8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 15, 2006
By Anthony Baber
Daily Arts Writer
Leave me on 'Mars'
In 1959, John Howard Griffin, a white man, col-
ored his skin black and ventured to the South for his
book "Black Like Me." Immediately upon publica-
tion, the book revealed the still-blatant segregation
and omnipresent strife between races.
Even today, some people go out trying to make
change, confronting the issue and attempting to
bring it to its knees. Others just
ignore it, feeling that there is no Black.White.
direct impact on them so it's not "W
a problem. Wednesdays
Then there are those who sit at 10 p.m.
around in constant paranoia, FX
worried about the looks they
receive from different people. So how can you get a
better look at the way one race views another? Take
a black family and a white family, switch their races,
and put them in a house together.
Rapper turned actor/director Ice Cube has cre-
ated a new show to further explore the issue of
racism. "Black. White." is fairly similar to "Trad-
ing Spouses" and "Wife Swap," the latter in which
a mother is sent to a family completely different
from her own in terms of race, religion, sexual ori-
entation or politics. "Black. White." takes it a step
further by taking the African-American Sparks
family and the Caucasian Wurgel family both from
California, and housing them together, effectively
intertwining their lives.
Courtesy of FX
Yes, those people are actually white. Weird.
The families go through an intense makeup period,
changing their skin tone, hair texture and eye color,
making them look as convincing as possible. Along
with the different appearance, they also change their
routines, jobs and lifestyles. Rose Wurgel, who coin-
cidently looks better as a black girl than a white girl,
takes a spoken-word class and learns the elements of
slam poetry. Brian Sparks, father and husband, takes
a job at a local bar in a predominantly white area.
Clearly, the fire is being stoked.
Each family reacts differently. When Bruno sees his
wife Carmen in black skin, they both instantly fall in
love with each other all over again. She looks deeply in
to his eyes and calls him a "beautiful, black creature"
with an intense longing unseen since the days of James
and Florida Evans. Even among the drama, "Black.
White" knows how to break the tension.
On the other side, as soon as Brian Sparks sees
his newly-white wife Renee he bursts into sudden
laughter, as does the entire family when they witness
transformation that their son Nick also undergoes.
The show's most vividly drawn aspect is the way
the families clash. Bruno doesn't feel like racism
remains present and contemporary racism is the
equivalent of just having a bad day. Bruno also has
an alarming predilection for the "n"-word and pro-
ceeds to inquire about situations in which it might
come into play. Brian, however, has a paranoia sur-
rounding racism that's a bit too acute, believing
that people simply moving over on the sidewalk is
a sign of disrespect.
The two contrast greatly and spend a lot of time
engaging in (very entertaining) arguments. Though
it's interesting to see them interact outside of their
color, their average days are pretty mundane. It's
the everyday get up, go to school, go to work and
spend time with your family shtick.
Still, the show is a great idea that could really
generate interest, but it's been done before. Maybe
people will actually pay attention this time.
What is it about spunky
blondes who fight injustice
that makes for such great
television? I'm not sure, but UPN's
"Veronica Mars" has it in spades.
Tonight's episode marks the series'
first new mystery since January.
Not since the "Buffy the Vampire
Slayer" heyday has a show so won-
derfully defied the expectations of its
genre to become among the all-time
great series. "Veronica Mars" has
entered that pantheon
after only a season and a
half on the air.
Let me preface this
love letter with a confes-
sion - I came late to
the "Veronica Mars"
bandwagon. No matterR
how much good press;
the show got, or even at.
the urging of some of my
best friends (who actu-
ally have good taste inAA
television), I wouldn't ROTTE
give up my weekly fix of
"Scrubs" (and this season, "Lost") to
check out a vapid UPN teen drama.
Not even the endorsement of "Buffy"
mastermind Joss Whedon could sway
me enough to tune in.
I was wrong.
"Veronica Mars" is no ordinary
WB/UPN teen drama. It may look
just like a carbon copy of those types
of shows, but it has more in com-
mon with the complex storytelling of
"Buffy" than "Dawson's Creek." In
fact, the series even hits at issues like
class, race and sexuality in realistic
and compelling fashion.
Each week, Veronica, the petite
heroine of the piece, helps solve
mysteries either for her father (who
runs a private detective agency) or for
her schoolmates, never missing the
opportunity for a pop-culture-laced
quip along the way. But that's just the
tip of the iceberg. The series features
overarching mysteries that constantly
return to haunt its title sleuth.
If you are sitting on the fence like
I was, then I urge you to check it out.
What the series really needs is more
viewers. And what television needs
is more creative and original shows
of this ilk.
For the "Buffy" fans who have
been waiting for the heir apparent
from Whedon himself - it's not
coming, at least not anytime soon
- "Veronica" fills in more than
admirably. I would even say that both
of its seasons are tighter throughout
than any single season of "Buffy."
There are virtually no signs of grow-
ing pains or truly wretched single
episodes; the show hit it out of the
park from the pilot. It even features
recurring guest parts for Charisma
Carpenter and Alyson Hannigan.
Now that may catch those few
devout "Buffy" fans who may have
missed it, but I bet that doesn't do
much to lure in the rest of you. Espe-
cially when you look at what other
shows "Veronica" is up against.
You want to watch "Lost"; I under-
stand that. I even do that (at least with
TiVo). But believe me when I say
"Veronica Mars" is a far
more satisfying viewing
experience than an hour
with our favorite castaways.
Both feature complex, dark
mysteries and characters
with murky pasts. They
both even have resident
assholes - Sawyer and
Logan, respectively - that
infuriate and enthrall at
the same time. But only
M "Veronica" seems to be
'BERG going somewhere. "Lost"
dangles plotlines like it's
the second coming of "The X-Files,"
whereas "Veronica Mars" eventually
finds resolution. Last season revolved
around finding who really murdered
Veronica's best friend Lilly Kane.
That mystery, as well as almost all of
the other plot threads, was tied up by
the season's end. "Lost" only opened
the gateway to even more plodding
stories as its castaways opened the
mysterious "hatch." Forithe viewer
who wants the mystery, even a sea-
son-long one, to be solved eventually,
"Veronica Mars" is the way to go.
NBC and CBS air procedural dra-
mas - veteran "Law & Order" and
the newer "Criminal Minds" - that all
deal with unraveling a criminal mystery.
Why bother with simplistic, single-epi-
sode story arcs and two-dimensional
detectives when you can have complex,
meaningful cases with well rounded
characters? Once again, "Veronica Mars"
is the clear winner of the timeslot.
If you consider "American Idol"
- which is really nothing more than
a glorified karaoke contest - to be
satisfying television, there's probably
not much I can do to convince you
But at the very least, give "Veronica"
a shot if your series of choice is a
repeat. The show needs any ratings
boost it can get before the bigwigs at
the new CW network decide its fate.
"Veronica Mars" truly is one of the
best series on television and may well
be the best show you're not watching.
- Rottenberg thinks Kristin Bell can
out-sass an entire fleet of waitresses.
Argue with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Note reissues jazz greats on CD series
By Lloyd Cargo
Daily Music Editor
When Blue Note first introduced
the Rudy Van Gelder reissue series
in 1999, jazz
lovers every- Blue Note
where rejoiced. Reissue
Finally, the man Series
more legendary Various titles
sessions than Blue Note
anyone else was
re-mastering the classic albums he
originally helped create in luscious,
The series is already more than
100 titles deep, with batches of a
half dozen released every few weeks.
Most of the more famous titles, like
Blue Train and Out to Lunch, were
done first, but nearly every release is
a gem, and at prices as low as $9.99,
'they're a spectacular bargain.
This round includes Stanley Tur-
rentine's Joyride, Dexter Gordon's
Gettin' Around, Hank Mobley's
Workout, Lee Morgan's The Gigolo,
The Horace Silver Quintet's Horace-
Scope and Andrew Hill's Smoke-
stack. While none of these titles are
their respective artists' best work
by any means, each of them have
strengths that make them essential
in their own right.
Perhaps the most noticeable
aspect of a Blue Note is the stunning
artwork, usually featuring a Francis
Wolff photograph. Here, the liner
notes are expanded with informa-
tive essays and gorgeous pictures,
but thankfully, the original artwork
and liner notes are still intact. It's a
wonderful way of juxtaposing old
The sound is also stunning, re-
mastered with tender love. The
recordings still feature Van Gelder's
trademark well balanced sound, with
the sort of soft clarity that early CD
issues lacked. Some of these titles
are being issued on CD for the first
time, and Blue Note still has hun-
dreds more in the vaults.
Of particular interest is Lee Mor-
gan's The Gigolo, one of Philadelphia
trumpeter Morgan's finer efforts,
with its rubber-dart solos and sear-
ing tenor from Wayne Shorter.
Hank Mobley, another Philadel-
phia giant, also burns hard on his
Workout. He's accompanied by gui-
tarist Grant Green and pianist Wyn-
ton Kelly - excellent sidemen to
have on any album - really stretch
out over a batch of tunes by the
The bonus tracks on each album
are also of interest. Stanley Turren-
tine's Joyride adds a Lou Donaldson
tune, "Gravy Train," and a Brother
Jack McDuff tune, "A Kettle of
Fish," that compliment the songs on
the original album. Andrew Hill's
Smokestack is aided by two alter-
nate takes on songs that appear on
the album, "Ode to Von," and "No
So," which show how fast Hill was
adapting his songs in the studio and
offer a glimpse into how precise
these musicians really were.
All of these albums benefit from
the Rudy Van Gelder Series treat-
ment, making discs like Dexter
Gordon's Gettin' Around and Smoke-
stack worthy of a second purchase,
if not a first.
These reissues are that much
nicer, and the music, pictures and
liner notes have set the standard for
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