Explosions in Middle East Pop Culture

Two very well-read articles were brought to my attention today, both published in the relatively new World Politics Watch online daily.

Guy Taylor writes of an intense interest in pop culture and reality TV in the face of bombing in Lebanon. He alludes specifically to Star Academy, the Lebanon Broadcasting Corp.’s reality show/contest now in its 3rd season and Super Star, a show allegedly based on the British show Pop Idol.

I heard a song on some NPR program yesterday, can’t seem to dig it up via search, but it was a Palestinian song with words altered in support of Hezbollah / Nasrallah and I can?t get it out of my head. According to Al Jazeera, the number one hit song of the summer on the streets of Ramallah has been “The eagle of Lebanon,” a tribute to Nasrallah. Good chance it can be heard on any of these Gaza/West Bank-based online radio stations.

Juliette Terzieff provides an in-depth update on the latest in Iraqi reality TV. Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the U.S. on transplanting notions of Western democracy on the Iraqi public, ?it has been the localized versions of “American Idol” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” that captured the hearts and minds of Iraqis.” Programs including “Construction Contract,” “Fame or Fortune” and “Congratulations!” are aired regularly on Al Sharqiya TV (watch live), a privately owned satellite-based channel.

My question is, when is Murdoch going to announce an initiative to penetrate the markets with his monster MySpace social network?

Here’s 15 minutes of “Star Academy.” More video clips can be found at Yahoo! Video.

Thanks to John Brown for passing along info on these two articles.

‘The Onion’ Debuts in Los Angeles

Did a double take last night while walking down Vermont and caught an Onion display box in the corner of my p.o.v. Oddly, was in convo with a Chicago friend and was hardly phased by the sight of the tab of ridic hilarity until I was reminded by Metroblogging.LA this morning, that YES, The Onion has finally arrived in Los Angeles.

t. herman zweibel, onion publisher emeritusThought I was hallucinating for a second as I had just walked by a bizarre gathering of folks outside of Skylight Books where Les Claypool — superstar of satirical music himself — was demonstrating that rock stars can read aloud. Then I remembered reading a column about the Onion debut in the LA Times last week.

Now if only Skylight can get the likes of T. Herman Zweibel to read…

Free Josh Wolf

free joshua wolfEarlier this week, Joshua Wolf, a 24-year-old freelance journalist and blogger, became the first journalist to be jailed for refusing to disclose information in a court of law since Judith Miller. These are hardly the “Scooter” Libby “Flame” top secrets revealed over a snazzy Georgetown meal, however, as Wolf would be the first to proclaim that he is no friend of the administration.Wolf had been blogging his experience here, until the 1st of August, when, as his mother wrote: “Although the July 20th hearing seemed promising, today the judge, Judge Alsop ruled against all motions including 5th amendment rights, rights coming under freedom of the press, against bail or a stay. Josh is in Dublin federal prison, in the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay.”

It makes no difference that the video he withheld was of self-proclaimed anarchists at an anti-G8 summit — the “crime” it supposedly captured was a “riot” that grew out of the protest. Surely, one would think there were other camerapeople documenting the event.

This is a direct attack on freedom of speech and the expression of dissent that one often hears about in countries with extensively repressive governments such as China. Surely an appeal will be filed and the case will go to the 9th Circuit, but it may not be until next summer.

The SF Chronicle attests to these journalistic freedoms in an editorial titled “Free Josh Wolf.”