Welcome back after our week’s break! I hope everyone who celebrated either Passover or Easter (or both!) had a happy holiday, with a liberating seder for the former and plenty of yummy chocolate eggs for the latter.
Have you all been missing Stephen and the ReporT? With the hiatus giving me some extra time, I’d hoped to get this FCL up much earlier. But at the moment I am suffering from some sort of back injury–don’t know how I got it–and sitting for long periods has been a bit agonizing. I’ve avoided it for the most part. Chiropractor, here I come…several times a week. I know what will make me happy, though, and wash away the pain: four new shows! So here goes…
Monday, 4/25: Ron Paul
Oh, I know that from time to time, faux-conservative Colbert has to welcome real conservatives on his show. But I must admit they can be hard for me to stomach. And speaking of hard to stomach: Straight from the 14th District in Texas comes Ron Paul, who, on his congressional website, describes his beliefs thus: “Dr. Paul is the leading spokesman in Washington for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies based on commodity-backed currency.” (Shades of Glenn Beck, “commodity-backed currency” generally means gold these days.) The “Dr. Paul” used in that description, by the way, comes from the fact that he’s an actual medical doctor, who served as a flight surgeon and an obstetrician. He claims to have delivered 4,000 babies—creating a constituency from birth, perhaps? Paul also has a personal website for those who want more.
Paul is the author of the recent book, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues that Affect Our Freedoms, published by Grand Central, the same company that released both Jon’s and Stephen’s glorious tomes. Paul’s focal issues apparently range from “abortion” (he’s anti, despite his views on “personal freedom,” which I guess are limited to the freedoms he believes in) to “Zionism” (pro). Some of Paul’s former books have reached the New York Times bestseller lists, including The Revolution: A Manifesto and End The Fed. In Congress, he holds positions on some of the most important committees, including: The House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Joint Economic Committee, the Committee on Financial Services and is Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy. Given his views on finance, I frankly find this scary. He founded a think tank in 1976, The Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (acronym “FREE”), and you can go to its site (aka the “Freedom Page”) to sign up for a monthly newsletter.
Fract: Ron Paul became the first Representative to serve alongside a son or daughter in the Senate, when Rand Paul became a Senator for Kentucky earlier this year.
Tuesday: 4/26: A.C. Grayling
For Zoners who enjoy Stephen discoursing on religion, tonight is the night. A.C. Grayling is author of The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, which examines humanity’s search for meaning in the universe in non-religious terms, such as science, philosophy, and literature. (Interestingly, in England, the subtitle is “A Secular Bible.”) Here’s a review from Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Grayling is a Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London and author of more than 20 books, including Towards the Light: The Story of the Struggles for Liberty; Rights that Made the Modern West; Liberty in the Age of Terror: In Defense of Civil Society and the West’s Enlightenment Values; and Ideas That Matter: A Personal Guide for the 21st Century. His website features a number of articles both by and about him. He has claimed that “religion is in its death throes” and that the “Roman Catholic Church has perpetuated the biggest pack of lies that the world has seen.” (The particular article I linked to takes issue with Grayling’s point of view.)
As a philosopher, Grayling also ponders the fine points of morality, and one article of his that I found particularly fascinating and nuanced discusses the Roman Polanski case. As you might remember, Polanski was convicted of statutory rape against a 13-year-old, pleaded guilty, and then fled from the country before he could be punished. Here is Grayling’s commentary on the subject, written two years ago.
If you enjoy his appearance on The Colbert Report, you can give him a thumbs-up by going over to his Facebook page and clicking “Like.”
Fract: Grayling has also argued his ideas in theatrical form. He is coauthor of the play Grace, which was performed at the Lucille Lortel Theater in NYC. Here’s a video discussion of the work, featuring Lynn Regrave.
Wednesday, 4/27: Ice-T
He once performed a song that may have encouraged shooting cops, but now he plays one on TV—and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing him. Singer and actor Ice-T came to fame in the 80s with his wittily titled album Rhyme Pays, but it was Original Gangster (1992) that really whipped up controversy. That album, recorded with his heavy metal band (NOT rap), Body Count, contained a song called “Cop Killer.” Here are two videos of the song–which you might not want to watch at work, depending on your job. One features the original recording, but no real performance, while the other captures a live version but misses the provocative opening statement. The lyrics ignited a national debate about freedom of speech and censorship, and the fallout from the uproar delayed his next album, Home Invasion, which Ice-T ultimately released on his own label after severing ties with Time Warner. Nonetheless, Original Gangster remains an influential work. I recommend taking a look though the Ice-T songbook, because it’s surprisingly wide-ranging in style. He did win a Grammy (shared by others on the track) for “Back on the Block,” a song produced by Quincy Jones.
In 1985, Ice-T began his acting career, first in music-related films (Breaking), then in Melvin Peebles’ seminal work, New Jack City. Just over a decade ago, he was cast as Detective Odafin Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (click on the name to see a “police sketch” video with Ice-T), a role he has played ever since and which turned him into a household name. Question here for the younger Zoners: did you even know Ice-T was a singer/songwriter?
His new biography, Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood (coauthored by Douglas Century), was just released last week. It received generally excellent reviews all around, including a starred review from the industry journal Booklist. Here’s the perspective from The New York Times. Since Ice-T had a fascinating life—orphaned at a young age, gang member, army recruit, and finally musician, actor, and writer—it promises to be a good read. (He had one earlier book in 1994 called The Ice Opinion: Who Gives a F&#k?, cowritten with Heidi Siegmund.) You can go to his website to learn more about him (although it doesn’t appear to have any recent updates) or follow him on Twitter.
Fract: Born Tracy Marrow, he chose the name Ice-T in honor of pimp-turned-author Iceberg Slim, who wrote about life on the streets.
Thursday, 4/28: Wade Graham
As Voltaire said, “Il faut cultiver notre jardin.” Do you have a garden—and how does it grow? With silver bells and cockle shells…or something else? Landscape artist Wade Graham believes that our gardens have more than surface beauty: they reveal deeper truths about our beliefs. Graham is the author of the highly praised book American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park to Our Backyards: What Our Gardens Tell Us About Who We Are.
In spite of his current focus on environmentalism Graham–a trustee of the non-profit Glen Canyon Institute who teaches in the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University—earned his BA in comparative literature from Columbia and his MA and PhD in American history from UCLA. He has written for various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and Outside, and has a previous book, Braided Waters: Environment, Economy and Community in Molokai, published by the University of Hawaii Press. You can find out more about his projects—and see some very beautiful home and garden photos—at his website.
Fract: There IS no fract! I can find no videos, nothing about his personal life…this man has been quiet till now. Maybe after his Colbert bump, we’ll learn more.
Everyone have a happy week, and let me know how you enjoyed your holiday (if you celebrated) and which guest you’re most eager to see. Cheers!