To be alive is to eat. To enjoy life is to eat. To meet with family and friends and reminisce and plan the future is to eat. And of course, all of human culture, in one way or another revolves around our basic need to stay alive through producing, consuming, and loving food.
So why do so few novelists, poets, lyricists, and other writers talk about food in their work?
I’ve been cooking since I was a kid and have always loved everything about acquiring, making, and consuming food, and in recent years I’ve become an enthusiastic and productive gardener. I’ve relished (ba-dum-ching) my conversations with other people, but especially other writers, about food. This episode features the sparkling ideas about food, culture, science, feminism, social justice, technology, and more of three delightful human beings and celebrated writers:
SG Wong is the creator of the Lola Starke hardboiled detective series (Die on Your Feet, In For a Pound, and Devil Take the Hindmost), set in Crescent City, California, in an alternate history in which China colonised North America. An Arthur Ellis Award finalist, Wong is also a sparkling stalwart of Edmonton’s literary scene as an organiser of writer conferences. She’s one of those outstanding individuals whose endless energy benefits everyone in the community.
Ekaterina Sedia is the author of The House Of Discarded Dreams, The Secret History of Moscow, and The Alchemy of Stone. She’s a short story writer who also occasionally edits anthologies, and was an interim non-fiction editor for Clarkesworld Magazine in the fall of 2008. She blogs television, books, fashion, food, and even cats, with a focus on the intersection between fashion industry and feminism. She encourages readers to contact her at email@example.com.
Nalo Hopkinson, whom the Routledge Companion to Literature and Science calls a luminary in the science fiction community. She is widely known for her Africentric science fiction and fantasy novels exploring the experiences and cultures of African peoples in the Caribbean and ultimately into the galaxy. She’s the author of ten celebrated books including Skin Folk, Sister Mine, The New Moon’s Arms, and her explosive debut Brown Girl in the Ring, a dystopian science fiction adventure set in near-future Toronto featuring an African-Canadian heroine and the orisha gods of Nigeria and Benin.
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For more information including recipes, visit MFGALAXY.org.
Thirty actors, writers, film makers, cartoonists, singers, MCs, DJs, and academics answer the question: Does racial tension ever disappear for you?
A couple of important links:
David Simon refers to conflict with Charles Roc Dutton while making the miniseries The Corner. For further reading, check this article.
I asked A. Peter Bailey about African youth in the US (and Canada) believing that education is “White,” and learned later for the outstanding sociologist Algernon Austin and his book Getting It Wrong that such claims are mostly a myth. Listen to my interview with Algernon Austin here.
I've been asking the question for over two decades. Now here the responses in part one of a special two-part series on MF GALAXY featuring, in part one (be sure to download parts 1A and 1B):
Billie Jean Young
Billie Jean Young
Mario Van Peebles
Kenneth T. Williams
K Tempest Bradford
William B. Davis
Christian A. Brown
John W. Campbell Award-winning novelist Mur Lafferty is the author of the six-volume Afterlife series, the Shambling Guides series, Playing for Keeps, Merry Christmas from the Heartbreakers, and Marco and the Red Granny. She’s been a podcaster since the beginnings of podcasting, starting in 2004, and she’s won the Podcast Peer Award and three Parsec Awards. Last year, she was inducted into the Podcaster Hall of Fame for shows such as Geek Fu Action Grip, I Should Be Writing, and her writing business show Ditch Diggers. She holds an MFA in popular fiction. She’s also an avid pro-attendee of fiction conventions, and annually publishes a beginner’s guide to preparing for con season.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Mur Lafferty discusses:
Lafferty spoke with me on July 07, 2016 by Skype from her home in North Carolina.
Gail Sidonie Sobat is a singer, teacher, author of eleven books, and organiser of YouthWrite, one of Canada’s most successful and enduring creative writing workshops for young people. She’s taught internationally and at the post-secondary level, and is profoundly devoted to writers, the writing community, and teens and kids in distress.
In this episode of MF GALAXY, Gail Sobat discusses:
Continuing from the previous episode of MF GALAXY, is part 2 of my conversation with comic book and video game writer Andrew Foley. Andrew Foley writes for Beamdog Game Studio in Edmonton, and wrote the graphic novels Parting Ways (illustrated by Scott Mooney and Nick Craine) and Done to Death, illustrated by star-artist Fiona Staples. He’s also the writer of the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens.
In this episode, Foley discusses:
Andrew Foley spoke with me live onstage at Authorpalooza 1 in October 2014 at the University of Alberta.
SG Wong is the creator of the Lola Starke hardboiled detective series set in Crescent City, California, in an alternate history in which China colonised North America. Arthur Ellis Award-finalist Wong is also a sparkling stalwart of Edmonton’s literary scene as an organiser of writer conferences. She’s one of those outstanding individuals whose endless energy benefits everyone in the community. In this episode of MF Galaxy, SG Wong discusses:
Along the way, Wong refers to Gail, meaning the novelist, writing teacher, and literary organiser Gail Sidonie Sobat. SG Wong spoke with me live onstage at Authorpalooza 3 at Devaney’s Pub in Edmonton in April, 2015.
Next, from Authorpalooza 1 from October 2014, is comic book and video game writer Andrew Foley. Andrew Foley writes for Beamdog Game Studio in Edmonton, and wrote the graphic novels Parting Ways (illustrated by Scott Mooney and Nick Craine) and Done to Death, illustrated by star-artist Fiona Staples. But to some, Foley is best known as the writer of the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens, and that’s the subject of “Andrew Foley’s True Hollywood Stories.”
Here’s what Stephen King has to say about Tananarive Due’s best known novel, My Soul to Keep: It’s “an eerie epic [that] bears favourable comparison to Interview with the Vampire. I loved this novel.”
When one of the best-selling and most-loved novelists of all time praises your work like that, you know you’ve arrived. But success wasn’t overnight for Tananarive Due. After working for years as a journalist, she took a leave to co-write Freedom in the Family, a memoir of the 1960s US human rights struggle from the perspective of her mother, Patricia Stephens Due, who’d been an activist in it.
Due is the author of twelve novels, including The Living Blood, Devil’s Wake, and Joplin’s Ghost, and the short story collection Ghost Summer. Due has won the American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Kindred Award. In 2004, along with Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, Due received the “New Voice in Literature Award” at the Yari Yari Pamberi conference co-sponsored by New York University's Institute of African-American Affairs and African Studies Program and the Organization of Women Writers of Africa. In 2010, she was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism's Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University.
With her novelist husband Steven Barnes, Due writes the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series in partnership with actor Blair Underwood. She holds a journalism degree and an M.A. in English literature from Leeds, where she specialized in Nigerian literature as a Rotary Foundation Scholar.
She currently teaches screenwriting at UCLA and in the MFA programme at Antioch University ,Los Angeles.
In this episode of MF GALAXY, Tananarive Due discusses:
Due spoke with me on June 6, 2016 by Skype from her home in Los Angeles.
Writing blog www.tananarivedue.wordpress.com
The “brain drain” from Africa’s 55 countries is the cause of much lamentation—sending legions of doctors, engineers, and other professionals to serve the West at the exact moment they can lead economic growth at home.
But Titilope Sonuga is part of the unheralded but very real “brain train,” the expatriates who are moving back home with education, skills, and networks they’ve gained abroad.
Sonuga has ridden that train. She’s lived on two continents, had a career in Canada as a civil engineer, co-founded Edmonton’s thriving Breath In Poetry performance collective and hit stages with her work across the country, relocated to her family’s home country of Nigeria, become an Intel spokesperson to encourage women to use information technology, performed her verse at the inauguration of Nigeria’s president, and ascended to television stardom in Nigeria.
Not bad for a thirty-year-old, huh?
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Titilope Sonuga discusses:
Sonuga spoke with me by Skype from her apartment in Lagos, Nigeria on November 15, 2015.
Although Saskatchewan-born songwriter, piano player, bassist, and singer Colleen Brown now lives in Ontario, she spent most of her musical education and career in Edmonton. She’s released five albums, including her 2004 debut A Peculiar Thing, 2008’s Foot in Heart, and 2015’s Direction. Brown has opened for acclaimed musicians including Randy Newman, Jim Cuddy, and Hawksley Workman, and she’s toured the United Kingdom and Germany. While she’s often compared to Joni Mitchell, her voice and her musical approach are truly her own.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Colleen Brown discusses:
Colleen Brown spoke with me by Skype from her home in Ontario on April 26, 2016. We began by discussing the turmoil of recording studio disasters.
Vancouver-based comics artist and writer Faith Erin Hicks has been publishing graphic novels since 2007, and her best known books include Brain Camp, Friends with Boys, and The Last of Us. She’s just released the historical adventure work The Nameless City, set in medieval China. Her work features girls and boys in contemporary, realist, and horror scenarios, and is funny, heartfelt, and exciting. Part of the energy and character in Hicks’s drafting comes from her animation training, which also emphasised the importance of what animators call “acting” in pictures. In 2011, she won the prestigious Eisner Award for The Adventures of Superhero Girl.
Hicks’s latest work is The Nameless City, published by First Second. It’s the first volume of a trilogy set in Mongol-occupied China. It’s about a street girl named Rat and a military brat named Kai who learn from each other about how much bigger life is than their own deprived worlds, and how they run head-first into a plot to assassinate their city’s ruler.
In spring 2016, Hicks was touring North America to support The Nameless City, and in April she came to Edmonton as the guest of Happy Harbor Comics, through which she conducted workshops around the city and in St. Albert.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Faith Erin Hicks discusses:
Hicks spoke with me by Skype on April 29, 2016. She began by discussing the superstars of animation and graphic novels who’ve raved about The Nameless City.
The core contradiction of North American science fiction and fantasy fandom is that while often describing itself as a bastion for people who faced rejection from small-minded people, for decades it offered plenty of rejection of its own.
North American fan culture was dominated by European men and boys, predominantly middle class and straight, with Western, Northern, and ancient Southern European cultural reference points. While obsessed with physical sciences and militarism, it was largely ignorant of social sciences and popular struggles for justice.
Even to this day, as plenty of fans attest, fandom was a closed shop where alleged outsiders could ride the starship in small numbers, but could never by the helmsman or the captain.
While some abusive and oppressive fans still cause havoc for others as with the Gamergate and Hugo Award Rabid Puppies scandals, many fans have brought many changes. And inside that fan-vanguard are feminist participants and creators who are changing the culture and changing the content.
Cosplay has moved from mass-produced and monotonous Star Trek uniforms to superbly hand-crafted costumes from thousands of storyworlds. Convention artists tables are no longer simply sales-spots for a few men, but rows and rows of women with outstanding art, particularly of female characters in exciting, fun, and non-sexist portrayal. Women are creating science fiction, fantasy, and superhero comics, graphic novels, documentaries, feature films, costumes, video games, conventions, and more. They’ve evolved the scene from what it used to be, into where it’s going for the 21st Century.
In E-Town, that leadership belongs to the Lady Geeks Unite. On the first Thursday of every month, they meet at Happy Harbor Comics for Lady Geek Nite. They host a range of events that include table top gaming and role-playing games, documentaries and discussions, and costume creation workshops, and annual events such as a Christmastime fan-craft sale.
For a few months I was embedded at Happy Harbor Comics to write a play about it for Workshop West, and I got to attend many meetings of the Lady Geeks and learn of their mysterious ways. So on May 14th, 2016, I sat down at the store with lady geeks Sylvia Douglas and Sylvia Moon to talk about what they do.
Sylvia Douglas is an arts administrator, writer, and indie filmmaker who works for FAVA, the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta, and she’s a board member for the Alberta Media Artists Alliance Society. Sylvia Moon is a graphic designer who helped organise Lady Geek Nite since its inception; she even designed its logo. She was one of the artists who created the World’s Biggest Comic during the final two days of the Royal Alberta Museum’s original location.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, the two Sylvias discuss:
Malcolm X is an icon of Pan-Africanism. Born May 19, 1925 to a Pan-Africanist family active in Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, Malcolm survived the racist murder of his father and his own descent into crime and prison. He emerged as a minister for the Nation of Islam, one of several organisations born from the US government’s destruction of Garvey’s UNIA.
While committed to the NOI’s religious doctrine, Malcolm X developed a secular, revolutionary, political ideology that combined Garveyism with the Original World liberation struggles raging against imperialism throughout the 1950s and 60s. So respected was he that after he broke from the NOI in 1964, Malcolm X formed the united front Organisation of Afro-American Unity and won observer status on behalf of African Americans at the newly-formed Organisation of African Unity. While Nation of Islam assassins murdered him in Harlem on February 21, 1965, extensive evidence points to involvement of the United States government as Karl Evanzz details in his monumental work The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X.
On today’s episode of MF GALAXY, we’ll hear from Evanzz and also from Malcolm X associate A. Peter Bailey, who was the editor of Malcolm X’s newsletter The Blacklash, later the editor of Ebony magazine, and eventually the co-author with Malcolm X’s nephew Rodnell Collins of Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X. I spoke with Evanzz and Bailey in 2005 for the 80th anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday. They’ll offer their responses to the then-unfinished final work by Manning Marable, later published as the controversial Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. Marable claimed, among other things, that Alex Haley, the author of Roots and co-author of Malcolm’s Autobiography, was collaborating with the FBI against Malcolm X’s interests. We’ll also hear Evanzz and Bailey on three chapters deleted from the Autobiography, whose contents Marable claimed were explosive.
Karl Evanzz is one of the planet’s leading Malcolm X scholars and also the author of The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad. He was once an online editor at The Washington Post. Both men spoke to me by telephone from Washington DC in May 2005.
But first we’ll an excerpt from a February 21, 2005 Democracy Now! interview with Manning Marable, former head of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies. He authored a dozen books, including How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America. We’ll then hear Bailey’s and Evanzz’s reactions.
For links to Malcolm X books, including a discount ebook offer for The Judas Factor, and a video of editor Jared Ball discussing his book A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X, visit mfgalaxy.org.
And to hear the half hour patrons-only extended edition of this focus on Malcolm X, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.
By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes:
Although best known for her role as the Baltimore homicide investigator Kima Greggs, Sonja Sohn is also a performance poet; her second film role was in Marc Levin’s 1998 indie film Slam, which she also co-wrote. She went on to appear in John Singleton’s Shaft reboot, and in Martin Scorcese’s Bringing Out the Dead. Of combined African-American and East Asian heritage, she won a 2008 television supporting actor Asian Excellence Award for her work on The Wire.
In 2008 she campaigned for Barack Obama, and in 2009 she founded reWIRED for Change (http://rewired4change.org), a Baltimore-based NGO that seeks to help at-risk youth. In 2011, she won the Woman of the Year award from the Harvard Black Men’s Forum.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Sohn discusses:
Sohn spoke with me by telephone on September 11, 2008. She began by discussing her experiences and influences as a poet, and the poetry scene in the US as she knew it in 2008.
Joy Lusco Kecken began her professional screenwriting career as an intern and script coordinator for NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, and went on to freelance for the show. She served as a script coordinator for HBO’s The Wire, for which she also directed one episode and wrote three; she served as a story consultant on the 50 Cent bio-pic Get Rich or Die Tryin’, wrote for Standoff and The Division, directed the documentary We Are Arabbers, and wrote and co-directed the award-winning short film Louisville starring Andre Braugher.
In this episode of MF GALAXY, Lusco Kecken discusses:
Along the way, Lusco Kecken cites Wire series co-creators and writers David Simon and Ed Burns, both of whom I’ve interviewed about their work on The Wire. Keep listening for those conversations on upcoming episodes of MF GALAXY. She also cites The Corner, the controversial collaboration between Simon and the late David Mills whom I also interviewed, the miniseries that depicts the miseries of people with addictions on a Baltimore street corner.
Lusco Kecken spoke with me by telephone on January 25, 2008. She begins by discussing the work of a script coordinator and how it shaped her career.
Cathleen Rootsaert is a remarkable creator. She wrote plot and dialogue for the video game Mass Effect 3 by BioWare, and edited dialogue for the studio’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 2 games. In the late 1980s, along with rising improv stars Wes Borg, Neil Grahn, and Paul Mather, she co-founded the legendary Edmonton comedy troupe Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, which had a brief run as a CBC television series.
She’s the playwright behind Mimi Amok, After You, Legacy, Make Me and Mama Mia! Me a Mama? which won the Sterling Award for outstanding new work. She also won the 2005 Alberta Playwriting Award for Abigail in Twilight. She appeared on the Ken Finkelman series The Newsroom and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival special I’m Becoming a Mother. She’s a core member of the two-decade strong live improvised soap opera Die Nasty!
In this episode of MF GALAXY, Cathleen Rootsaert discusses:
Along the way, Rootsaert refers to “beats” in a script, which is a specific stage playwriting term referring to how long it takes characters to seek their goal for a scene before changing their tactics.
Kenneth T. Williams is one of Canada’s most accomplished playwrights. His work ranges from the grim to the hilarious, and is endlessly provocative. His many plays, several of which have been published, include Café Daughter, Gordon Winter, Bannock Republic, and Suicide Notes, and celebrated actors such as Lorne Cardinal and Tantoo Cardinal have appeared in his plays Thunderstick and Three Little Birds, respectively.
Williams has been the playwright-in-residence for the Drama Department at the University of Saskatchewan, where he also teaches playwriting. He splits his time between Edmonton and Saskatoon. Williams hails from the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, and is the first Indigenous person to earn an M.F.A. in playwriting from the University of Alberta.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Williams discusses:
Williams spoke to me by Skype in November, 2014 from his office at the University of Saskatchewan.
Vern Thiessen’s plays are among the most produced theatre in Canada, and his work has delighted audiences across the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. His many dramas include Lenin’s Embalmers, Apple, and Vimy.
He’s written for young audiences, worked on a commission for the late Leonard Nimoy, and created an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. He’s won the Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award, the Alberta Playwrights Network Competition, and Canada’s highest literary honour, the Governor General’s Award.
Despite coming from a Mennonite family in Winnipeg, Thiessen spent seventeen years in E-Town and won the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition for Einstein’s Gift. For seven years he also directed youth and community engagement theatre education in Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. He’s since returned to the Big E where he’s the Artistic Director of Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre.
In this episode of MF GALAXY, Vern Thiessen discusses:
Vern Thiessen spoke with me in November, 2014 at Workshop West about his aesthetics and writing strategies that have made him one of North America’s most celebrated theatrical voices.
Tom Fontana is the writer/producer and/or showrunner on St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life on the Street, Oz, Copper, The Jury, The Beat, The Bedford Diaries, and The Borgias.
He’s also one American television’s most celebrated writers. He’s received the Cable Ace Award, the Humanitas Prize, an Edgar Award, the Austin Film Festival’s Outstanding Television Writer Award, first prize at Switzerland’s Cinéma Tout Ecran Festival, three Emmys, three awards from the Writers' Guild, four from the Television Critics Association, and four Peabodys. And all this, if his website is to be believed, without using a single computer--Fontana claims to write longhand on yellow legal paper.
Long before HBO’s The Wire took all the credit for long-form, serial innovation in US television addressing racism and oppression in the United States, there was the work of Tom Fontana. Long before Denzel Washington was an A-list money-magnet, he was guided by Fontana’s pen as Dr. Philip Chandler on the acclaimed St. Elsewhere.
Andre Braugher was frequently lauded as the finest actor on US television for his work as Detective Frank Pembleton on the Fontana-driven Homicide. Oz showcased Eamonn Walker as Muslim Minister Kareem Said, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje as Simon Adebisi, Harold Perrineau as Augustus Hill, Ernie Hudson as Warden Leo Glynn, and muMs da Schemer as Poet.
In other words, Tom Fontana, a Euro-American writer, has created some of the very best African-American, Nigerian, and Muslim characters—and in the last two cases, some of the only ones—on US television. He also created an archetype we’ll hear about later in the show: what I call “the Malcolm X Professional.”
Tom Fontana spoke with me via telephone from his office in New York at the end of March 2003, shortly after the US Academy Awards and during the illegal US invasion of Iraq, events that arise during our conversation, and which include Ari Fleischer, then a spokesman for US President George W. Bush, and Bowling for Columbine director Michael Moore who’d then just made a speech critical of Bush at the Academy Awards. Our conversation focuses on Fontana’s strategy for creating such iconic and dynamic characters.
Christian A. Brown is an epic fantasy author and indie publisher who’s earned the praise of Kirkus Reviews, Clarion Reviews, The Huffington Post, and a former supervising producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show. The former fitness trainer is also an active blogger on numerous topics, including gender and sexuality, and on his mother’s experience of cancer.
Christian Brown spoke with me by Skype on December 30, 2015 via Skype. We discussed:
During the discussion, I alluded to the concept of hypomania and mentioned the theory of multiple intelligences, but forgot the name of its framer—Howard Gardner (https://howardgardner.com/multiple-intelligences). We began by discussing Brown’s preferences for how an editor should work with him.
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By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Christian A. Brown discussing:
Ice-T is one of the best-known artists from what is now widely known as the golden era of hip hop—the 1986 to 1992 span that saw the widest assortment of lyrical content and the climax of political and Africentric work.
West coast artist Ice-T brought a mixture of allegedly autobiographical stories and fictional ballads named “crime rhymes,” while also engaging in incisive social commentary against racism, media, and government.
In 1992, Ice-T’s musical career nearly imploded under attacks from White police, Charlton Heston, Al Gore’s wife Tipper, US vice president Dan Quayle, and President George H.W. Bush. Ice-T’s heavy metal band Body Count released the revenge fantasy ballad “Cop Killer,” about brutal and murderous racist police.
Having survived the onslaught with the support of The National Black Police Association, Ice-T continued to grow his acting career, which had begun with the 1984 US film Breakin’, grew through 1991’s New Jack City, and later hit its height on television’s Law & Order: SVU.
In the year 2000, Ice-T performed in Edmonton at club then called Red’s. In this episode you’ll hear what he had to say, including:
A few of notes: I have no way of knowing what claims Ice-T made of his past are actually true; creating a fictional onstage persona is almost as much a key element of hip hop as it is of pro-wrestling. At one point Ice-T describes having been a pimp; I don’t know if his claims are true, but certainly now as a husband and father, I marvel at my failure sixteen years ago to have asked him about the inherent depravity of such a degrading and misogynistic profession. You are a grown-up, so decide for yourself if you want to listen.
That being said, for those of you who subscribe to the EXTENDED EDITION PODCAST, you’ll hear the commentaries on Ice-T’s remarks, also recorded in the year 2000, by E-Town community activists Darren Jordan and Kelly Fraser.
Also, when I recorded this interview in the year 2000, I’d never heard of Kid Rock. That’s important to know to understand the sarcasm of Ice-T’s comment and my confusion at his answer.
Finally, Ice-T let me interview him immediately after his show. There’s no question that any artist, or speaker, walking offstage after an intense performance is in a mind-state that isn’t suited to honest reflection, but to spectacle and artifice. But note while you’re listening how Ice-T slowly calms, becoming quieter and possibly more sincere. He was generous with his time, and for that I thank him.
To hear the half-hour of patrons-only bonus material about my conversation with Ice-T, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.
By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes community activists Darren Jordan and Kelly Fraser from a Terrordome interview in the year 2000 discussing:
It’s one of the most innovative and best-written Western animated series ever made, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Brian Konietzko and Michael DiMartino created its three seasons, which ran from 2005 to 2008. While technically aimed at children and teens, the series had a vast adult following that continues to grow via DVD, and because of its sequel series The Legend of Korra.
Distilled to its essence, Avatar: The Last Airbender is about a Dalai Lama-style boy monk with super-powers. He’s a bender, a person who can shape the four elements to his will. In this world, each element has a nation: the Air Nomads, the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, and the Fire Nation. Young Avatar Aang, born an Airbender, awakes in a world in which the Fire Nation has destroyed the balance among the nations by waging a war for global conquest.
Young Aang already knows air-bending, but if he’s to defeat the Fire Nation armies and its Fire Lord, he has less than a year to master the other elements, or face a planetary dictatorship that is now invincible. Avatar is a lushly animated and intelligently-written series with memorable and touching characters. It’s alternately deeply philosophical and hilariously slapstick.
Sifu Kisu is the martial arts consultant for the series. He’s the man who designed the distinct bending moves for each of the four nations and all the lead characters, and choreographed all the weapons fighting, based on his own decades of training in Chinese and other East Asian fighting systems. Avatar without his enormous impact wouldn’t be the same—try imagining Star Wars without the Force and light sabres. In the show’s final season, the creators transformed Sifu Kisu into a character named Sword Master Piandao, voiced by Robert Patrick, best known for playing the T1000 in Terminator 2.
Sifu Kisu has led a fascinating life. In addition to his decades of training in and teaching of martial arts, he’s been in the US armed forces, served as a body guard to foreign dignitaries, and worked in Hollywood; as an African-American super-achiever in martial arts, he’s befriended many of the most accomplished African-American practitioners of various fighting forms.
Sifu Kisu and I discussed:
We began by discussing Sifu Kisu’s pitch to Hollywood for his own animated martial arts series, which embodies his ideals for how martial arts can improve humanity.
To hear the half-hour, patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Sifu Kisu, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.
By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Sifu Kisu discussing:
The word “psychopath” strikes terror. While most people imagine psychopaths to be extremely rare serial killers, in fact, most psychopaths are not murderers, but exploitative and terrorising managers, bosses, politicians, drug dealers, pharmaceutical CEOs, family members, clergy, atheists, police, teachers, and others we’ve met and under whom we’ve suffered.
The Canadian researcher Robert Hare is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of psychopathy; he developed a screening test called the Psychopathic Check List (Revised) or PCL-R, and estimates that approximately one percent of people, or around 70 million humans, are psychopaths.
But Robert J. Sawyer thinks otherwise. Sawyer is one of Canada’s most celebrated novelists with endless awards and accolades. His carefully-researched science fiction novels have earned acclaim across the globe. And his latest novel, Quantum Night, theorises that psychopaths aren’t one percent of humanity, but two-sevenths—that is, about two billion people.
And wait: it gets worse. That another four billion people are not figuratively, but literally mindless—so-called “philosopher’s zombies” or P-Zeds who speak and act just like we do, but who have no interior life whatsoever: the talking dead.
Sawyer’s latest novel—which I regard as his best ever—is as intellectually provocative as it is chilling, and as he revealed to me before any other media source, it may be his final one. The book is about a Canadian psychologist, Jim Marchuk, who realises that psychopathy may be a quantum mechanical event that will end the world—unless he can end it first.
Rob Sawyer spoke with me by Skype from his home outside Toronto on February 23, 2016. We discussed:
Along the way, I cite the DSM-V, or the fifth edition of the North American “bible” of psychological diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Full disclosure: Rob Sawyer and I have been friends for over a decade.
We began by discussing the novel’s fascinating and disturbing central idea: that psychopathy and intelligence itself arises from a quantum-mechanical setting in the microtubules of neurons.
Born in East Harlem in 1936 to Puerto Rican and Italian parents, Benedict Fernandez became one of the most celebrated photographers in the United States, in large measure through his documenting some of the most powerful images of the human rights struggle of 1960s and 70s United States, and especially from visually documenting the final year of the life of Martin Luther King.
Fernandez has earned numerous prestigious awards for his work, including a Fellowship of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in China, a US National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Various museums around the world house his work in their permanent collections, including the Smithsonian, the US National Portrait Gallery, the Schomburg Center, the University of Tokyo, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Fernandez has published several books of photographs, including IN OPPOSITION: Images of American Dissent in the Sixties, and I AM A MAN.
During African History Month in 2001, Fernandez came to give a lecture during an exhibition of his work at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. He spoke with me afterward to discuss:
Along the way, Fernandez cited two former King associates: Andrew Young, later mayor of Atlanta and American ambassador to the United Nations, and Julian Bond, later a Georgia State Assemblyman and Chair of the NAACP.
While it’s remarkable that a man who didn’t live past age 39 has achieved immortality, Malcolm X accomplished so much in his brief, dramatic life that the reasons are clear. He was one of the most significant figures of the 20th Century, an African-American whose life, experiences, influences, and effects crossed continents and oceans.
Born in 1925 to a family of activists for Marcus Garvey’s internationalist United Negro Improvement Association, young Malcolm faced numerous obstacles including the murder of his father, likely by Klansmen. Descending to crime and prison, he recreated himself with the aid of the Nation of Islam, one of the many groups that rose following the US government’s destruction of Garvey’s UNIA.
Malcolm employed his astounding intellect, oratorical skill, and organisational brilliance to build the NOI from a few scattered temples of a few hundred people into a nation-wide organisation, and became an electrifying international figure. His success provoked jealousy among other leaders of the NOI, and fear at the highest levels of US intelligence, amply demonstrated in the books Malcolm X: The FBI File by Claybourne Carson and The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X by Karl Evanzz.
Such jealousy, fear, and intrigue from shadowy heights of US power collided on Feb. 21, 1965, when five NOI assassins murdered the man described by the FBI as a potential “Black messiah.” Malcolm’s final testament, the Autobiography which he co-authored with Alex Haley, is a modern classic.
On this episode of MF GALAXY, we’ll hear from a man who was an apprentice of Malcolm X: A. Peter Bailey. Bailey is a journalist, activist, former editor of Ebony Magazine, a founding member of Malcolm’s secular, united-front Organisation of Afro-American Unity, and editor of its newsletter The Blacklash. With Rodnell P. Collins, a nephew of Malcolm X, Bailey is the author of Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X. He’s also one of the key figures behind the classic book Malcolm X: The Man and His Times.
Bailey spoke with my by telephone from Washington DC on May 16, 2005, just before Malcolm’s 80th birthday. He discussed:
Along the way, Bailey cites Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s widow; the Pan-Africanist scholar and activist Dr. John Henrik Clarke, the credited editor of Malcolm X: The Man and His Times; and novelist John Oliver Killens, author of And Then We Heard the Thunder.
We began by discussing the controversy around creating the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Centre out of the remnants of the Audubon Ballroom where assassins killed Malcolm X in 1965.
Few people have done as much to promote the Africentric perspective as Molefi Kete Asante, the scholar, editor, and activist who wrote the seminal work Afrocentricity and furthered the intellectual movement for an African-centered scholarship and world-view that employs research for political liberation through the academic resuscitation of smothered history.
Asante has published over 400 articles, and has authored more than seventy books, among them Afrocentricity, African Pyramids of Knowledge, Ancient Egyptian Philosophers, and most recently, the memoir As I Run Toward Africa. The Utne Reader called him one of the “100 Leading Thinkers” in the United States, and he has appeared on Nightline, The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, The Today Show, The Tony Brown Show, and 60 Minutes.
The African Union cited him as one of the top twelve scholars of African descent when it invited him to give one of the keynote addresses at the Conference of Intellectuals of Africa and the Diaspora in Dakar in 2004. He’s currently Professor in the Department of African American Studies at Philadelphia’s Temple University.
Asante spoke with me by telephone from his office at Temple University in Philadelphia on August 12, 2010 (You’ll note that during our discussion I refer to the African continent as having only 54 countries, rather 55 with the creation of South Sudan in 2011). We discussed:
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