NPR Story
10:54 am
Fri December 28, 2012

Is 'Django Unchained' The 'Blackest Film Ever'?

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 9:08 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Coming up, all kinds of folks made their debut on Twitter this year, including His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. We decided we wanted to talk about the best and worst of 2012 on Twitter. That's coming up later in the program.

But first it's time for our weekly visit to the Barber Shop where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for the last shapeup of 2012 is writer and culture critic Jimi Izrael. He's with us from Cleveland. Pablo Torre is a senior writer at espn.com. He's in our bureau in New York.

In our Washington D.C. studios we have civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar and R. Clarke Cooper. He is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. He's also an army reserve captain. Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Cool. What's up, y'all?

PABLO TORRE: What up?

IZRAEL: Hey. Welcome to the Shop, everybody.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Yo.

IZRAEL: How we doing?

TORRE: Hey, hey, hey.

R. CLARKE COOPER: What's going on?

IZRAEL: All right. Well, let's get it started. You know, if you ever thought better of arguing with your neighbor, you know, about the lawn or the garbage or the dog, well, you know, because you don't know necessarily if they're packing heat. Well, a local newspaper in White Plains, New York...

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: ...is helping people out. The Journal News posted an online database of handgun permit owners in the area, including their names and addresses, Michel.

MARTIN: And as you might imagine, that upset a lot of people and in retaliation a blogger named Christopher Fountain posted the names and addresses of the newspaper's staff. Christopher Fountain talked to CNN yesterday about why he did it. This is what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF CNN INTERVIEW)

CHRISTOPHER FOUNTAIN: Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the media and I felt that they were using this to harass gun owners - solely to harass gun owners. So I harassed them back.

IZRAEL: Wow. Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: Don't you love people who don't like stereotyping so they proceed to stereotype other people? Right.

IZRAEL: Wait. Though media...

IFTIKHAR: Talking to CNN.

MARTIN: Yeah.

IZRAEL: To his point, Michel, turnabout is certainly fair play.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

IZRAEL: When I saw this story I didn't see the bigger news value of publishing something like this. This is sensationalism to cause a panic. I don't agree with any of it, frankly. But like I said, turnabout is fair play. Pablo Torre, you're a New Yorker. How do you feel about knowing - well, at least you know where some of the handguns are in your area. How do you feel about it?

TORRE: So I didn't have a problem, in principle, with what they did. I mean, we should recognize that this is all public information. They didn't dredge up private anything. This was all publicly available. I think my quibble with it would've been, maybe don't put the addresses, specifically, in there; maybe have a map of some kind, where it's at least somewhat more vague.

I think the names, though, are totally fair. I mean, I think the reason why a guy like that - who talked to CNN, and a lot of the other outrage that's been out there is because people feel like they're stigmatizing and targeting gun owners. And my whole thing is, we should probably be at a point where we're giving the strictest scrutiny to gun owners. I don't think that a gun owner would be so put off by this if there wasn't a larger conversation about guns. And I think that is what this is really tapping into - which is, a gun owner should be held up to the brightest of spotlights, to be perfectly honest; at this point.

IZRAEL: Well, that's interesting.

MARTIN: Coop?

IZRAEL: Captain Coop, we know you...

FOUNTAIN: Yeah. This is...

IZRAEL: Yeah, go ahead, man.

COOPER: This is where Fountain's excuse doesn't hold water; is, in fact, those owners - those gun owners in New York have stood up to high scrutiny, to be able to have a permit and legally obtain and own a firearm. They are not - they are not the criminals. In fact, most illegal gun ownership is because they are stolen. And so now, what we have is a roadmap, or a shopping list, for where weapons can be stolen. Also, it's a roadmap, or shopping list, for a path of least resistance. We know from crime statistics that criminals will go where it's easier to commit a crime. So on one hand they know where maybe not to face down the barrel. They also know where they can find arms if they want to steal them.

MARTIN: Well, the other point that I think, you know, one might take is that what if there's an undercover officer, a police officer? What if there's a sworn police officer who has a gun but who's working undercover? What if you have an order of protection? You are a domestic violence survivor and you have an order of protection and you're using that weapon to protect your family?

I mean, there are lots of circumstances that people might use. But, you know, Arsalan, you know, this is an issue, isn't it, where the First Amendment meets the Second?

IFTIKHAR: It does.

MARTIN: Right?

IFTIKHAR: I think, you know, I do agree with Jimi. I think it's a bad look on both sides. I think it was a bad look on the part of the newspaper to publish these hundreds and thousands of names. And I obviously think it was a bad look for Mr. Fountain to, you know, publish names and addresses of the newspaper employees.

You know, when we look at, you know, names and addresses, you know, within the public domain, you know, I think many of us think of, you know, sex offenders and people who have committed an act of, you know, criminality. And I think that this does place a slight stigma on those people who were listed.

Because we do have that notion in our American zeitgeist that, you know, anybody whose name and address is put out in the public domain has done something wrong. And as Clarke mentioned, these people have not done anything wrong. On the other side of it, I do think that Mr. Fountain was very wrong also in publishing the names and addresses of the newspaper staff because, you know, that could put them in harm's way also from, you know, disgruntled people. And I just think that this was a bad look all around.

MARTIN: Is there any way to put that genie back in the bottle?

IFTIKHAR: No.

MARTIN: Well...

IZRAEL: Uhn-uhn.

TORRE: I guess my...

COOPER: No.

TORRE: I guess my point is, though, but wouldn't we want to know where gun owners are? I mean, there's a reason why they're publicly registered, right? I mean, it's a matter of access to that information.

IFTIKHAR: I hear you, Pablo, but the problem is that we currently already have 300 million guns in circulation in the United States today, one for every man, woman, and child in this country.

TORRE: Right. Right.

IFTIKHAR: And so, you know, our entire map would be filled with little pinholes if we did that.

MARTIN: But the other is - I mean, there is an interesting question here about the First Amendment, the Second, and the whole question of privacy.

IZRAEL: Right.

MARTIN: Which, you some, some conservatives argue is not in the constitution and some argue that it is. I mean, all of our tax return information is not readily available to the public.

IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: Our State Department files, our passport files are not readily available to the public. You know what I mean? It's an interesting question. I mean, I'm always interested when people say, well, I don't want the government to know X, Y or Z. Well, the government already knows that. It's a question of the public.

I mean, it's kind of an ugly way to get to an interesting question, isn't it?

IZRAEL: Yeah. And I think...

COOPER: And ugly and dangerous way. Again, let's remember that these people are now on a list.

MARTIN: Yeah.

COOPER: So who knows who out there is a criminal or just an unhinged individual that may take advantage of this information. And again, going back to the path of least resistance, if there's a block there in Westchester where six out of eight have guns in the household, and you were thinking about taking out a house, you're probably going to go to the two that may not have firearms.

MARTIN: But that doesn't that give - doesn't that - isn't that contrary to the NRA's stated position that, you know, more guns equals more peace in the sense that if you know that people have a gun in the house then that is the area you're not going to go? I mean, isn't that their argument?

COOPER: Well, Michel, you're talking about the conceal and carry aspects.

MARTIN: Yeah.

COOPER: The states that have conceal and carry - again, it goes back to the path of least resistance. So, yeah, there is an aspect there. But again what has happened now with this expose, this whole list, truly it's exposure. These people have lost any aspect of privacy. Yeah. They've already gone through the means test with the government.

They went through a very strict mean test to get that permit and legally obtain these firearms.

MARTIN: But, you know - Pablo?

TORRE: Yeah. I was just going to say - but the same logic of that argument would lead us to not make public any of that information ever, right? I mean, the idea that the newspaper is just a conduit for this information - yes, it makes it more accessible - but the idea that it's available, that we could always find out where these people live, would seem to agitate towards a policy that says we should not be able to ever find out who owns a gun.

MARTIN: Well, that's an interesting - like, again, it's an ugly way to get to an interesting question. This is something that is going to have to be talked about now, isn't it? Kind of in the wake of this...

TORRE: Definitely. Definitely.

MARTIN: ...this debate over this...

IFTIKHAR: No, it's not over. This is not over. And when you have the NRA and the Brady Center having a corollary on this issue, it certainly has hit a point.

MARTIN: Well, again, though - it's a minor point, but I do have to point out that Christopher Fountain, the blogger, was reacting to what he felt was a way to demean and stigmatize gun owners. So what did he do - is kind of demean and stigmatize reporters. I just found that...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: ...like, how do you...

COOPER: Reporters feel stigmatized and demeaned ...

MARTIN: Who's got the moral...

COOPER: ...on a regular basis.

MARTIN: ...high ground here? And if you are just...

IFTIKHAR: Neither one of them have the moral high ground.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, we're having our weekly visit to the Barber Shop. It happens to be our last one of this year. We are joined by writer Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, sportswriter Pablo Torre, and R. Clarke Cooper. He is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. That's a Republican group that advocates for the full inclusion of the LGBT community. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. OK, going to from possible gun violence to cinematic gun violence - you know, I caught...

MARTIN: True that.

IZRAEL: (LAUGHTER) Yeah, I caught Quentin Tarantino's flick "Django Unchained" in a private showing, just before it broke this holiday. And...

MARTIN: You just had to tell it was at a private showing. I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

TORRE: Brush your shoulders off.

IZRAEL: I'm so sorry.

TORRE: Brush your shoulders off, Jimi.

MARTIN: To tell us you were too cool to go on Christmas. I'm sorry, what was the - but go ahead.

IZRAEL: Shout-out to Reggie Hudlin. You know, but like most...

MARTIN: What kind - did you have artichoke appetizers? What was the...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: OK. OK.

IZRAEL: Like most Tarantino flicks, it's full of guns, blood and, well, blood. Michel, we got a clip, yeah?

MARTIN: Yes, we do. It's from the trailer. I think it's - is it scrubbed for language? No, it's - well, it's - it is what it is.

IZRAEL: Yikes.

MARTIN: Here it is.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM TRAILER, "DJANGO UNCHAINED")

CHRISTOPH WALTZ: (as Dr. King Scholz) How do you like the bounty hunting business?

JAMIE FOXX: (as Django) Kill white folks, and they pay you for it? What's not to like? ...I like the way you die, boy.

MARTIN: Well, let me summarize the plot. The movie takes place in the era before the Civil War. Jamie Foxx plays a former enslaved American called Django - the D is silent. He agrees to help a bounty hunter. In return, they are searching for Django's wife, who is under the - you know, ownership of Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays, like, a sadistic plantation owner. And part of the plot is that there's - that's kind of a - what is it, an oxymoron? Or what's the right term here?

IFTIKHAR: Redundant?

MARTIN: Redundant. Redundant. So, anyway. So, Jimi, what you think? I mean, it's gotten all kinds of buzz, all kinds of buzz.

IZRAEL: Well, it's - I thought it was an interesting send-up to a film, an earlier film, "Django," which starred Franco Nero, who actually makes a cameo in this film. Shout-out to Franco - bad, bad, awesome film. This film, you know - for me, it bookends "Birth of a Nation," finally. Finally, you know, after decades of white-cop-versus-the-ghetto movies, you know, we have that idea turned on its head. You know, this one film, for every Steven Seagal, Dirty Harry, Charles Bronson - you know, white-man-versus-the-entire-black-community film, you know, finally, you know, we got somebody that's willing to brush their shoulders off, have some dignity, and take what is rightfully theirs - e.g., freedom and your wifey.

Yo, Pablo, you saw it last night. What did you think, man?

TORRE: I saw it with the masses, Jimi. I saw it with the masses.

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Did you really?

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: The huddled masses.

(LAUGHTER)

TORRE: And, you know, I mean, I saw it in downtown Brooklyn, and it was an amazingly fun experience. And I know I might sound hypocritical, given that I was just very strict on gun ownership, and all of that. But I think this was a fantastic movie. And I think - I mean, we heard criticism earlier this - I guess this month from Spike Lee, who was saying that, you know, I didn't - I don't want to see it. My ancestry, slavery is not something to be sent up. It's not something to be parodied.

IZRAEL: Yawn.

TORRE: But, you know, I mean, Quentin Tarantino - and I think Spike actually used the term, it was a holocaust. And we should always remember that Quentin Tarantino's last movie was "Inglourious Basterds," which was kind of about that.

IFTIKHAR: Right. Exactly. That's a good parallel there.

MARTIN: All right. Well, let's take a short break, and then we come back, we'll hear from the other guys about this. I'm interested in what all of you have to say.

We're having our weekly visit to the Barbershop with Jimi Izrael, Pablo Torre, Arsalan Iftikhar and R. Clarke Cooper. Let's everybody stay with us as we take a short break. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Please stay with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin, and you're listening to our weekly Barbershop roundtable, the last of the year. We're joined by writer Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, sportswriter Pablo Torre, and R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. Before we took a short break, Jimi got all art-house on us, and told us how much he...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: ...loved the Quentin Tarantino flick "Django Unchained." It's getting a lot of buzz for all kinds of reasons. And before we took the break, Jimi told us that he really liked it. Pablo also saw it. He really liked it. We heard that Spike Lee, the famed movie director Spike Lee said he will not see it because he thinks it's disrespectful.

What about you two - R. Clark, what's your deal?

COOPER: Well, again, I'm one of those purists. I'm a spoiler, usually, to historic period pieces. But like "Inglourious Basterds," it does provide an opportunity for dialogue for people who maybe aren't normally attracted to history, or understanding certain aspects of history. One of the interesting things about "Django" is the awkward relationship of freed men and slaves. And that is an area in actual, straight-up history, as well as popular culture, that's not normally addressed.

Where I grew up, the number one contractor during the antebellum period was a freed man who actually purchased his wife. John Proctor built all these homes for these slave owners, yet he was freed man himself, and he managed to negotiate that. And there is a tale there - kind of like "Django" - where he did - was separated from his wife, and she was put back into slavery. So there are some elements of truth there, to the back story. I think it's worth at least giving it a look-see, and if it gets somebody interested in history, great.

MARTIN: Arsalan, what about you?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah. You know, the whole tie-in between "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained," I think, cannot be underscored enough. It's one of those things, you know, when "Inglourious Basterds" came out and, you know, people called it a Holocaust-revenge movie. And this is sort of like a slavery-revenge movie. You know, I think that that's something, you know, talking about two very, very dark periods in modern human history; in a way that really hasn't been told from the history books, or even cinema. And I think the major crossover is, of course, Christoph Waltz, who played, you know, the bad Nazi mama jama Hans Landa in "Inglourious Basterds" - is also prominently featured in "Django Unchained."

MARTIN: I wonder, though, why the difference in reaction, because I don't remember there being this much anger and controversy around "Inglourious Basterds." And I wonder why that is...

IZRAEL: Well, that's easy.

MARTIN: ...in part because - well, no. Jimi, tell me - why do you think that is; is it because there was already a "Schindler's List"?

IZRAEL: Well...

MARTIN: Because "Schindler's List" was kind of the definitive piece, where....

IZRAEL: ...and there's that...

MARTIN: ...people felt like the history was really honored and preserved, so that you could afford to take a more kind of over-the-top approach - or what's your thing?

IZRAEL: I'm going to get into a lot of trouble for this. But this may be the blackest film that has ever screened...

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: ...in mainstream American theaters. You know, this is everything that blackness...

TORRE: I think you might be right.

IZRAEL: ...is about. This is white fear of black empowerment, by gun or otherwise. And at the end of the day, that's really how we define blackness. Black people define blackness by all kind of nuance. But at the end of the day, it's really about how white people feel about us, you know; whether they're afraid of us or not. And those are the degrees by which we gauge blackness. And this has got to be the blackest film ever - ever.

MARTIN: With all due respect, as the other black person in this conversation...

TORRE: Sure.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: ...I do not agree with that. I do not judge myself...

IZRAEL: OK, that's cool.

MARTIN: ...I do not think of myself in that way, in reaction to the gaze of others. I think of myself in terms of the history.

IZRAEL: Well, we're talking cinematically and...

MARTIN: I think of myself in terms of history, my lineage, the journey to being here, the journey of survival - you know, all of it. I don't see myself in terms of someone else's gaze, but in terms of my own history and journey. That's what - but I take your point...

IZRAEL: OK. Well, I think - OK.

MARTIN: ...Federico Fellini.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Federico Fellini-Izrael.

TORRE: I think one should ask the question...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Go ahead, Pablo.

TORRE: Yeah. I think the one you should question is - sort of to Jimi's point - is why haven't there been other movies about slavery, like this? I mean, we mentioned "Schindler's...

IZRAEL: Well, there was "Roots."

TORRE: Yeah.

COOPER: Yeah, but how many decades ago was "Roots"?

IZRAEL: That was a black oppression story, clearly.

COOPER: Right..

IZRAEL: This is a black empowerment story.

TORRE: I'm kind of surprised and - I don't know if I'm the person to speak to this. But I'm just kind of surprised there hasn't been something that engaged with the subject matter in the same way that was as - in a movie theater last night, it was incredibly cathartic. I mean, people really were having, number one, a lot of fun. But it clearly - there was an element of catharsis there, because there hasn't been an empowered character like this in that historical setting.

MARTIN: I think that catharsis is part of it, because "Amistad" with that kind of respectful treatment. "Glory" was that kind of respectful treatment of that, you know, era.

IZRAEL: But wait a second...

MARTIN: I think maybe it's like - go ahead. I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

TORRE: Well, and...

IZRAEL: You've named two movies were all the empowered blacks were either maimed, killed, deported...

MARTIN: That's not true. Deported is deported - they wanted to go. Excuse me. "Amistad" they...

IZRAEL: Well, when Cinque back to Africa...

MARTIN: That's a different.

IZRAEL: ...he discovered his wife had gone and his children had been killed.

MARTIN: That was not part of the movie, Jimi. I'm just letting me know.

IZRAEL: OK, I'm...

MARTIN: Now you to show it off.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I'm just saying.

IZRAEL: I'm just saying.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Go ahead, Arsalan, very briefly.

IFTIKHAR: Very briefly, do you think that - do you think the movie would've gotten as much critical acclaim if it was a black man who made the film? If it was a...

IZRAEL: A black man could not have made this film.

IFTIKHAR: Well, that's right.

IZRAEL: But let's just say that out loud...

MARTIN: Why do you say that?

IZRAEL: ...once and for all time.

MARTIN: Why do you say that?

COOPER: Why?

MARTIN: Why?

IZRAEL: Because this is like - because this is one of the blackest films that's ever been made. I mean, this is a really angry black narrative. You know, and a black director...

MARTIN: Because of the revenge fantasy?

IZRAEL: Right, yeah.

MARTIN: You think the revenge fantasy would've been perceived as too much?

IZRAEL: No. No. Spike Lee could not have made this film.

MARTIN: That's interesting.

COOPER: Interesting, yeah.

MARTIN: Interesting. All right, well...

COOPER: Maybe that Spike Lee's issue, is he wanted to make that film.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: It could have been.

IZRAEL: Maybe.

MARTIN: It could be.

IZRAEL: Maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Yeah, my aunt had that criticism, you know, that may be he's just salty.

COOPER: I mean, he's not happy about it, but maybe because that's because it's jealousy.

IZRAEL: Right.

COOPER: That was really good.

MARTIN: It could be. I mean, OK. Well, that's interesting. So it's, like, four thumbs up here, kind of. Four thumbs up, and two tentative thumbs up, or something like that. That's interesting. It's just interesting. I don't know.

IFTIKHAR: And you got to see it in the theater with other people.

MARTIN: I don't think...

IFTIKHAR: See it with the unwashed masses, Jimi.

(LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: You've got to experience this.

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: See it twice. Yeah, I'm going back to see it, brother. You know that's right.

MARTIN: I don't think that gender's part of this either, because I have women friends who thought it was off-the-chain. And I have women friends who walked out because they thought it was just too much. So I don't think this is gender, either. I think there's...

TORRE: I will say - I did hear...

IFTIKHAR: Your friends walked out because of violence, the violent scenes?

MARTIN: Because of the violence. She says it was just more than they wanted to absorb into their heads.

Anyway, before we let you go, this is our last visit before the New Year. We talked about what we thought were the biggest news stories of the New Year. But I'm curious about what you thought was the most underreported story of the year. Can I hear from each of you? Clark, do you want to start?

COOPER: You're going to think that this has been over-reported. The problem is that it hasn't. We've heard a lot of talk about the fiscal cliff. What we have not heard about are what the secondary and tertiary effects of what happens in the New Year when things like the Bush tax cuts expire. What are those attacks?

What are the impacts if the debt ceiling is not raised? And also, what are the impacts on if not addressing entitlement spending? So there's a lot of cursory talk about it. But as far as how it impacts me, you and the average American at the bottom line, that needs to be better spelled out. And I don't think people are ready for what is coming in the next 30, 60 days.

MARTIN: Arsalan.

IFTIKHAR: Hands down, the most underreported story of the year is the civil war in Syria. You know, here we have a brutal dictator, Bashar al-Assad, who has, you know, violently cracked down on his people for over a year now. And, you know, after - in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in Tahrir Square in Cairo, it seems as though the global media has forgot about the suffering of the Syrian people. And so I think that's the most underreported story of the year.

MARTIN: Do you think that that's intention, or inability to get to the story? I mean, people have been in and out. I mean, lots of major news organizations have been in and out. I mean, certainly NPR has been in and out. CNN has been in and out.

IFTIKHAR: Right, and there have been people...

MARTIN: It's not an effort not to go.

IFTIKHAR: No, and there are journalists on the Turkish-Syrian border. I understand that. But I think that the - first of all, the strategic importance of Syria in the Middle East, in terms of the global relations with Russia as Syria's, really, only remaining ally, I think, you know, hasn't been reported as much as it should have been.

MARTIN: Pablo, what about you?

TORRE: Well, I'm going to take it from the sports context. We hear a lot about concussion this year. I think the brain, but in the terms of mental illness, is probably the most under-covered story. And we're sort of getting to that point now, where people are really waking up to it. But for as much as we talk about CTE and head trauma and tao and the ways the brain can physically get damaged, I think it's always important to understand that there is some things that a FMRI, a brain scan, can never show, and that sports is oftentimes last to be aware, to be sensitive to those topics.

And certainly with a rash of players taking their own lives, that's something that we're all going to be waking up to, hopefully sooner rather than later.

COOPER: I went to concur on Pablo, that TBI's - TBI, it doesn't matter if your head is in a...

MARTIN: TBI being?

COOPER: Traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injury, it doesn't matter if you're wearing a football helmet or a Kevlar - an Army helmet on the field, that rattling around is the same impact. And so there does need to be some joint research and development on that, from the mil-side, as well as the civ-side

TORRE: Yup.

MARTIN: And, Jimi, what about you?

IZRAEL: I didn't hear...

MARTIN: What do you think is the most underreported...

IZRAEL: ...enough about the persistent achievement gap in public school education. I would've liked to read and see more about - reporting about - speaking of achievement gap, my son is here.

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Reporting about...

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Sounded like a lion in the background.

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: My honor roll student.

MARTIN: Who's playing his DS.

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: About how we fix that gap in public school education and make our public schools somewhere we can send our children with pride.

MARTIN: Is there any story, Jimi, that you think you heard more of the than you would have liked to, that you think God more attention than it deserved?

IZRAEL: "Gangam Style," I'm sorry. Is that...

COOPER: Oh, come on, man.

TORRE: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Hater.

IZRAEL: Is that just me? I...

MARTIN: Yeah, it's just you.

IZRAEL: ...heard way too much about that. When it finally broke, I was like, you know, it had broke for me months before it actually...

TORRE: Over...

MARTIN: It's just you.

TORRE: ...one billion YouTube hits, the most-watched YouTube video in human history. That was not - that was dope.

MARTIN: That just...

IZRAEL: Whatever, man. (unintelligible)

MARTIN: I'm sorry. He's like those people that Taylor Swift writes songs about. If other people like it, it can't be any good. Right? Right? Clarke, what do you think? What's your - what's...

COOPER: Kind of on the same - the milieu there, is this whole "Call Me Maybe" remakes. These - there are so many parodies of these things on YouTube, so we're going back to the whole YouTube thing. Enough. I mean, I don't need to see another cutsie "Call Me Maybe" remake by a group of guys out in the middle of Iraq or Afghanistan. So, you know. No offense, guys.

TORRE: And get off our lawns.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Pablo, what about you?

TORRE: I would say - I would say Twitter. We've made so much about Twitter this year. And I - someone's on it every hour, but it's important to remember that there are so many people in this country - in fact, an overwhelming majority - who have never been on Twitter, never will be on Twitter. And it's always good to recognize that. There's more to life than my computer screen.

MARTIN: OK. So you'll be turning the dial in the next segment...

TORRE: Not at all. Not at all.

MARTIN: ...when we talk about the year in tweets, OK? You'll be getting your coffee then, right? Arsalan.

IFTIKHAR: My most over-reported story of 2012 was Mitt Romney. But then again, I only paid attention to about 47 percent of it.

IZRAEL: Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Oh.

MARTIN: Ouch. Ouch.

(LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: Try the veal, tip your waitress.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: All right. OK. OK. I really am going to let you go this time, but I do want to ask: In keeping with our tradition, we have to hear your New Year's resolutions. We always get them from you, and - mainly so we can embarrass you with them, you know, a year later. But who's got one? Arsalan, you got one?

IFTIKHAR: My New Year's resolution to try and limit myself to only 24 boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies.

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: What? Only?

IFTIKHAR: They're my heroin.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Clarke?

COOPER: I'm going to bring it in serious, here. Actually, more time with family and friends. So my term at Log Cabin Republicans and, of course, my time in the Bush administration, it's time for me to be able to focus on the family, so to speak. I need to, and I'm looking forward to that. So, still going to be working hard, but I've been pretty much given the message by mom, stepdad, siblings, cousins that I need to look at them sometime.

MARTIN: Well, we appreciate the time that you spend with us, but what about your Reserve service? I mean...

COOPER: Oh, yeah. God and country, yeah, yeah. That's still - I'm still doing that. I still love the Army. I'm still doing that. Met my commitment several years ago, but that's still something I'm going to be sticking to into the New Year and beyond.

MARTIN: Pablo, what about you?

TORRE: My resolution is to get more sunlight, partially because I may or may not be running a vitamin D deficiency due to the Twitter usage I just mentioned.

(LAUGHTER)

TORRE: But also because I don't get outside enough. I mean, I'm - again, I'm always engaged with my electronic devices, and somewhat along the lines of what Clarke just said. I think getting more sunlight, getting unplugged once in a while is probably a good thing.

MARTIN: How are you going to do that? Do you have a plan?

TORRE: I guess the first step, as they say, is opening the door and stepping outside.

(LAUGHTER)

TORRE: Which is tough in the winter. I go outside sometimes, and I'm, like, oh. It's dark, and I've missed all of my opportunity to get that precious sunlight. So...

MARTIN: That sounds really sad.

(LAUGHTER)

TORRE: Sorry to depress all of you on the last note of the year.

MARTIN: It's like that...

COOPER: All right, Pablo, (unintelligible).

MARTIN: No, he's too busy studying the fiscal cliff. Jimi, what about you? Resolutions?

IZRAEL: I just want to be the best husband and father I can.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Ah.

(LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: That's it. That's my highest aspiration. That's enough, man.

MARTIN: And what's your plan? What's your plan for putting that into place?

IZRAEL: Take the garbage out, occasionally.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: That's a good start.

TORRE: That's a step.

MARTIN: That's a good start. Well, it wouldn't be a New Year's program without predictions. So, very briefly, what's your prediction for the biggest news story of 2013? Arsalan, am I putting you on the spot, here?

IFTIKHAR: No. I mean, I hope that in 2013, we hear of the official death of reality television once and for all.

TORRE: Not going to happen.

COOPER: Yeah, that's not going to happen.

TORRE: Not going to happen.

MARTIN: Really?

IFTIKHAR: A boy can dream, can't he?

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Clarke, what about you?

COOPER: That books are still alive. I'm one of - back to the grumpy old man on the lawn, I refuse to get a Kindle just yet. So that bookstores still are well and doing business and are in the black beyond the next year.

MARTIN: What's - why do you hate - why you hating on ereaders?

COOPER: It's the whole tactile-ness. You know, I - for whatever reason, I'm happy to get things like my newsfeed - being it Politico or Drudge Report, or whatever - online, but I still, as far as a book, I still want the actual book itself.

MARTIN: OK. Prediction, Pablo?

TORRE: I think it's going to have to do with the climate of planet Earth, to be perfectly frank. I mean, New York, we went through the storm, and, you know, I think at some point, it's going to dawn on all of us that these things - and the fact that we had the hottest year on record ever this past year, I think all of those things are going to add up. And we may or may not be realizing that something is afoot on our little blue marble, and it's probably not good.

MARTIN: He is just full of cheer today.

IFTIKHAR: He is a Debbie Downer.

IZRAEL: Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: He's going to be standing outside the corner and proclaiming the apocalypse, by the way, later.

MARTIN: He is just Dan Downer. How would you know? You never go outside. How would you know it...

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I was about to say, you need some Vitamin D.

TORRE: It's Twitter. Twitter is telling me that the apocalypse is coming.

MARTIN: OK. Jimi, final prediction from you.

IZRAEL: We're going to get our hands in the dirt and fix our public schools. Let me - it's just - it's atrocious. So we - I predict next year, you know, it's just going to hit a tipping point, and we're finally going to see the need to address this in D.C., and that would be the White House. I believe the big man is going to take this on.

COOPER: You think school reform needs to stop - start at the federal government, Jimi?

IZRAEL: Somebody's got to do something, man. I mean...

TORRE: You going to start substituting, Jimi?

IZRAEL: I - don't put me on the spot like that. I mean, you're not the first person to ask.

MARTIN: OK. And what about the Browns? OK, Pablo, if we don't get a Super Bowl prediction from you, it's not a good day. Go ahead.

TORRE: You know what? I'm going to ride your boy, RG3.

MARTIN: Stop it. Really?

TORRE: I think there's a certain magic, here.

MARTIN: Washington, D.C.?

TORRE: There's a certain magic here that, if I'm right, this will pay off tremendously for me. And if I'm wrong, hopefully, we'll all forget this. But I think RG3. People of Washington, D.C., you've got a special one, and I think he's going to be very, very, very good when it matters the most. He is the best athlete at quarterback that I've ever seen.

MARTIN: Wow. Well, you've heard it from Pablo. Arsalan, you know, do you want a piece of that Super Bowl prediction?

IFTIKHAR: Well, I mean...

TORRE: You're still crying about your Celtics, aren't you?

IFTIKHAR: I am. And I think that, you know, this NBA finals season is going to be quite interesting. You know, you have the upstart L.A. Clippers, who are, you know, who've just won 15 in a row. You have the New York Knicks, Pablo's team, who, you know, still have only won one playoff game in the last 10 years. It's going to be really interesting to see if LeBron and company are going to be able to defend their title this year.

MARTIN: Clarke, you've got Super Bowl or NBA. What's your...

COOPER: Well, I want to start with Super Bowl. But I'll - I'm going to - they're not my team. I'm a university football guy, so Florida State's my team. But the Pats, I think, have a good chance - the New England Patriots have a good chance. And as far as hockey's concerned, no dice. (unintelligible)

MARTIN: Oh, that is so sad. Jimi, finally, Super Bowl prediction?

IZRAEL: The Browns will not be in the Super Bowl.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: OK. Jimi Izrael is a writer and culture critic. He's also an adjunct professor of film and social media at Cuyahoga Community College. He was with us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Pablo Torre is a senior writer for ESPN.com, with us from our NPR studios in New York. R. Clarke Cooper is a captain in the Army Reserve. He is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that advocates for gay and lesbian rights. And Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney and founder of TheMuslimGuy.com. Arsalan and Clarke were with us in Washington, D.C. Thank you all so much, and Happy New Year to you all.

IFTIKHAR: Peace.

TORRE: Uh. Happy New Year.

IZRAEL: Yup, yup. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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