Friday Cat Blogging – 17 February 2017 – Mother Jones

Mother Jones

Friday Cat Blogging – 17 February 2017
Mother Jones
We have exciting news this week: Yale University has decided to rename one of its colleges after Hopper. It's a well-deserved honor for her contributions to this blog, and she will be replacing the odious John Calhoun, who spent the second half of his
Yale to change Calhoun College's name to honor Grace Murray HopperYale News

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How cinephile Kim Jong-il kidnapped a director to improve local films

Recordings show insecure North Korean despot begging actor and director he had kidnapped from the South to help improve useless movie industry

Kim Jong-il was exasperated by his compatriots lack of drive and creativity, and bizarrely fulminated against excessive ideology and dogma in North Korean films, secret recordings aired in a new documentary reveal.

Kim, who ruled the hermit state from 1994-2011, feared his country was being held back by lack of contact with the outside world, which was making his people too self-satisfied for their own good, the documentary tapes show.

The Lovers and the Despot tells the story of how the tapes were smuggled out of the country by two South Koreans, director Shin Sang-ok and his wife, the actor Choi Eun-hee, who were kidnapped by Kim in 1978 in an attempt to bolster the film industry.

The film-mad dictator, who died in 2011, urged the couple to show the people of North Korea a good example through your creative films, admitting that his countrys efforts had been useless.

One of the many recordings of Kim Jong-il. Photograph: The Lovers and the Despot

When I watch our films […] they are all dogmatic. Why do our films always have the same ideological stories? Why are there so many crying scenes? Kim is heard asking in the tapes recorded by the couple, who had got hold of a tape recorder in captivity and wanted to show they were being held against their will.

Kim is also heard berating the upper echelons of society, saying they are stuck inside the fence [and that] they only see their own things and they are happy with it.

His appeal to Shin and Choi to inject some creativity into North Korean film-making is in stark contrast with state propaganda from the time, which paints North Korea as a glorious socialist utopia.

And at one point he is heard praising the capitalist work ethic of the enemy: Frankly speaking, the reason is that in the South, they work hard because they need to make money and feed themselves. Its the result of blood, sweat and tears. But here, people are simply happy and comfortable no one whips them onwards.

Documentary makers Ross Adam and Rob Cannan spent hours trawling through the tapes, which also reveal that the trios relationship was not as clear cut as that of a tyrannical captor and his submissive captives.From their very first meeting it is clear that is Kim setting the tone, said Adam, but at times it feels like theyre getting on as friends. They have shared ambitions and an obsession with cinema.

At time Kim is also heard to be almost deferential towards the director, not only because Shin was older but also because he admires him and was a great fan, Cannan adds.

A still from The Lovers and the Despot film. Photograph: Soda Pictures

The celebrity couple slowly earned the dictators trust and, managed to escape during a trip to Austria to promote North Korean films in 1986, taking their secret recordings with them.

Translating the hours of the micro-cassette tapes was no easy task, Cannan explained. The sound was muffled because Choi had hidden the recorder in her handbag, and Kims accent was difficult to decipher. He was hard to understand, very fast… he used a lot of older words, like an older version of Korean we went through several stages of translation.


Shin had already smuggled some of the tapes out of the country in 1985. Despite being closely chaperoned during all foreign trips during his captivity, Shin was able to pass the recordings to a former friend and film critic during a chance meeting in Budapest. He also conveyed the message that he was being held against his will.

The recordings found their way to David Straub, who was monitoring North Korean intelligence for the US State Department at the time. It was the first time anyone in the US government, as far as I know, had heard his [Kims] voice, besides a couple of words during a public address, he recalled.

The tapes were invaluable for intelligence, he added. They were a chance to asses how logical he was, an insight into his temperament. Kim Jong-il was sane and rational in his own way.

After their release Shin and Choi were debriefed by the South Korean intelligence services, but to this day many doubt their version of events. The couple insist they were forced to pledge allegiance both publicly and privately to communism during captivity, but for many in the South any pledge of allegiance to the North is unforgivable.

However, the tapes offer new insight into the kidnapping, and reveal how they were briefed by Kim on how to behave when they were sent to film festivals overseas. Before a trip to Moscow in 1985Kim is heard to say: Dont say you were forced to come here. Say you came willingly. You wanted to make films here because theres no freedom in the South.

Shin replies: Look, Im the one sticking with you. Im not going anywhere until Ive finished my masterpieces. But you know that!

At one point the conversation turns to international film festivals.

Kim asks: Why there isnt a single South Korean film at the Montreal film festival?Shin replies: They didnt get through to the shortlist I dont even want to watch them. They drive me crazy. They just copy Japanese films. Choi adds: Honey, you used to do the same thing.

Ultimately, the recordings reveal an insecure young leader, eager for artistic validation from Shin and deeply anxious about what the world thinks about North Korean films.

If we dont catch up in the next 10 years, then frankly speaking, our film industry will fall behind. We may become the last, he says.

The Lovers and the Despot is on general release

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New Facebook tools allow for easier dining recommendations, ticket sales and scheduling

Facebook’s new tool makes it easier to seek out recommendations from friends.
Image: getty images/Dylan rives

Facebook’s newest batch of tools is designed, in part, to help fill any weekend night voids on its users’ calendars whether it’s with a night on the town or a pizza delivery.

“It’s Friday night. You don’t have plans. I’ve got a babysitter ready to go. What do I do?” said Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of ads and business platforms, at a press event in San Francisco.

“It’s an unbelievably challenging process in 2016 to figure out what there is to go do, and then, among those things, decide which of those things you want to go do and then actually engage in the doing of said things.”

To that end, a slate of features launched Wednesday will let users more easily solicit friends’ restaurant recommendations, buy tickets to Facebook-hosted events and make appointments at local businesses.

These are the types of everyday challenges Facebook has put much of its advertising team’s energy toward recently in a bid to make the social network a more seamless presence in people’s lives outside their homes as well as within.

Sometimes that involves location-based promotions that draw shoppers to brick-and-mortar stores or ads that show up only when certain products are in stock at a given shop. Other times, it means alerts about friends at a concert nearby or mobile messages that greet customers when they enter a business’s premises.

But even as the company has mastered the art of reaching people on their smartphones where they spend an increasing portion of their internet time Bosworth says the platform previously lacked readymade forms with which friends can share information about favorite shops and eateries or lock down important dates.

Even with the addition of the new tools, he says, there remains a ways to go until the company will be satisfied it is taking full advantage.

“We still find ourselves with this very time-consuming process of navigating what and how to connect to our friends in the real world,” Bosworth said.

Users can now share select areas of maps on their News Feeds with a request for, say, sushi bar suggestions. Friends who comment will see the location coordinates indicated by their text pinned on the map as long as the business has a Facebook page. A running tab of all such queries will appear on the home page so that people can revisit them.

Facebook’s recommendations feature

Image: facebook

A new appointment card feature added to Facebook’s Messenger platform offers a more formalized process for penciling dates at a hair salon or auto-repair shop. In it, users exchange cards with sets of available dates and times until a session is agreed upon.

The tool marks the first significant expansion to the customer service suite within Messenger bots since the automated programs were made available earlier this year.

The new features involve a host of brand partners including event sales services like Ticketmaster, Eventbrite and Fandango as well as smaller start-ups like, Slice, HomeAdvisor, MyTime and others.

A host of brand partners

Image: facebook

A new, more robust activity stream lets people track their friends’ events-related activity details like where they go, who they bring and past suggestions. Facebook also recently rolled out a standalone app for events, though Bosworth says it has no plans to force it on users as it did with Messanger.

The updated ‘events’ platform

Image: facebook

Facebook still hasn’t decided on a way to make money from any of the tools, a concern Bosworth says the company tends to address after the programs are fully fledged.

Users may have already stumbled across one or two of the new services, many of which have been in a beta testing phase for months.

The new products come as Facebook’s chief rival in the space, Google, which makes up the other half of an effective duopoly over mobile ads, has also been tracing out ways its apps, search results and web placements can better interact with consumers on the go.

The search giant has launched bigger and more abundant mobile search ads, product research functions, “buy” buttons, travel booking within search and sponsored placement of brand logos within maps.

Most of these efforts have been premised on Google’s theory that shoppers act within spontaneous flashes of decisiveness in which the vast majority of mobile purchases are made.

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6 ways to keep your sanity when you're working two jobs – Defiance Crescent News (subscription)

6 ways to keep your sanity when you're working two jobs
Defiance Crescent News (subscription)
“When you find out you can make money doing something on your own time and terms, it's so exciting and you feel lucky. Often to the point … Taylor began blogging about money in 2010, when he was still in major debt from student loans. While building

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How UCWeb Is Proving That Blogging Is the New Black – The Quint

How UCWeb Is Proving That Blogging Is the New Black
The Quint
At one point or the other, we've all had blogs. They had stories of our travel escapades, our experiments with food, random musings and observations about life and sometimes, even rants. We loved showing it off to our friends. We carefully kept track

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3 Ways To Bounce Back Financially After Draining Your Savings To Travel

It’s embarrassing, but foreign currency doesn’t always feel “real” to me.

“3000 yen? I’m rich! Look how pretty the colors of these euros are!”

It feels like Monopoly money that’s burning a hole in my pocket. There’s also a certain adrenaline rush that comes with traveling. Something about soaking in completely new surroundings and a different culture makes going to a pricy restaurant and getting a dessert with a cocktail seem like a really good idea.

When you get back and take a peak into your bank account, however, reality sets in. You need to make money, and fast. Over the years, I’ve learned certain preventative measures and lots of planning are great for combating the urge to make it rain. But if you’re already in the hole, fix your financial woes with the tips below:

1. Cut back on expenses.

I really love lattes. They can make an OK morning turn into a good morning. It gives me Instagram likes and I get to see (and possibly flirt with) my favorite barista. The problem with a coffee habit is, it’s expensive.

An iced coffee alone at Starbucks costs just under $3 (without tip). If I spend $3 every day of the year, that adds up to $1,095. That’s more than a grand on iced coffees a year. I won’t do the math for lattes and Frappuccinos. (I don’t want to make you cry.)

Making little changes like temporarily kicking your coffee habit (or making your own because I’d never suggest you quit coffee), packing your lunch or having friends over for dinner and drinks instead of going out can make a big difference in your bank account. While you do have to make things yourself, cooking with a friend or partner can be fun. You have the opportunity for a Pinterest fail.

You also won’t have a server hovering over you and staring at the check because she wants to get another party your table. You can split a whole bottle of wine for the cost of a glass at a restaurant. Even if you aren’t trying to save, staying in for dinner can be a total win.

2. Turn your unwanted items into cash.

I have a lot of clothes. I also have a lot of clothes I don’t ever wear because they don’t fit, I feel too old for them or I just don’t like them. (Why did I think one-shoulder anything was a good idea?) When I was in college, we had to drag ourselves all the way to Plato’s Closet. Now, you don’t even need to leave your house to cleanse your closet and get paid.

Sites like ThredUp will send you a bag to ship off your clothes, making it easier than ever to trade them for a little bit of cash. You can also turn to Craigslist or have a garage sale to make money from unwanted items, but it requires a little more effort. I’d recommended teaming up with some friends if you go the garage sale route. People will stick around longer and buy more if there’s a wider variety of items to choose from.

Either way, tidying up and getting paid has more benefits than helping you pay off your credit card. Having an organized home can be a major stress reliever. Ever have something to do and can’t start until your entire room is clean? That was me every time I had a midterm to study for. The less you have, the easier your nest is to clean up.

I’m definitely on the Marie Kondo train. She’s a genius.

3. Pick up a side hustle.

I worked two jobs for almost two years. I wouldn’t have been able to afford my dream trip to Greece if I hadn’t. Working 65-hour weeks was exhausting, but having an actual savings account as a 20-something in San Francisco is the exception, not the rule (unless you work in tech). Find a gig online like styling for Stitch Fix like I did, or waitress on the weekends. I put everything I earned in a separate account to keep me motivated and to help me keep track of how much I was making.

Recovering from travel expenses is daunting, but totally doable. Once you get the hang of making cash on the side, not only will you get out of the hole, but you can start building a fund for your next adventure. If travel is a priority and dream of yours, it’s worth the hard work to make it happen.

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‘How will we survive?’: Syrian refugees trapped in poverty in Thailand

The status of refugees is not recognised in Thailand, leaving the few hundred Syrians there unable to work or go to school, at constant risk of deportation

After prayers, Nassr, 58, lights one of the 60 cigarettes he will smoke that day. Its the stress, he shrugs apologetically. The tension of being an illegal refugee in Thailand.

As the minarets call fades, the noise from Bangkoks khlong boats intensifies as they carry commuters along the waterways. Together with two Iraqi friends Nassr, a Palestinian Syrian, watches the bustle, wishing he could get a job.

We cannot work. There are no options to make money. All we can do is wait, says Nassr.

Four years ago, Nassr lived in the suburbs of Damascus with his wife and three teenage children, running a carpeting business. But as the war crept closer, everything changed. Instead of smiling people there were dead bodies in the streets. It was time to leave.

A friend from Syria, who had made it to Bangkok, advised Nassr to forget the risky route to Greece and instead obtain tourist visas for Thailand, the last country with an open consulate in Damascus.

The simplicity of it was appealing, Nassr recalls. We went there, applied for visas $100 [80] each bought five plane tickets and before we knew it we were in Thailand.

Neither Nassr nor his family knew much about Thailand but his friend told him that, once in Bangkok, it would be only a few weeks before the UN resettled them somewhere safe.

I believed this way we could reach Europe, but without the risk of losing my family at sea, says Nassr.

Four years later, he still has no leaving date. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has told him he will need to wait at least another two years before he can move. The agency says asylum applications are assessed on the merits of each case, on a first come, first served basis, prioritising those who are considered vulnerable.

While he waits, Nassr spends his days between the mosque and grocery shopping. I try to stay inside as much as possible, try to avoid drawing attention. You never know if they will detain you.

Nassr says he and his family rely on support from his brothers and sisters, who live overseas. Most of them left Syria before the war began.

Thailand is not a signatory to the refugee convention, so neither recognises the status of refugees nor protects them. The number of urban asylum seekers in Thailand has tripled in the past three years, says the UNHCR.

Once the three-month tourist visa expires, you basically become an illegal alien here, says Jennifer Bose, of UNHCR Thailand. From that moment, refugees face the risk of detention or deportation.

For the few hundred Syrians in Thailand exact numbers are unavailable life in the tropics is a constant struggle. Stuck in limbo, they often hide in their rooms, unable to work or go to school.

Whenever an unfamiliar sound penetrates Firazs tiny one-room apartment on the outskirts of Bangkok, he freezes. The immigration police always appear unannounced, as they did two years ago when his family was arrested and taken to a detention centre. After two weeks in custody crammed into a cell like sheep and a bail payment of 140,000 Thai baht (3,222), they were released.

They can show up at night and we never know if they are here to tease us or arrest us, says Firaz, 42, sitting on the floor of the room he shares with his wife, mother and two children.

Firaz is a second-generation refugee whose family originates from Palestine. When, in 2012, the war reached his home in Yarmouk Camp (a Damascus district populated by Palestinian refugees) the family fled to Lebanon. After what they describe as a hard time, they gathered the money for a one-way trip to Thailand.

Besides a monthly payment of 3,000 Thai baht from the UN due to Firazs health problems and 600 baht to support the children, the family lives on gifts.

I stopped sending my children to Thai lessons at the [free] refugee school, says Firaz. The bus will cost me 70 baht a day, but I can cook a complete meal with that.

His fridge contains withered carrots, brown cabbage and an out-of-date can of sardines. This is what I feed my family. I cannot sleep. I keep on thinking, How will we survive tomorrow? What will I cook them?

With worries over food, Firaz sometimes wishes he had never come to Thailand, although he says that apart from immigration officials, locals have been friendly.

Zahra, 15, sees things differently. She is happy her father, a Syrian dentist, took her along with her sisters and mother to Thailand and did not choose the route through Greece like most of her family. First you escape death in Syria, says Zahra, whose family house in Damascus has been destroyed. Its only the lucky [ones] who escape death a second time at sea.

For more than two years, Zahra hasnt been able to go to school. She rarely leaves her Bangkok flat. Its not safe to go out, she says. Instead, she spends her days reading everything there is.

The family rely on support from the Bangkok Refugee Centre, which is supported by the UNHCR, after her father was unable to get work.

But a brighter future lies ahead. The family has received resettlement papers for the US. Fewer than 1% of all refugees around the world will be that lucky.

Zahra is excited about their fresh start. Still, I will miss Thailand, she says. It hasnt been easy, but it has been better than living in war.

  • Names changed to protect identities

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How to Be Better Than You Were Last Semester – Harvard Crimson

Harvard Crimson

How to Be Better Than You Were Last Semester
Harvard Crimson
This semester, whenever someone wants to grab a meal, go over a p-set, or really anything at all, make sure to check your planner first. And we're not talking about that little calendar … All that money spent at Tatte? We needed the pics for healthy

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Five Random Thoughts On The Cowboys Inspired By William Shakespeare – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Five Random Thoughts On The Cowboys Inspired By William Shakespeare
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Today's inspiration for an article about the Dallas Cowboys comes from an English gentleman who passed on about 400 years before he could see his dream of writing for Blogging The Boys come true, Mr. William Shakespeare. While the Bard might have …

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Norman Lear: Donald Trump Is Way Worse Than Archie Bunker

The 94-year-old TV legend puts an end to those Donald Trump and Archie Bunker comparisons, discusses his legacy, and previews his new docuseries, America Divided.


TV legend Norman Lear has a metaphor he likes to use when talking about Donald Trump.

I think Donald Trump is the middle finger of the American right hand, Lear tells me. For a segment of the population tired of leadership failing them, Trump is their antagonistic answer, their middle finger with a special message. That means fuck you, he clarifies. Fuck you, leadership.

Its been 45 years since Lear created Archie Bunker, Carroll OConnors indelible bigot with a heart of gold on the legendary series All in the Family. As now-Republican nominee Donald Trump has made his risetaking strong and inflammatory stances on immigration, race, womens rights, and gunspundits assessing the fire his comments kindled likened the presidential contender to a real-life Archie Bunker.

Its a reductive comparison. Archies opinions often reflected an ingrained ignorance, which was typically undone thanks to his hidden empathy and grumpy willingness to see the world changing around him. And its a comparison that, though Lear certainly sees at first blush, he takes issue with, going so far as to assert that Archies conscience wouldnt allow him even to vote for Trump. 

I think Donald Trump is shrewd in a way Archie never was, Lear says. Archie Bunker was far wiser of heart. Sure, the thoughts he held were antediluvian. But Donald Trump is a thorough fool, having nothing to do with the shrewdness that has allowed him to cheat and steal the way he has for his own good. Underneath that, he is a fool.

Lear and I are speaking in Beverly Hills just days after he celebrated his 94th birthday. 

Hes promoting his work as a correspondent in Epixs upcoming America Divided, which he co-executive produced alongside Shonda Rhimes and Common. The docuseries features a host of celebrity correspondents, including America Ferrera, Amy Poehler, Zach Galifianakis, and Greys Anatomy star Jesse Williams, who travel the country to spotlight the human repercussions of our inequality in education, health care, labor, criminal justice, and more. 

The segment Lear leads, A House Divided, focuses on the heartbreaking effects of housing inequality. Whats one way to solve these issues? The first thing we can do is make sure Trump doesnt get near our problems, he laughs. Another tactic: We can talk about it. And thats what Lear has been doing in his five decades working in show business.

There has never been a run as impressiveor as importantfrom a single TV creator as Lears string of All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, and One Day at a Time. These are series that said somethingabout racial bias, privilege, sexism, abortion, the plight of the single mother, the struggle of the working classwithout sacrificing a single laugh or a minute of solid entertainment. 

Decades later, on shows now labeled in the Norman Lear tradition like The Carmichael Show and black-ishnot to mention Lears own revival of One Day at a Time on Netflixthese issues still stoke cultural debate, provoke us to confront our own biases and judgments, and prove that pop culture can be responsible for sociopolitical change. 

Look whats happening with Donald Trump, Lear says, bringing the conversation full circle. Hes the best example there is for how powerful pop culture is.

With America Divided premiering this Friday, I talked to Lear about working on the housing crisis episode, his legacy, why he continues to challenge our culture long past an age when his contemporaries rest on their laurels, and, of course, Donald Trump.

You must be pleased that these America Divided stories are airing so well-timed with the election.

I couldnt be more pleased. And I couldnt be more surprised at how devastating the situation is in New York City [with the housing divide]. Its amazing. I was just telling somebody that I was on the 53rd floor of a new building in a glorious apartment, 360-degree views. It had just been purchased for $120 million. When I asked who the owner was, I heard a sound but I didnt recognize a name. So I said, Could you repeat that so I understand? And they showed me on a strip of paper who owned it, and it was a group of letters and numbers. Some foreign entity parked $120 million in a New York apartment. Then on a subsequent day, the next day, Im sitting around with a group of black families who had lived in an apartment in this neighborhood for 20 years and have the contract that says they can stay there, and are being driven out of the apartment through horrible conditions so the landlord can raise the rental price.

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When did the housing divide become an issue you were passionate about?

Frankly, if somebody reads the paper and listens to the news, youre on the periphery of understanding it. You dont really understand it until you get into it. When something takes you inside of it, then you really see the suffering. So I knew about it, but I couldnt imagine it to be what I found when I was actually inside of it. 

What surprised you the most when you got inside of it and started learning what it was like?

The biggest takeaway was to understand for the first time how cruelly some people are being treated and can be treated in our America. Even at my age and sophistication, its a kind of thing that, as I go through my daily life, I thought was only happening in other countries. But here it is.

Your segment is about the housing divide. There are other segments in the series that deal with immigration, civil rights, workers rights, and the equality imbalance in our country, generally. Is that imbalance worse now than its ever been?

Im confident the economic inequality is worse now than its ever been because youre supposed to know so much more. Especially since our understanding is so much more and weve been interested in it so much longer. The stats are there. So, yes. And as a human, as a species, I would think that wed be beyond it by now.

How do we get beyond it? What can be done?

The first thing as Americans we can do is understand thatyou know, I guess because I dont want to hear the words Donald Trump I had forgotten it momentarily. (Laughs) The first thing we can do is make sure he doesnt get near our problems.

When there is someone like Donald Trump, he is clearly speaking to a group of people who believe in these things that hes saying.

I have a different hunch about why people feel what they feel about Donald Trump. Leadership is so crappy everywhere in this country, whether youre talking about automobile companies, pharmaceutical companies, food companies, United States senators, or Congress, leadership is just foul. The American people dont have it. I think Donald Trump is the middle finger of the American right hand. Theyre saying you give us this kind of leadership everywhere, take this. And they pick Donald Trump. Hes the middle finger of the right hand.

The middle finger.

That means fuck you. Fuck you, leadership.

Because theres such a resounding

vacuum. Of leadership everywhere. Media! Were a country and kind of government that depends on an informed citizen. Where do they get a chanceunless theyre trying very hard and looking in 30 different placesto get informed? There was an Edward R. Murrow once. There was a Walter Cronkite once. People who called themselves broadcasters and felt they didnt need to make money on the evening news. Thats all changed just in my lifetime. The news became a profit center just like everything else. Now its talking heads and bumper stickers yelling at each other.

When you work on a project like this alongside people like Shonda Rhimes, America Ferrera, and Jesse Williams, does it hearten you that there are people working toward a change? 

Yes. To be working in a generation of young people like Shonda Rhimes and America Ferrera and Common, and not in this but my friend Jerrod Carmichael and his show, and Kenya Barris and his show black-ish, it encourages me very much to see a generation of young people like that. South Park, those guys are still going strong, Matt and Trey. Seth MacFarlane. Theyre all people who care and put themselves on the line.

When I read about you and your work and projects that you continue to do, like this one, there are people who are surprised that youre not just letting the younger generation do this work for you. Youve earned the right to do that, but youre doing so much of it yourself still. Whats the motivation to still be in the trenches?

The motivation ishow old are you?


Thats how old I am in this conversation. I am the peer of whoever Im talking to. Thats the way I feel. Im another 30-year-old. If you were 12, I would feel 12. I consider myself part of your generation.

When people talk about The Carmichael Show and black-ish, two shows you just mentioned, they talk about how theyre reviving the Norman Lear tradition: television that means something, that crusades for change in comedy. Thats a tradition that went missing for decades. What is it about today that those shows are finally coming back?

I think it has a lot to do with the amount of outlets there are. You have to fill it with something and theres far more room now. And theyre working! Carmichael is working. Black-ish is working. Theyre doing well, so I expect well see more.

America Divided features celebrities putting their face next to controversial issues and having very intense, personal reactions to it. Thats something we seem to be more comfortable with, celebrities being involved personally in political causes. And yet there are still cases when there is backlash for that very thing, like when Jesse Williams gave his speech at the BET Awards. What do you make of our relationship with politically active celebrities today? 

What I wouldve said 20 years ago I would say today. You want attention, you raise your hand. If you have a face thats well-known that goes with it, you get more attention. So the culture is looking all the time for a way to encourage attention. A well-known face does that.

But there are also people who dont want to see the actor they like from their favorite TV show speaking passionately about an issue they dont agree with.

Well, fuck them. (Laughs) Fuck them.

Thats not always an easy thing to face when youre a celebrity, when you want to be liked!

I feel the same way. I dont know, give me a celebrity who disagrees with me. I have a couple of friends who dont agree with meIm embarrassed for themwho are Trump-ish. But I wont mention their names. But their right to command attention and say the things I disagree with is first and foremost. And my right to beat the shit out of the idea if I can is also first and foremost.

There are some people who express shock or frustration that the issues you were writing about decades ago on TV are still issues that are deemed provocative, hot-button, or controversial today. Whether its abortion or race relations, its still provocative. It still gets people riled up. Are you as surprised by that?

Maybe not. I mean, whats happened with the LGBT community andwhat does the Q stand for?


Ive always wondered about that and this is the first time Ive asked. Look how far weve moved in so little time. But it also had the kind of attention other issues didnt. Guns are starting to get that attention, and I think well see a big move in the next decade with guns. I dont want to ban the Second Amendment. Im not predicting anything like that is going to happen. But the sensible things that we need to be doing to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldnt have them, I think well see that in the next decade.

Youre already seeing the role pop culture could have in that. This past season black-ish took on that very thing. Like we were just discussing, it made some fans of the show really angry that they were taking that on and it made some fans really happy and grateful.

Yes. Yes. Theres a little thing Archie did on guns, I guess the whole episode would be about guns, but this was a little PSA on television for people who believe in the right to have guns. And, Jesus, it was everywhere for a couple of weeks, this little clip. So I sense a great deal of action.

I think youve used this terminology yourself, but a lot of people have been calling Donald Trump a real-life Archie Bunker. Having created Archie and seeing his legacy, what do you make of that comparison?

I think Donald Trump is shrewd in a way Archie never was. Archie Bunker was far wiser of heart. Sure, the thoughts he held were antediluvian. But Donald Trump is a thorough fool, having nothing to do with the shrewdness that has allowed him to cheat and steal the way he has for his own good. Underneath that hes a fool. The only thing I have no answer for regarding Donald Trump is why his kids seem to be so sane. I dont understand enough about human nature to understand that. They really seem like good, sensible kids. It doesnt make any sense at all. The complexity of the human species, there is nothing more amazing than us.

Youre known for reflecting that complexity back through those TV shows youve created. Its interesting that it continues to surprise you.

Trump stumps! (Laughs)

Do you have a hope for what impact America Divided might have for those who watch it?

Youre asking that of someone who doesnt want to wake up the morning he has no hope left. Yes, I have hope. I see great hope in the fact that it made it on the air, that Epix wants to do this.

Having Shonda Rhimes involved means something in todays world.

Did you like the piece she did for Hillary?

Oh, yes. Whats your impression of her?

Shonda Rhimes? I think shes glorious. I love what she does. I love the way she thinks. I love that she did it, and shes a woman. Shes at the forefront of whatever were seeing coming about now. Shes pushing it forward.

How does it feel as someone whos watched the intersection of pop culture and political change for decades to see someone like Shonda Rhimes rise?

Hope. What could give you more hope than seeing someone like Shonda Rhimes happen right in front of you? Shes a marvelously talented person with all the conviction in the world and energy.

Its refreshing to talk to you because so often pop culture can be dismissed as a distraction, but you prove why it can be necessary.

Look whats happening with Donald Trump. If he isnt a piece of pop fucking culture I dont know what is. Hes the best example there is for how powerful pop culture is. That that clown can say, I want to be president and be taken seriously. My god. And all the way through the Republican convention, from all over the country these supposedly respectable Republicans are now susceptible to a piece of pop culture thats flaring in front of them and took them. Dear god almighty, there cant be a better example.

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