety, muy maduro, you can bet! But damn, it makes me sad cause like after I read that bit I was like, “Damn, see? That’s why the Indians got shafted by the man?! They are too damn trusting and/or they like to gamble too damn much!”
‘Cause seriously, a Puerto Rican restaurant run by an Oneida Indian is like a bingo hall run by a Pakistani, it ain’t gonna amount to much. No wait, yeah if the Pakistani ran the bingo hall it would make a profit. Scratch that! If the bingo hall was run by a Puerto Rican it damn straight wouldn’t net a dime, but the place would be bouncin’ with the rum flowin’ and the dice rollin’ and the booty girls with big hoop earrings bouncin’ to J Lo screamin’ “Por dios, caray, I said muthafuckin’ Jota Siete.” And then someone would go berserk throwing over the long banquette table shrieking, “Bizz-Ningo Biotches!”
The shit would be off the chain, yo, but make money? Fuck nah, but it’d be hella fun for a month or two.
Another thing Ms. Oneida mentioned was a “surprisingly strong Oneida/Puerto Rican connection.” Seriously?
What might this “surprisingly strong” connection be other than a love of deep fried pork chops, in Lard no less, and salty pork roast? In fact, Puerto Ricans have a near pathological (surprisingly strong?) love of pork. So this might be what she’s talking about cause damn the Ricans love some pork! On the other hand, Puerto Rican men are known to be saavy (but swift) lovers, gettin’ all initmated with every nook and cranny of a woman’s frame. To prove it Ms. Oneida already gave birth to her first mini J Lo! See? Swift, yo!
Whatever the case may be their little casita de cosina quisqueya saw a boom in business within a week of being open. Good for them! However that was back in late September when this news item first appeared. It’s December and we’re in the middle of an economic crisis. I’m feeling skeptical about their financial prospects right about now. I mean, it’s hard times everywhere and Green Bay is kinda vanilla, if you know what I mean. People there may not readily turn to an extra large order of mofongo in a time of crisis, not like they would here in my neighborhood, but you never know? Maybe that surprisingly strong connection Tamar feels exists between Oneida people and Boricuas is a mutual love of greasy comfort food and ferocious family bonds, especially in dire straits. Let’s hope, at this time of year, they are getting extra helpings of both.
Incidentally, who is Indian and who is not is always a topic of debate at Newspaper Rock. I wonder what they’d say about Tamar’s baby girl, Galilea? Is she Indian or Puerto Rican? Will it depend on what she looks like when she gets older? Boricuas tend to be swarthy and dark skinned, you know, with some kinky hairs! Will it depend on what she looks like or whether she qualifies by blood to enroll in her mother’s tribe? Or will it depend on how she views herself within both cultures? If so, does she then have to choose one or the other? If not than how will both co-exist within her own subjective narrative? On the other hand what if she doesn’t want them to co-exist? What if she rejects her Indianness opting to identify solely as a Puerto Rican?
My god, I hope she doesn’t do that! Ain’t no good financial aid benefits for Puerto Ricans. She better stick to being Indian. It’s a hella lot better financial and cultural choice!
Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Self Portrait, Fritz Scholder, NMAI NYC.
Our friend at Newspaper Rock found a review of this two part exhibition curated for both locations – NYC and D.C. – in the Washington Post. While reporter Phillip Kennicott raises some interesting points about Scholder’s Indian paintings I think he unfairly dismissed poignant aspects of Scholder’s “New York” work which was decidedly “non Indian,” but Indian in that Scholder was undeniably an Indian. I have only seen the exhibition here in New York, which also features the video documentary mentioned in the Post article, that focuses on his 80s and 90s works. These included large abstract self portraits, creepy bronze statues of partly human/partly demon figures and paintings of some rather frightening looking women. It is these images I am most drawn to because they belie a fearful self loathing that is emotionally grasping. Almost embarrassing in their open expression of a desire to be desired yet also rejecting in a hyper-conscious analytically distant way.
Kennicott labeled these works “empty and incompetent,” as if Scholder had “spent himself” as an artist. Yet at the same time he points to the double (maybe triple) bind of making art as an Indian that is not Indian art yet being an Indian who rejected his Indian identity perhaps made him a better conduit for creating stereotype shattering images of Indians. Frankly I think his criticisms are a tad thin, maybe even racist, in that he laments the fact Indian artists who make Indian art are inevitably stuck in that rut yet when Scholder broke from making “Indian art” his work was dismissed, derided by Kennicott himself as “infantile in execution.”
It certainly was a no win game for Scholder who derisively noted that “art was the best racket around!” Well, I guess it would have been for someone who was celebrated as the Indian artist making Indian art – ultimately to be rejected once he decided as an artist to move on from a subject he was no longer interested in. Because, you know, artists don’t have a wide array of artistic impulses or emotions or ideas that they want to work through. Gimme a break!
Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
Dr. McMaster at the podium
A few weeks ago I made my way down to the National Museum of the American Indian where First Nations scholar and art curator Gerald McMaster reenacted the multi media presentation originally commission by the trailblazing imagineNATIVE film and media arts festival out of Ontario Canada. I missed it back in Toronto so I was pleased to see he was re-presenting here in New York City.
A still from Nanook of the North
A still from a Zacharias Kunuk film
The presentation was an historical overview that spoke to the performative, and quite perverse, nature of reenacting indigenous history for commercial entertainment. McMaster took us through the careerist strategies of painter George Caitlin, who recreated his many Indian paintings with a live show he took on the road to Europe, and William F 'Buffalo Bill' Cody, who product the long lasting 'Wild West' frontier show and wisely employed the likes of real live 'wild Indians of the Plains' such as Sitting Bull and many others who actually participated in Custer's demise. To be sure Buffalo Bill made heap big bucks off his all-Indian cast. The most pressing point McMaster's made, however, was that this reenacting of Indian history began in earnest at a time when the native people of North America were suffering under relocation and education policies that would see them further dispossessed of their tribal identities, and he pondered as to why the Native people would want to participate in what amounted to a parody at all.It was a point well made by his use of archival film footage of two seminal works that have echoed throughout the years: Edward S Curtis' In the Land of the Headhunters and Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North. He then juxtaposed the way in which contemporary indigenous artists have mined reenactments to humorous, and sometimes histrionic effect, with non-Native contemporary artists who seem merely to (un)ironically, certainly not humorously, recreate genre portraits and landscape made famous by Caitlin and Curtis. To do so he used Native artists such as Kent Monkman, Dustinn Craig, Terrance Houle, and James Luna contrasted with Andrea Robbins and Max Bescher, Orlan, and Edie Winogrand. If you can tell I am no fan of the non-Native artists listed, except Orlan’s plastic surgery series – please do Google her and see why for yourself!
Though the auditorium was far from packed it was certainly a decent turn out. I was there not only to report for NAICA’s Longviews blog, but also to write for Current – the New York Foundation for the Art’s online magazine. You can check that essay out here: NYFA Current
If you are an artist living in New York state it is a seminal resource for grants, job and exhibition opportunities. You should become a member, which is free, by registering online.
Monday, November 17th, 2008
On Friday night, November 14th, at the American Museum of Natural History here in the NYC the Margaret Mead Film Festival began it’s program with a screening of a restored print of controversial photographer Edward S Curtis’ In the Land of the Head Hunters. The film was accompanied by an all-indigenous live orchestra put together by violinist, Laura Ortman.
A slide show and opening presentation by the descendants of the original cast preceded the screening. It was quite touching to hear the positive words of the current chief of the Kwakwakaa’wakw people who were Curtis’ collaborators in the film. He expressed gratitude for the film’s resurrection and the exhibition to a near capacity crowd in New York City. I was surprised to hear him say as much considering many believe, myself included, that Curtis’ work with the native people of North America was exploitative. However if you could see your great great uncle when he was a young strappin’ man dancing around a prayer fire in a vintage print, even if a jingoistic quasi-racist white man made it, I guess you’d have a different opinion.
As an interested observer, especially of narrative tropes in film history, I was surprised to see that the essential plot of Curtis’ film was “Boy meets Girl, Boy gets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl in the end.” What we have here is the first iteration of a chick flick, but with an all Indian cast. Though Curtis’ photographic works have always been viewed as documentarian he never intended to make a documentary film, but rather a narrative that would stand out in the glutted market of the “Indian Pictures” popular at the time. He sought to do so by promoting his film as “more authentic” by dint of the on location shoot and the all-Native cast. Though critically praised at the time it was a commercial flop. I guess we had to wait for Kevin Costner to give us Dances with Wolves before any film boasting an authentic Indian location and cast could be commercially viable?
The score is of special interest because it is evocative of the time when a live orchestra played along with the film. This particular score, produced by John J Braham – an Englishman closely associated with vaudeville and Gilbert and Sullivan operas, was supposed to have been directly influenced by Kwakwaka’wakw music. Trust me it wasn’t. It was amusingly vaudevillian, at times laughable, but for the improvised indigenous and percussive elements added by the all Native orchestra. I spoke with a few of the members afterwards. Saxophonist, Vince Redhouse, told me he thought at times he was playing to cartoon episode of Mighty Mouse instead of a landmark silent film. In all fairness the original score was missing key musical elements (e.g. the conductor’s score) therefore matching the score to what is in fact an incomplete film (stills from an unearth second print were added to fill out the more complete, but damaged version) is somewhat impossible and entirely dependent on the conductor’s interpretation. And, that brings us to the Coast Orchestra.
Laura Ortman first heard about the resurrection of the film from a contact at the National Museum of the American Indian. Believing it a crucial point to have an all-indigenous orchestra perform the score along with the film she set out to find a talented pool of classically trained musicians. Though a daunting task (classical music and Indians does seem like an oxymoron) Laura was not discouraged, and though the going was slow, she did prevail. To that end, if there were any doubts that Native musicians are just as talented playing classical instruments as they are hand drums, this group of highly trained sophisticates should put them to rest.
The orchestra, led by conductor Timothy Long, was precise in it’s interpretation of the score, yet belied an indigenized sensibility to the arrangement by adding percussive instrumentation where there was none in the original, as well as, traditional native singers. In fact, the original score called for a thirteen-piece orchestra but Laura was only able to find ten high quality, and willing, musicians. However they managed to fill out the score by adding piano accompaniment and re-working the wind arrangements by replacing the trumpet with saxophone to provide a more evocative sound. Though at times the original string arrangements were silly (only because of the obvious vaudeville roots) the overall effect was provocative and certainly laid to rest any notions that Native people are only attracted to instruments like, the flute, or the aforementioned hand drum.
This was a landmark experience, not only for the mostly Caucasian audience, but for the musicians and descendants of the Kwakwaka’wakw because they circumvented the long held dogma that places native people in an a-historical past settling themselves fully in the 21st century, and without having to sacrifice their cultural and creative inclinations. Let’s hope to hear more from this talented group of musicians.
For more information on Edward S Curtis and his film please visit: www.curtisfilm.rutgers.edu
For more information on the Coast Orchestra please visit: www.myspace.com/thecoastorchestra
To listen to Longview’s interview with violinist and Native music advocate, Laura Ortman, Click the player below.
To see photos from this event visit our gallery page by clicking “gallery” up top of the blog.
All photos: M Colon
Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
Music’s Finest Come out to Pay Tribute San Francisco, CA
The American Indian Film Institute (AIFI) proudly announce a special film and music tribute “Remembering Floyd Red Crow Westerman (1936-2007)” presented November 13 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Westerman was an accomplished singer/songwriter whose 1969 debut album“Custer Died for Your Sins” earned critical acclaim. He also was a human rights activist who performed with Sting in the rainforest benefits; and actor receiving world-wide attention and acclaim as “Ten Bears” in Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves. His film and television credits include Swing Vote, Grey Owl, Hidalgo, Walker Texas Ranger, X- Files, Murder She Wrote, Northern Exposure and Dharma & Greg. The music tribute will be directed by Indian songwriter/performer Keith Secola and hosted by comic Charlie Hill and Max Gail.
Preceding the tribute will be the World Premiere of documentary feature “Coloring the Media” directed by Carlisle Antonio. The film explores what it means to be Indian in the new millennium while dealing with established prejudices by mainstream media and include exclusive interviews with the late Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Robert Redford and John Trudell.
Floyd Red Crow Westerman Music Tribute:
Keith Secola, dubbed by critics both the “Neil Young of the Native rock world” and the “Native Bruce Springsteen”, has in many people’s viewpoints achieved legendary status for his NDN Kars (”Indian Cars”), a popular song that is frequently considered a Native American anthem. Secola has released five well-received independent CDs since the early 1990s, and he has garnered three Native American Music Awards.
Charlie Hill: He has been a stand-up comic for over 30 years. He spent the early part of his life in Detroit before his father moved the family back to Oneida, Wisconsin. Hill later attended the University of Wisconsin where he studied theatre and acting, honing in on his comedic skills which manifested themselves in political activism on campus. In his own words: Much of my humor focuses on my experiences as a Native American performer in the national spotlight, but my stories and observations cross cultural lines to lighten and enlighten audiences everywhere; they are the ones who view laughter as a healing tool.
Max Gail: known to many as “Wojo” from the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series “Barney Miller,” has worked in films, TV and theater over many years.Gail starred in a one-man play about Babe Ruth on Broadway which was taped and shown on PBS. He runs his own production company, Full Circle, which has produced documentaries on such topics as Agent Orange, nuclear power, and Native American issues. He has even recorded an album of songs and currently has a book of poetry in the works.
John Densmore: An original and founding member of the musical group The Doors, John co-produced and wrote eight gold albums and toured the United States, Europe, and Japan. His autobiography, Riders on the Storm, was on the New York Times bestseller list in 1991 and he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. He is currently collaborating with other musicians and playing with the group Tribaljazz.
Micki Free: Micki has spawned countless hits with the legendary super group Shalamar, and included a career that would rival many in entertainment business history; Three-Time Grammy Nominee, Grammy Winner, Grammy Board of Governor candidate, Multi-Platinum Recording Artist and Five-Time Native American Music Award Winner.
Pete Sears: Pete Sears’ career has spanned more than four decades: he has been a member of many bands and has moved through a variety of musical genres, from early R&B, psychedelic improvisational rock of the 1960s, folk, country music, arena rock in the 1970s, and blues. He usually plays bass, keyboards, or both in bands. Sears is well known for his time spent with Jefferson Starship from 1974 to 1987.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Mother, Singer, Composer, Producer, Teacher, and Activist – Jennifer (Tuscarora, North Carolina) comes from four generations of Seven Singing Sisters through the maternal line, and has been singing since she was young. She is known for her fierce vocals and soaring range. Her lilting, breath-taking harmonies will delight your ears. Jennifer has been singing with the critically acclaimed Native women’s Trio ULALI since she was seventeen. Her voice has perfectly woven the high strand of Ulali’s renowned harmony with incomparable skill, and grace for over seventeen years, helping to create a new sound in Indian Country. Adding to the group, her sharp wit and stage presence infused Ulali’s shows with strong vocals, humor and camaraderie with the audience.
Chad Watson: a Missouri native who began learning the bass from his father and continued to study at the Music Conservatory of the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He extensive career in the music business spans four decades during which he has performed with and produced a wide variety of artists, including the Charlie Rich ensemble, the Janis Ian trio, Freddy Fender, and New Age pioneer, David Arkenstone.
Jeremy Goodfeather: is a San Francisco-based singer/songwriter who plays a dynamic acoustic set of original, heartfelt music with a simple, straightforward vibe. He pulls from a wide range of influences and styles to create an organic sound that can be rock, blues, reggae, funk, jazz, country or anything else that it takes to tell a story with music. Jeremy was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from the San Francisco Native Arts Commission in May 2008.
Friday, September 5th, 2008
There may be chaos in South Ossetia, a looming, uber-dramatic US presidential election on the horizon, and a female Vice-Presidential candidate with a love for guns and Yup’ik Indians, but the only politics I want to talk about are from 2006.
Today Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in a federal prison. Little Jack was convicted in 2006 on charges of fraud, conspiracy to bribe public officials, tax-evasion and all-around naughtiness in connection with a defrauding scheme to dupe casino-rich Indian tribes and encourage former congressional staffers to violate a one-year lobbying ban. In addition to his jail time, the former Capitol Hill power-lobbyist was also ordered to pay $23 million in restitution to his former tribal clients. Is there a payment plan involved with this, I wonder? It better not involve wire transfers, because Jack cannot be trusted with those. In fairness to Abramoff, his public apology and address to the judge did seem genuinely contrite. But then again, what other choice did he have? One doesn’t expect him to appear in court wearing a ten-gallon hat and laughing like Yosemite Sam with $1000 Choctaw poker chips spilling from his pockets. That would be really awesome, but I’d hardly expect it.
There is one thing to thank Abramoff for; (other than some really good Daily Show episodes) his tentacled scandal led to a massive investigation on lobbying practices in a then GOP-governed House and Senate.
[Dolores Jackson, a member of the Saginaw Chippewa, and apparently the only Indian that Abramoff didn't rip off. Or maybe she's on his payroll. p.s. I want that t-shirt]
McClatchy Newspapers states that “when Abramoff pleaded guilty in 2006, as many as half a dozen lawmakers, including former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (love him!) of Texas and Rep. John Doolittle of California, were said to be under scrutiny for their dealings with his former lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig. Prosecutors have convicted 10 people, including five former congressional staffers, former Interior Deputy Secretary Steven Griles, former Justice Department lawyer Robert Coughlin and former Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio.”
This shakedown, a direct result of Abramoff’s seedy lobbying practices, resulted in the complete turnover of Congress in the 2006 election year. Granted, the Democrats now in office haven’t done much of anything and some of them have probably been hitting on underage House pages, but at lease they get to fill those fancy seats instead of some easily-swayed-by-free-golf-trips Republican, right? (I should probably visit factcheck.org before stating any of the latter.)
Anyway, in the fall of 2006, NAICA did an overzealous (and probably misinformed) exposé on the adventures of Little Jack and his friends on Capitol Hill. It is very long, grammatically incorrect at times, and much too campy. But it does have ridiculously Photoshopped pictures, which is something the Washington Post has really been dropping the ball on recently. Check it out!
Thursday, May 1st, 2008
Sàmi director Nils Gaup may be unfamiliar to most of us, but he is a legendary director in Norway, his native country. For those who love Viking tales and the like he is also the director of the original Pathfinder, and not that ridiculous mess that was in the theaters last year either, but the better version made in Norway-though I wonder where they got their Indians?
Gaup showed clips from his latest film, The Kautokeino Rebellion, at a charming Norwegian restaurant called Smorgas Chef where a prie fixe dinner was served in his honor. This event was coordinated by the Film and Video program at the National Museum of the American Indian which has had a collaborative relationship with the Sàmi people and their film festival.
The film was shot in 35mm scope and in the dead of winter in the region where the rebellion took place which is also the birthplace of Gaup himself. He related that the story, which took place in the late 1800’s, was one that is well-known in his region. Though a story of heroism it is a tragedy which relates the massacre of a group of native Sàmi people who rose to fight against the exploitation of their resources and culture by the Germanic Norwegians. We saw clips from the beginning and ending portions of the film as he is hoping to get a release here in the U.S. But, you could see the film is masterfully shot, it truly was beautiful even on a small screen. The story is a tense drama made all the more dramatic by not getting to see the entire thing, and, of course, it is a true story, but one with nearly universal themes of cultural and economic oppression and alcohol abuse. If the film does get distribution in the United States it will be limited but I believe critics will favor the film for it’s craftsmanship and truthful story-telling. As Mr. Gaup said, “There is no happy ending here.”
Check out my brief interview with Nils Gaup to learn more about the film and himself.
a large group of people who had been at the screening and dinner enjoyed each other’s company at a bar none of us would probably ever go to but for being recommended to us. It was close by. Trust me, I doubt any of would choose to listen to the music you will hear in the background if the situation allowed for us to select the music ourselves. You are warned! HA!
Photos: Maria Colon
Thursday, February 14th, 2008
It is hard to be a writer sometimes. Not that I have the oeuvre to really claim this personally, but I think I can safely make this assumption based in part by films I have seen involving typewriters, piles of balled-up papers and ashtrays filled with chain-smoked cigarettes. I can also base this statement on the story below:
Journalist Paul Tolme: “When I traveled to South Dakota in 2005 to write a story about black-footed ferrets, I never imagined my words about the little weasels would one day appear in a trashy romance novel. I just wanted to write an informative and entertaining piece about these endangered prairie carnivores. Three years later my story (”Toughing It Out in the Badlands“) is at the center of 2008’s sexiest plagiarism scandal.”
The scandal involves a novel by prolific romance writer, Cassie Edwards, entitled Shadow Bear. I have included the synopsis below for your convenience:
“South Dakota 1850. Before he died from the Indian arrow that pierced his body while he was hunting gold outside Fort Chance, Shiona Bramlett’s father, the colonel, revealed a shocking secret. Now, armed only with her father’s map and her courage, she’s determined to honor him-and to fulfill her own destiny.
After a fierce prairie fire, Shadow Bear, Chief of the Grey Owl Band of the Lakota tribe, is desperately looking for his missing brother Silent Arrow. His search leads him to a beautiful woman in desperate need of help. Shadow Bear loathes the white man-but he cannot help but protect her. With a passion that is undeniable, they must learn to put their mistrust aside and share their secrets before all is lost.”
Perhaps it was the pressure of maintaining her reputation as a prolific novelist that forced Cassie Edwards into the dark corner of plagiarism? Perhaps it was a deadline? I can only imagine her desperation at the thought of trying to gracefully follow up yet another love scene. What in-the-hell would Shadow Bear and Shiona talk about after their wild tryst in his tipi? And then, like manna from heaven, an answer. After what must have been hours of frantically googling “South Dakota,” she found the topic that would save her from the sloth-like terror of post-coital writer’s block: the black-footed ferret.
Shadow Bear: They are so named because of their dark legs.
Shiona: They are so small, surely weighing only about two pounds and measuring two feet from tip to tail.
Shadow Bear: What I have observed of them, myself, is that these tiny animals breed in early spring when the males roam the night in search of females…Mothers typically give birth to three kits in early summer and raise their young alone in abandoned prairie dog burrows.
Shiona: I read that ferrets stalk and kill prairie dogs during the night. Using their keen sense of smell and whiskers to guide them through pitch-black burrows, ferrets suffocate the sleeping prey, an impressive feat considering the two species are about the same weight.
Shadow Bear: In turn, coyotes, badgers, and owls prey on ferrets, whose life span in the wild is often less than two winters … They have a short, quick life.
When it comes right down to it, I can sympathize with Edwards completely. I remember a 6th grade research paper I did on the Beatles, which may or may not have included some lifted sentences from Encarta. I honestly can’t remember for sure anymore. But I do remember the quiet agony of trying to describe Ringo’s troubled childhood in meaningful-yet-concise sentences before 10pm. I got an ‘A’ on the paper, but it was still really hard.
What I’m trying to say is that Cassie Edwards should be forgiven for her literary faux pas. We all lie and cheat and even steal, whether it be words or post-it notes from the office supply closet. Nobody is without guilt. But on today of all days, Valentine’s Day, I think we should forgive Edwards and remember what she was ultimately trying to do: write about the triumphs and trials of love … and the sweaty, rippling muscles of Lakota warriors.