Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Playlist: White singers, black songs

To the degree that Black America and White America have always been two different worlds, music is one big beautiful bridge between them.

On my Vox audio stash I’m streaming songs by black songwriters, as interpreted by white female vocalists. Next week I’ll flip it: black singers, white songs.

Click the song titles below to spin the tunes. Then let me know some of your personal favorite white-singer/black-song combinations.

1. “A Change Is Gonna Come” – The Gits

Only in recent months have I discovered the music of the Gits, a Seattle punk-rock band, after reading about the rape and murder of lead singer Mia Zapata (pictured above) in 1993.

Zapata gives a hard, passionate performance of Sam Cooke’s inspirational ballad. The passion was hard for me to handle at first (not to mention lyrics like “It’s been too hard livin’ but I’m afraid to die”), knowing how her life was taken.

From the 2003 re-issue of the band’s 1994 album “Enter: The Conquering Chicken.” Available on eMusic and iTunes.

2. “Baby, I Need Your Loving” – Phoebe Snow

You can imagine how well-suited this Holland-Dozier-Holland masterpiece would be to a slowed-down, emotion-drenched reading by Phoebe Snow. Simply lovely. From her 2003 CD “Natural Wonder.” Available on eMusic and iTunes.

3. “All Blues” – Ann Hampton Callaway

The late, great Oscar Brown, Jr., added lyrics to this Miles Davis compostition. Cabaret singer Callaway knocked it out the box on her 1997 CD “After Ours.” Available on iTunes.

4. “Pastime Paradise” – Patti Smith

Ms. Smith brings a touch of melodrama to this Stevie Wonder tune, from her recently released album of rock and pop covers, “Twelve.” (Makes me feel old to realize that Stevie wrote this more than 30 years ago.) Available on iTunes.

5. “I’m So Proud/Dedicated to the One I Love” – Laura Nyro

I love Laura Nyro’s singing. She always had so much soul. This is a live-concert two-fer, just Laura and her piano, blending one of Curtis Mayfield’s sweetest songs and a girl-group classic originally co-written by Lowman Pauling of the “5” Royales.

From the CD “Live from Mountain Stage,” recorded in 1990 but not released until 2000, several years after Ms. Nyro’s death. Available on eMusic and iTunes.

World Saxophone Quartet on UBM-TV

I missed the Central Avenue Jazz Fest over the weekend. So I decided to jazz out on YouTube instead. Found something quite nice, too, and there it is on my Video Bar:

The World Saxophone Quartet, performing last October at a high school in Lovejoy, Ill. (bari man Hamiet Bluiett’s home town).

WSQ, with varying personnel, has been creating remarkable art for the last 30 years. I’ve been digging them for about 23.

The school kids in the video look a little bored as the band blows and honks through “Hattie Wall,” its rollicking theme song. But the young’uns got to swinging when WSQ worked out on “For the Love of Money” (part 3).

This configuration of the quartet includes original member Oliver Lake, plus young lions James Carter and Greg Osby. The amateur videography is a drag, but the sounds are superb.

Fetish site haiku

(These haiku were derived from texts on the homepage of Fetishland Video Store.)

After their shoes are
squeaky clean, the trample and
foot worship begins...

Nude, nude and more nude
is the order of the smother
day in this classic...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hangin’ with the cool kids

I’m not Mr. Fun. I don’t do lots of fun shit.

Sitting on the bed in my drawers typing this... that’s fun to me.

But Saturday night, I had normal-people fun. It was Yancey Arias’s charity poker tournament at a rented house in Malibu, right on the beach. (I’ve been living in California 13 years and had never set foot in Malibu. Had no reason to. Now I see what the fuss is about.)

This was a ball. There were a few familiar actors in the game – Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Masterson, Anthony Denison (remember “Crime Story”?), Victoria Pratt (“Cleo 2525”!) – plus a few professional poker players (Annie Duke, Sean Sheikhan, a couple others). There was a local TV anchorman, even a couple of cops... just a cool group of people.

The deejay was killing all night long (favorite mix: “I’d Rather Be With You” into “Footsteps in the Dark” into “I Keep Forgettin’ ” into “Yearning For Your Love”); plenty of food and drink; ridiculously good-looking women everywhere you looked.

Toward the end of the evening, as I smoked a tasty Nat Sherman cigarettello and watched a full moon rise over the pounding Pacific tide, I figured this is how the hip folks must live every day.

As for the tournament... out of about 50 players, I finished in the high teens, just before they went down to two tables. I was reasonably satisfied with myself.

I’d like to discuss one hand from the first hour. If you’re not a card player, this won’t mean much. But for those of you who are, here it is:

Everyone started with $1,000 in chips (and we could rebuy). This particular hand, I got dealt ace-king (A-K) – Big Slick. A woman to my right raised the pot pre-flop. I called the raise. I could’ve re-raised her, but something told me to play it slow. A risky choice, but that’s what I did.

Flop comes ace-garbage-garbage. I couldn’t have hoped for a better flop. The woman to my right bets at it. Hmmm..., I think. Is there any way in hell she was holding, like, A-6... and just flopped two pairs? You think of all kinds of nightmare scenarios in the midst of a hand. At least I do.

I could’ve found out where I stood by raising her. But I didn’t. I just called.

The turn comes a king. Holy crap! Now I’m holding the top two pair and feeling pretty good about life. Especially when the woman checks. So then I bet.

She calls!

Now, it was early in the game so I didn’t know what kind of a player she was. But this was a head-scratcher. Could she be sitting on three-of-a-kind, and she just trapped my dumb ass? Maybe my first hunch was correct; she’d flopped aces-up and wanted to see what I’d do on the turn. Why else would she have called?

River card: another king! I am now holding kings full of aces... the second nuts. And I was damn certain she wasn’t holding the one hand that could beat me (A-A). Anyway, the woman pushes all her chips into the pot. She goes all-in!

I call without hesitation and show the world my full house.

Amazingly, when my opponent revealed her hand (actually, I think the dealer exposed it after another player asked to see it), she was holding 7-7.

A pair of sevens!

She was right to raise with those pre-flop (in a tournament). She was right to bet out post-flop. But when I called that bet – with an ace on the board – she should’ve been suspicious. Hell, she was suspicious; she checked the turn. Why, then, did she call me?

Yes, I camouflaged my ace fairly nicely... but what did she think I was betting with? There were so many ways for her to lose that hand. If I had an ace or a king – forget both – she was dead. If I had 8-8 or higher in the pocket, she was dead. Maybe she put me on a pocket pair and figured she could chase me away at the river with her all-in move (representing an A or K).

Anyhow, I doubled my stack, collected some attaboys for how I’d played the hand, and rode that confidence through the next couple of hours.

And then Annie Duke got moved to my table. She was betting so aggressively, I and the other amateurs just reeked of timidity. And as the blinds and antes grew, I soon got swept aside.

But hey... I’ll be ready for her next year.

Baby got back

Here’s a picture to stop you in your tracks, huh?

Today’s word is: steatopygia.

The photo comes from an old anthropology book, “The Living Races of Man,” by old-school anthropologist Carleton S. Coon.

FYI, this bootylicious Madonna and Child are not African; they’re Andamanese (from the Andaman archipelago near India).

The image was scanned and uploaded to the intertubes by a British-born conservative opinion writer named John Derbyshire. Mr. Derbyshire loves this book.

“We had a copy of Coon’s book lying round the house when I was a teenager,” he wrote in 2002, “and the photographs in it impressed themselves on my youthful memory.” (No shit? I wonder why.)

Derbyshire didn’t upload this picture because he’s an ass freak. (At least, not that he has acknowledged.) He had a political purpose.

Derbyshire, after all, once described himself as “a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one,” in a 2003 online interview.

(He later clarified this in an email: “All I mean there is that I believe that race is real, and important. Nowadays, that makes you a ‘racist.’ Again, I consider myself mild and tolerant here -- I don’t believe in any discrimination by public authorities... [but] I can imagine circumstances where I would certainly practice private discrimination.”)

So what does the photo above have to do with race politics? Well, Carleton Coon’s brand of “physical anthropology” – focusing on the anatomical differences between human populations – is tied to old-fashioned ideas about racial development. Coon actually argued that there are five sub-races of homo sapiens which evolved along separate tracks, with whites and Asians being the most advanced.

That notion is rejected by the “Boasian school” of anthropology, which argues that race differences are a sociocultural construct.

In describing Coon’s “Living Races of Man” as a “splendid classic,” John Derbyshire wrote at National Review Online: “It is true that physical anthropology is now a ‘dangerous’ subject, like history in a communist country; but that is not my fault, or Coon's.... It is just part of the general idiocy of our age.”

Leave it to a white man to look at that picture and ponder his own genetic superiority. Whereas the average brother is likely to look at it and think, “The Creator has a master plan.”

A free Patton Oswalt download

Last week on ShyOneLung’s blog, S.O.L. was streaming some Bill Hicks. (I miss Hicks.) I commented that there’s nobody out there in standup comedy doing what Bill Hicks did.

I take that back. Patton Oswalt is rocking it in the Hicksian mode.

Hicks had his cigarettes, Oswalt has his booze. Hicks could channel a Prince-of-Darkness type vibe, whereas Oswalt’s shaggy good-naturedness is always on display. And while Hicks was a freaking genius, Patton Oswalt is merely smart.

But when it comes to razor-edged political commentary, off-the- wall sex stuff and a generally bent view of the world... yeah, I’m liking Oswalt.

He released a new CD this month, “Werewolves and Lollipops.” A track called “The Dukes of Hazzard” (in reference to George Bush and Dick Cheney) is available as a FREE MP3 by way of Download.com.

I recommend you click here and take full advantage of the freeness. After all, what else of value do you expect to get today for nothing?

(The photo above, by Sittered, is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

My readers... Simpsonized!

How cool is this? They done made us feel like 12-year-olds again...

At left (from top to bottom) is dez, SJ and Dougfp. Below these words is Andrew.

Come join in the fun, y’all. Get Simpsonized!

Check the update below...

... for my quick take on “The Simpsons Movie,” plus a cute reader participation gimmick, courtesy of the fine folks at Burger King. (Can you say “timesuck”?)

Also, if you haven’t checked the Rob Schneider/yellowface comment thread in a while, it’s still active, with Thordaddy and Anonymous delving into the definition of “liberal” and “conservative,” and a bona fide Asian-American blogger (Ryne) weighing in on “Chuck & Larry.”

The real Petey Greene

In the new movie “Talk to Me,” Don Cheadle is generating much buzz as Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Jr., the real-life D.C. street hustler who became a local media star in the 1960s and ’70s.

I wish only good things for director Kasi Lemmons. And Cheadle’s performance is entertaining; it’s the main reason to buy a ticket. (Aside from Support-a-Sister politics, which I’m all for. So support the sister and buy a ticket!)

But this film is being way overpraised. White critics seem to love seeing an A-list black actor do the “brash, streetwise strut” thing... the “jive-talkin’... free-swinging braggadocio” thing... the “mouthy, swaggering, over-the-top” thing... the “fast-talking huckster” thing.

On the other hand, a prominent black critic – Armond White in the New York Press – attacked the movie bitterly, lumping “Talk to Me” with “Dreamgirls” and “Ray” as “the new cinematic chitlin’ circuit”... shallow and full of stereotypes. He says Cheadle’s Petey Greene reminded him of Tim Meadows in “The Ladies Man.” (Harsh but kinda true.)

Mr. White shit-talks (literally) the director’s previous films (“Eve’s Bayou” and “The Caveman’s Valentine”), suggesting that “Lemmons doesn’t know enough about [the] African-American experience to fill a chitlin’.”

My feelings are in line with those of Invisible Woman, the cinema blogger who wrote: “I feel bad for Don Cheadle and Kasi Lemmons...they tried to do something different and it didn’t quite work out...that’s OK guys, keep it movin’!” We’re supportive, but we ain’t fooling ourselves.

The big problem with “Talk to Me” is that it doesn’t dig deeply into Petey Greene as a real human being. He is written as an idea of a street player, all attitude and lip.

Weirdly, the film halfway through stops being about Petey’s adventures in broadcasting and becomes an old-fashioned show-biz fable about his rise and fall as a standup comic.

“Talk to Me” cares nothing about Petey Greene’s real role at WOL. For one thing, he never spun records. He wasn’t a morning-drive deejay, let alone a “pioneer shock jock” as Ms. Lemmons is trying to sell him. Petey hosted a weekend talk show.

But I guess that’s not sexy enough for Hollywood...

To learn about the actual Petey Greene, you need to read Lurma Rackley’s self-published book, “Laugh If You Like, Ain’t a Damn Thing Funny.” It includes extended quotes from the man himself, who died in 1984 – just short of age 53 – after a lifetime of hard drinking.

Very little of this book deals with Greene’s broadcasting career. Most of it is a hustler’s memoir, detailing his youthful delinquency, his prison-yard antics, his heroin addiction, and so forth.

But he does tell the tale of how he got started in radio. Inside Lorton Reformatory, Greene became friends with Sam Hughes, whose brother, Dewey Hughes, worked at WOL-AM. (Dewey is portrayed in the movie by Chiwetel Ejiofor.) I’ll let Petey take it from when he was released from prison:
PETEY GREENE: When I met Dewey at the station on Wisconsin Avenue, he wasn’t even a jockey or nothing. He was more or less of a handy man around WOL. But he was a ambitious cat, so in turn he used to work for days and nights, sometimes without even going home, and learning all he could about the machinery, the mechanics of radio.

When I went over to see him... I told him about the radio show I had in the reformatory. And I did some rhymes and he put them on a tape and he was impressed, you know. After Dewey cut the tapes of me, he played the tapes around in the station for the Vice President and General Manager, John Pace, a white man. ...

Dewey wasn’t a big man at the station but he got a chance to get involved in radio when a white boy left, called Sherwood Ross, who was public affairs director. Dewey got that job. At that time, the station was trying to go all-black. It was in the 60s and blacks were beginning to move.

When they gave Dewey that job, Dewey started doing a lot of innovative things, as opposed to just bringing on big people to be talking about the problems. It was the right time to bring on the little people, the welfare recipients and things like that. And I had started an organization called EFEC, Efforts from Ex-Convicts. And money was being allocated for the help of ex-offenders, welfare recipients and so on.

Dewey knew I could rap, so he, at that particular time, didn’t give me a show, but he would get me to bring on five or six ex-offenders. In fact, Dewey was doing a show of his own then. It was called ‘Speak Up.’ And he would bring us on and we would talk about the ex-offender problems and what was needed. Came on at 6 on Sunday evenings. ...

In late ’67, I started on the radio. Looking back on Dewey, Dewey was a very cunning guy. And he saw that I was very talented, and that I liked him. He saw I really, really liked him. And Dewey wanted to be a star himself.

I can understand. He was a handsome fellow, young, talk like a white boy. People who had never seen Dewey used to think he was white. They used to call him on the radio and think he was a white boy.

So, Dewey saw me as an asset. He started letting me come and sit with him on Sunday, so it would be him and me. He named the program, “Rappin’ with Petey Greene.” Dewey and I would be there and he would push the buttons and we would both talk. People started saying, “You don’t need that white boy on there with you, Petey. Why don’t you get that white guy off there?” ...

I’d say, “He’s not white.” But I had my confidence up and I knew I didn’t need Dewey there with me. And so he phased hisself out. The show got hot. ...

I used to bring guests in, but them people in the community... they always used to say, “You don’t need no guests. We like to talk to you by ourself.’ See, when I first started out, they used to call me up with they problems. “I got a boyfriend, Petey Greene, and my boyfriend, you know, he goes with my best girlfriend, Petey, what should I do?”...

One time I almost got in some trouble. A guy called me and said, “Hey man, this broad I got, everytime I look around she’s over there with another dude, and he act like he disrespect me.” I said, “Well, man, just get a gun and go kill that nigguh.”

Boy, I got in serious trouble. People at the station told me, “Petey, you got power. These people don’t just call you and ask you these questions just to be calling. These people believe in you, man. Somebody called and told us that you told a man to get a shotgun and kill another man.”

I didn’t say nothing like that again.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Central Avenue Jazz Festival

Any Southern California jazz heads out there? The Central Avenue Jazz Festival is happening today and tomorrow.

I plan to be there tomorrow and check out saxophonist Charles McPherson, who played with Charles Mingus throughout the ’60s.

Wish I could hit it today to see Arthur Blythe, but tonight is Yancey Arias’s charity poker tournament in Malibu, and I’m getting my head ready for that.

(Thanks to Dougfp for the heads-up about the festival.)

bell hooks on UBM-TV

I intend to shine more of a spotlight on black scholars and public intellectuals on this blog. Well-known leftist ones like Cornel West, prominent Afrocentrists like Molefi Asante, and some hard-toiling researchers whose names you won’t find on Wikipedia, like Gerald Horne and Michael Hanchard.

What’s being written, what’s being said by the brightest black minds in America?

Let’s start with bell hooks – English professor, cultural critic, activist against “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

On my Google Video Bar, you’ll see segments of her 1997 video, “Cultural Criticism and Transformation,” in which she makes trenchant observations about rap music, Madonna and the documentary film “Hoop Dreams.”

bell hooks also dishes out lots of hard-left agitprop – about “mounting fascism in the United States,” et cetera – which begs for as much of a rigorous critique as the stuff she’s talking about.

But bell hooks’ style of engagement with pop culture, in a society where 99.99 percent of the population doesn’t think seriously about pop culture at all... I really admire that.

UPDATE (07/31/07): Here is Professor hooks on rap music. Here she is on Madonna. Here she is on Spike Lee. And here she is on “Hoop Dreams.”

Friday, July 27, 2007

Elvis Mitchell interviews Kasi Lemmons

“This was a piece of material where trust has to be involved, because the characters are at the edge. ... Petey’s a very big and dynamic character, and so is Vernell, and they’re walking a fine line. For a lot of reasons, they had to trust me. And that made it that much more intimate...”

The movie “Talk to Me” opened nationwide today. I will have more to say about it tomorrow – and about the real Petey Greene (portrayed by Don Cheadle).

For now, I’ll point you to a conversation Elvis Mitchell had with the film’s director, Kasi Lemmons, on his KCRW radio show, “The Treatment.” The interview aired two weeks ago, but you can download it as a free podcast from iTunes. You can also hear it streaming on the KCRW website.

I’ve got a 40-second bite of it on my own Vox audio stash, with Ms. Lemmons talking about the gifted British-born actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays the aspiring D.C. radio executive Dewey Hughes. Click here to hear it.

Friday Concert: The Brand New Heavies

Oh God, I’ve got such a buzz on right now. Because in the wee small hours of this a.m., I stumbled upon the coolest freakin’ blog app since YouTube went embeddable.

Matter fact, this takes the video embed to a whole ’nother level. It’s called Fabplayer, and it’s from the Dutch music website Fabchannel.com.

What’s so cool about it? Well, unlike the 10-minute time limit of a YouTube clip, the Fabplayer that you see embedded below contains a full-length concert... the whole thing, right there. You can push play and let it roll and order out for pizza.

Or, cooler still, you can click your way forward or backward through the set list; Fabplayer shows you all the song titles.

And the digital video quality is superb!

The Fabplayer application was launched six months ago, but I haven’t seen it embedded on any American blogs. Not one. Maybe we can stir some shit up with this thing... right here. Starting today, with the first in a series of Friday Concerts.

Fabchannel has an archive of 700 concert videos, recorded primarily in the Netherlands. Most of them are bands I never heard of. (Most of ’em are European, for one thing.) And it skews towards rock.

But I’ve found enough familiar artists with some groove to ’em that I can keep this concert series going for the next 12 weeks or so. (Talking about some Living Colour, some Amp Fiddler, some Swamp Dogg...)

Which brings us to the Brand New Heavies. Remember BNH? I was checking them out when they first put the funk back in it, in the early ’90s. Happy to see they’re still funkin’. And with N’Dea Davenport back in front!

This concert was recorded two months ago at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. It’s a hot show. Oldies like “Never Stop” and “Dream Come True” hit the spot, but I especially dig the current material: “Sex God” could’ve been a Kid Creole and the Coconuts track; “Right On” has the Heavies in full-on J.B.’s mode. And N’Dea wails and rocks the hell out of “I Don’t Know Why I Love You.” If your time is tight, make a priority of checking out those three tunes.

You’ll probably say, like me, “All praise is due to Fabchannel!” (Unless you encounter technical difficulties, in which case please let me know.)

Now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado I bring you... the Brand New Heavies:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Smoking on screen

So the Walt Disney Co. has decided to ban smoking from any movie that carries the Disney name. (Meaning, family-oriented films.) The corporation also promises to “discourage” the depiction of smoking in all of its Touchstone- and Miramax-branded movies for grown-ups.

From the point of view of artistic expression, I say: “This sucks.”

As a self-loathing nicotine consumer for the past 22 months, I say: “Yeah, FUCK the tobacco industry... those drug-dealing shitbags.”

After all, Hollywood for decades pushed cigarettes... made smoking seem cool and glamorous and sexy. Even the motherfucking “Flintstones” used to hustle Winstons in prime time.

But in the end, I’m a storyteller. Which means I want to show the world as it is, and talk about human beings as we actually are. And that will sometimes involve the depiction of smoking.

For the HBO miniseries “The Corner,” David Simon and I showed lots of characters smoking, because cigarettes are a big part of ghetto life. And because, thematically, I think it underlined the self-poisoning behavior of those characters.

In the episode of “The Wire” I wrote last season, I included a scene where middle-schooler Namond bums a cig from his mother’s pack while she’s on the phone. He even lights up in front of her and gives her a wink.

Why did I write this? 1) It’s based on something I saw a kid in my neighborhood do when we were in junior high, and it always stuck with me. Moms didn’t have shit to say about it. Therefore, 2) it perfectly fit the context of the “Wire” story arc; this little moment symbolizes Namond’s mother’s lack of responsibility as a parent.

Anti-smoking activists have been urging that any film featuring smoking be rated “R” on that basis alone. Back in May, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that it would take “glamorized” or “pervasive smoking” into account when it rates movies.

That announcement triggered an unprecedented amount of discussion on Craig Mazin and Ted Elliott’s Artful Writer blog, where a lot of screenwriters hang out. What follows is a sampling of that conversation. (You can read much more of it in the Artful Writer archives here and here.) I have left the original punctuations and typos in tact.

Of course, I’d love to know what any of my readers think about this issue...
CRAIG MAZIN: ... Here’s my basic view of the MPAA and their ratings system. I don’t always agree with it. I know that I’ve personally had my share of issues with the MPAA on every movie I’ve done, and I have no doubt I’m in for plenty more. However, the MPAA ratings system is not censorship. The MPAA ratings system is designed to help parents figure out whether or not a movie is appropriate for their children. Simple as that. ...

[T]he operative question is simply this: do parents want their unaccompanied children to see a movie that glamorizes smoking? And yes, the ratings board seems pretty specific about the glamorization aspect. Context counts.

I’ll be honest. I don’t want my children to have that option. I was able to quit smoking, but I’m sure damage was done. It’s a risk I’d rather not leave to my children and the film industry to take together. I want to be a part of that decision. I’m not supporting the nanny state, nor am I attempting to legislate morality. An R rating doesn’t mean the film is evil, or it’s taboo, or it’s sinful or it’s shameful. It means that it includes certain content that parents should have the right to decide whether or not their children see.

I don’t agree with many of the criteria for R ratings (and I think there’s too much violence permitted in PG and PG-13 films), but I agree with the MPAA on this one. After all, I wasn’t just being an idiot when I decided to smoke.

I was being a 16 year-old idiot who had seen a lot of movies. ...

JON RAYMOND: As much as I despise cigarette smoking, I have to agree that it’s really not the business of the MPAA to label movies based on smoking content. But, then I don’t think anything the MPAA does is very ethical. If they can do this, I can easily imagine them rating films in the future for showing gasoline driven vehicles. After all, auto exhaust pollution is at least as dangerous to society as smoking. The recent film, This Film Is Not Yet Rated was very enlightening on what the MPAA does and it ain’t pretty. ...

It’s important to take a stand against this erosion of personal liberty, freedom, and privacy.

MAZIN: I’m sorry, but how does the fact of an “R” rating erode your personal liberty, freedom and privacy?

If you’re over 17, an “R” rating has zero effect on your life. Zero.

PAULY: One of Arthur C. Clarke’s futuristic novels, The Ghost from the Grand Banks, has characters busy digitally removing smoking from old films. It’s quite an interesting little novelty.

Personally, I have no problem with the new ratings criteria. This will challenge screenwriters to tie smoking more to a film’s content, rather than using it to take a simple stab at glamor. I just hope no one ever does try to erase smoking from classic films. Especially anything with Bogey.

LORELEI ARMSTRONG: Good for you, Craig! I also have a friend who died from lung cancer, in her case due to second-hand smoke. She worked for the police department in Hong Kong for eleven years, and those cool cops smoked plenty. How many great actors have we lost to their favorite “business”? The best Sherlock Holmes, Jeremy Brett, asked for smoking to be added to scripts. He was at or above six packs a day. Death from heart failure was certainly no surprise.

And isn’t smoking the least creative and imaginative business writers can give to actors? It’s a cliche. Swear off smoking in your scripts and you find a real challenge ahead. Come up with something new and the characters immediately become more unique and memorable.

ALEX EPSTEIN: When we created our series NAKED JOSH, we had a discussion about whether the characters would smoke. And they were, for sure, the kinds of people who would smoke. A lot.

We decided not to let them smoke. I didn’t want to be responsible for any kids picking up a cigarette because Eric, who is cool, smokes. (We did do one story where a hot girl tries to get him to start smoking again. He wound up dumping her.)

I also think it’s a crutch. It gets in the way of a good story. Instead of acting, actors wave around a cigarette. Instead of coming up with fresh business, writers stick a cigarette in the actor’s hand. Cigarettes are not only toxic. They’re so last century. If you want a character to have a neurotic quirk, come up with something original.

I’m all for the MPAA narcing on gratuitous smoking onscreen. Considering how little they narc on horrible behavior — driving dangerously, shooting people, punching people — this is a small step in the right direction. I agree with Craig: I don’t want my kids getting hooked on smoking because the cool villain smokes. And if it’s a restriction on creative freedom, I think it’s a mild one that can only encourage true creativity.

JOHNNY HARTMANN: RATED R FOR SMOKING - You gotta be friggin’ kidding me?

Think about it this way… Parents who give a damn about what movies their kids watch, are likely to give a damn about keeping them away from cigarettes anyway. So what’s the point?!

The point is more control for the MPAA.

An R rating in most cases (yes, “300” was an exception) means a potential loss in revenue. Ostensibly the MPAA isn’t forcing anyone to compromise their vision. When in fact, they are. The argument - “We’re not telling you what to do, but if you don’t do it you’ll suffer” is one of the oldests tools of facism, along the lines of “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” It’s an order phrased as a choice. And it’s bullshit.

MATT: I once had the pleasure of being an extra on a movie being filmed in my hometown of Decatur, GA. One of the things that has stayed with me (besides how hot Neve Campbell is in person), was how almost every single member of the cast and crew smoked. I had never though about smoking and had no desire to ever try, but after spending 12+ hours a day for a week around people smoking constantly, I had a physical craving for a cigarette by the end of the week. It had nothing to do with the social pressures and everything to do with the addictive nature of nicotine. So in that sense I support the MPAA- although this is probably the only decision they’ve made that I do support. ...

STEFAN AVALOS: Can ‘implied’ smoking still get a PG? what if we never actually see the cigarette touch the lips?

Why isn’t the simple act of shooting someone with a gun an automatic R rating?

Now, if they’d give scenes with people talking on cell phones while driving a car an R Rating, I’d be all for it.

ARTHUR TIERSKY: Fuck yeah, Craig! In fact, let’s take this to its logical conclusion and make it a law that if you’re under 18, you can’t leave the house without being accompanied by a parent or guardian. Because an unaccompanied teenager wandering the streets could, God help us all, encounter AN ACTUAL LIVE PERSON SMOKING A FUCKING CIGARETTE. And if that evil, evil, smoker looked even slightly “cool” in the act, well…Might as well buy the kid a shovel and tell him to start digging his grave.

While you’re at it, let’s R-rate all movies that contain any kissing, because kissing, as cool as it can look, leads to sex, and sex leads to AIDS, and AIDS kills.

Let’s see…What other potentially fatal acts should we protect movie-going minors from witnessing, despite the fact that anybody can see them in real life, in public, on any given day? Driving, of course…Eating fatty foods…Walking alone…

I got more. Lemme get back to you on that. But either way…Fuck yeah!

MAZIN: [S]ome of you (Arthur, for instance) seem to be confusing R with NC-17.

An R rating does not mean we are protecting movie-going minors from witnessing certain acts. It means we are insisting that their parents give them permission to do so. No more, no less.

A free Fishbone download

Have you checked out the new Fishbone joint? No? Why not? Them cats are rockin’ and skankin’ just as hard as they was in the ’80s.

How about a FREE download of their tasty track “Party With Saddam”? Just click here and that can happen for you, courtesy of CNET’s Download.com.

Wait... what? You wanna listen to it first, before committing 4MB worth of disk space? Cool. Then click here to hear it streaming on my Vox audio stash.

And if you dig this tune like I do, you’ll want to click here and see Fishbone do an unplugged version on YouTube, courtesty of MoBoogie.net.


Can you wait?

UPDATE (07/29/07): Well, I enjoyed that “Simpsons” movie. Not that I geeked out over it... I mean, I didn’t laugh explosively. The people around me were laughing more. But it was well worth the money, and that’s a rare thing at the multiplex these days.

Now why don’t you have a little more fun and Simpsonize yourself? (Thanks, dez!) If you guys make some good ones, send ’em to me, I’ll post a little gallery, or maybe post one a day in my little jokey corner in the right-hand column.

(Be sure to check out all the customizing options once your photo is Simpsonized.)

Here’s my one:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

MBP of the Week: Sports Illustrated

As much as athletes seem to fall prey to the Misidentified Black Person syndrome, I never figured Sports Illustrated would slip up. And definitely not when two Heisman Trophy-winning football stars are involved.

But in the July 23 issue of SI, you’ll find this correction on page 14:

“Desmond Howard... was misidentified in a Leading Off photo of 16 Heisman winners in the July 16 issue.”

To be specific, the magazine labeled him as another wide receiver – Tim Brown.

Thanks to readers Jeff and David for letting me know.

Hot Latino weather girl on UBM-TV

In the timesucking wonderland of YouTube, you can find plenty of everything on video... especially hot Latino weather girls.

Hot Latino weather girls are hot.

The hottest hot Latino weather girl of them all is Mary Gamarra of Telemundo. Geek-tested and nerd-approved, she’s the tops.

Watch Ms. Gamarra do her thing on my Video Bar, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering: Why don’t all female weathercasters wear push-up bras and mid-thigh miniskirts?

The five-day forecast is HOT... with a 90-percent chance of SEXAYY!

Now, some people might prefer Univision’s Jackie Guerrido. That’s her picture over there to the left. Good-looking woman, definitely. But I still gotta stick with Mary Gamarra...

Uh-oh. There’s a high-pressure ridge developing in my pants...

Perhaps this matter requires further study.

Meanwhile, check out how the weather girls roll South of the Border.

UPDATE (07/31/07): In case you missed her on my Google Video Bar, here and here you can see “weather chica” Mary Gamarra wearing mid-thigh minis.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Let’s play Negro, Not a Negro!

Remember that great Tom Hanks “SNL” sketch from the late ’80s, “Jew, Not a Jew”? Ever since I found out that Wentworth Miller, the lead actor in “Prison Break,” has black ancestry, I’ve wanted to play a variation of that game here. (And let’s not forget Vin Diesel, the man who put the “biguous” in racially ambiguous.)

So... presented for your consideration are four celebrities. Which ones have Negro blood? Which ones don’t?

This is not a contest; there are no prizes involved, so please don’t look up the answers on Wikipedia. This is about what you know, what you think you know, and what your lying eyes may or may not tell you.

Ready then? Let’s play Negro, Not a Negro.

1. Roma Maffia (top photo) – actor.

2. Phoebe Snow (middle photo) – singer.

3. Kimora Lee Simmons (bottom left) – fashion entrepreneur and ex-wife of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

4. Ann Curry (bottom right) – NBC newscaster.

I’ll post the answers Wednesday night.

UPDATE (07/25/07): I like this game. I might tee up another one next week. Anyway, here go the answers:

1. Negro. I’ve always been a fan of Roma Maffia’s acting. I was fortunate enough to find myself sharing a meal with her eight years ago in a group that included novelist Walter Mosley (who is half white) and the famously biracial Jennifer Beals. (That’s a lotta mulattoes!)

Presuming she was white, I asked Ms. Maffia if she’d even been cast as a black woman. She could definitely pull it off, I said.

She responded that she is part black. She might’ve even used the word “quadroon” or “octoroon”... and if so, I can’t recall whether it was playful or what.

It really blew my mind that, though she readily acknowledges her black ancestry, she had never played a black role. She gets cast as Italian, Jewish, Latina... but I guess it would be too deep for Hollywood to have her portray a character from a family like mine.

2. Not a Negro. As was discussed in the comments section, Phoebe Snow has often been mistaken for black, especially by her many black fans. But she’s Jewish.

3. Negro. Kimora’s father is black.

4. Not a Negro. Ann Curry has a Japanese mother and a white father.

Finally, here’s a bonus one: Nicole Scherzinger (photo below) – lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. I know you’ve wondered. So what do you think? Negro? Or Not a Negro?

Something faaabulous from 1,500 Filipino prisoners

Maybe you’ve seen this one already. It’s one of the red-hottest clips on YouTube. We’re talking 1,000,000 views in seven days.

It’s a massive group of prison inmates in the Philippines performing the dance routine from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

(No, you’re not dreaming, it’s real! This exists!)

My deepest thanks to UBMFAN1 for pointing me to that.

The guy who originally uploaded this instant classic of video virology is Byron F. Garcia. And his YouTube page includes other videos of these inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) doing dance numbers and/or precision marching.

(This one, set to Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga,” was posted in April, and it’s also pretty trippy.)

Turns out Byron Garcia is a security consultant to the government of Cebu, one of the Philippines’ 81 provinces.

I found an article that Mr. Garcia wrote a year ago for a Filipino newspaper, in which he explains the method behind this musical madness. He calls it “responsive rehabilitation.”

“While padlocks and sophisticated gadgetry may physically shut off and isolate inmates from the world, it does not assure security,” Garcia wrote. “Security must be approached not only physically but also from the cultural and behavioral context.”

So then, CPDRC inmates “are required to go through a workout regimen. While the goal is to keep the body fit in order to keep the mind fit, such may not actually happen if it is not done in a manner deemed pleasurable,” he continued. “Music, being the language of the soul, is added to that regimen.”

Okay, I buy that. Now, Mr. Garcia, do you take requests? Because I would love to see 1,500 Filipino prisoners rocking these moves to “Walk It Out.”

Monday, July 23, 2007

When Detroit burned

In the early hours of July 23, 1967, a riot jumped off in the black part of Detroit. One week later, 43 people were dead, more than 7,000 had been arrested, and 2,500 stores had been looted or burned.

The city never did bounce back from it.

Here’s how the riot began, as vividly described in the pages of “Nightmare in Detroit: A Rebellion and Its Victims,” a 1968 book by two Chicago Daily News reporters, Van Gordon Sauter and Burleigh Hines.
VAN GORDON SAUTER and BURLEIGH HINES: Early Sunday morning, Twelfth Street is vibrantly alive. The sound of the street is Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding and the Miracles, rolling from car radios and transistors and juke boxes. The smell of the street is $1.95 “Soul Food Specials” – pigs’ feet, mustard greens, baked yams – in all-night restaurants.

But the feel of the street is energy – energy fired by an unwillingness to surrender the weekend, to give up and go home when there is still the chance for another drink, another laugh, or an invitation to fall into another bed. ...

Everybody was out for a good time, except Sergeant Arthur Howison and his clean-up crew from the Tenth Precinct.

They were out to knock over what Detroiters call a “blind pig” – an illegal, after-hours drinking establishment. When the bars close at 2:00, the crowds descend on the numerous “pigs” along the street....

Howison had been watching the United Civic League for Community Action, whose offices were above the Economy Printing Company in a soot-stained two-story building at 9125 Twelfth. The Civic League claims numerous goals, including the ambition to “fight... for housing for disadvantaged people.”

But social uplift was at a minimum Sunday. The bar in the Civic League headquarters was crowded with boisterous members and guests, and the juke box boomed out the latest Motown hits.

Howison had raided the building last in August, 1966, and picked up fourteen offenders. It was time to call again.

Patrolmen Charles Henry and Joseph Brown, Negro plainclothesmen attached to Howison’s unit, had made their first pass at the Civic League about 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

When the peephole clicked open, Henry identified Brown as a basketball player from Cincinnati looking for some action. The eye behind the peephole told the two men to move on.

About 3:45 a.m. Sunday, Henry posted himself outside Economy Printing looking for a break. He saw three women turn into the entranceway to the Civic League and quickly followed them up the steps. Again the peephole opened, but this time the door opened too. Henry made his way to the bar, glanced at his watch, and ordered a beer.

On the street below, Howison checked his watch. If [Henry] doesn’t come out within ten minutes, the men on the street are to presume that a buy has been made and that there is sufficient legal evidence for an arrest. About 4:00, Howison and three men stormed up the steps. They didn’t bother to knock. Using a sledgehammer, one of the men pounded open the door.

“We heard these noises,” said a woman in the club. “Pow. Pow. Pow. We thought it was gunshots. Then we heard glass breaking. Then somebody shouted, ‘It’s a raid.’ ”

“You couldn’t hardly move for everybody getting under the tables,” recalled the club’s director.

Howison was surprised by his catch. He had expected about thirty persons but there were more than eighty; he called the precinct to ask for assistance in transferring the prisoners to the stationhouse.

The shuttle service took nearly half an hour; in the meantime, the raid provided some live drama for the people on the street. Negroes clustered around the printing shop. Passing traffic slowed, and this in turn attracted gawkers from farther down Twelfth.

Under the best of circumstances, the relationship between the police and the Twelfth Street regulars is edgy. Each side is ready to believe the worst about the other. Rumors, gossip, and charges are generally accepted as facts.

Thus it came as no surprise to people in the crowd when an onlooker told of seeing a policeman manhandle a Negro woman coming down the steps to a paddy wagon. Someone else heard a woman yell, “Brutality!”

And it came as no surprise to the police that the bystanders began to “jive” the authorities. From the anonymity of the crowd, people hurled taunts and insults at the cops.

“We had no trouble with [the] prisoners,” said Howison. “Just those loudmouthed onlookers. They were across the street and bunched up on both sides of the building.”

At 4:45, just forty-six minutes after the raid began, an unidentified person hurled something more than an insult from the crowd. A bottle arced into the air. Rolling lazily and glinting in the light of the streetlamps, it fell on the back window of a squad car just as the last prisoners were being loaded into cars.

The crowd cheered as the window shattered.

The angered policemen looked at the more than two hundred persons and knew it would be impossible to get anyone to step forward and identify the bottle thrower. ...

When the police departed without any further investigation of the incident, the crowd, jubilant and anxious for more fun, suddenly realized the source of its excitement was gone. But the sound of the bottle hitting the glass seemed to live on. To the crowd, it was a good sound. It had produced a delicious response.

Without leader, plan, or direction, the crowd began to break up into smaller groups and surge down the street. Teams of men shredded metal screens off windows. Bricks, bottles, and ashcans were hurled through the exposed glass, and hands shot into display window cases and yanked out merchandise.

Minutes after the bottle had been thrown, it was open house on Twelfth Street.

Germany lurvs Mother’s Finest

You guys know I’ve been into Mother’s Finest for about 30 years, right? I think Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy is one of America’s great unheralded rock-’n’-soul singers. She belongs on the short list with Tina Turner and Chaka Khan.

You know who agrees with me? Germany.

Yes, Germany is nuts about Mother’s Finest. Always has been. And that tickles the hell out of me, because during its 1970s heyday, Mother’s Finest only landed three singles on the R&B chart and didn’t come close to cracking the Top 40.

Funkateers and black rockers may treasure their Mother’s Finest LPs, but in Germany, that love is alive. The photograph above is from the 2003 Weihnachtsrockfestival in the city of Bendorf.

And the following video embed is from the German version of “American Idol.” Three months ago, contestant Lisa Bund sang the 1977 Mother’s Finest semi-hit “Baby Love.” (Not to be confused with the Motown tune.) If somebody on the American “American Idol” sang “Baby Love,” 99 percent of the audience (and two out of three judges, at least) would have no idea what the hell it was. Anyways, check this out:

Here is more evidence of Germany’s mad love for Mother’s Finest:

Click here to see the classic lineup in 1978, rocking “Baby Love” on the German TV show “Rockpalast.” (Joyce Kennedy breaks it down magnificently around 5:00.)

Click here to see the revised band, 25 years later, doing “Baby Love” a little slower and heavier, somewhere in Germany.

Click here for a vidclip of Mother’s Finest lip-syncing to “Don’t Wanna Come Back” on the German TV show “Rock Pop” in 1978.

Click here to hear Kennedy’s stripped-down version of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” streaming on my Vox audio stash. It was recorded live in concert in Oberhausen, Germany, in 1990. It’s available on the hard-to-find CD “Subluxation.”

Click here to see a German cover band, Mo’ People, giving “Baby Love” a go at Schlossgrabenfest Darmstadt in 2006.

Now, if we add the Netherlands to the mix (why the heck not?), the party keeps on crankin’:

Click here to see a Dutch cover band, NoiZZ, doing its thing with “Baby Love.”

Click here for the real deal, Mother’s Finest at a 1993 festival show in Hellevoetsluis. Baby Jean’s got the platinum mohawk working. In case you haven’t guessed, I’ll never get tired of her singing “Baby Love.”

Auf Wiedersehen, y’all.


For years – decades – I’ve read whatever I could about the inner workings and power struggles of white racist fringe groups, as if it were some kind of perverted soap opera. (Matter fact, I think there’s a good cable drama to be done.)

The two best sources of inside dope on the racialist right are the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center (with what used to be called the Klanwatch Project).

Today, the SPLC launched a blog called “Hatewatch.” I will be a steady reader.

Heidi Beirich’s debut post includes an embedded vidclip of the late William Pierce, founder of the National Alliance. Dr. Pierce, a former associate of George Lincoln Rockwell, was America’s preeminent white supremacist.

But this video shows that Pierce held a very low opinion of your average uniform-wearing neo-Nazi and street-fighting skinhead; these are “losers,” “freaks,” “defective people” and “antisocial misfits,” according to him. And I guess Pierce would know. They were drawn to him like a magnet.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Not a smart-ass question. (Okay, maybe a little bit...)

I hate to ruin anybody’s Sunday with shocking and offensive viewing matter. But I have to ask a question: Which of these videos is more objectionable? This one...

... or this one?

Nigerian scam haiku

(These haiku were derived from actual scam emails archived at the Nigerian Fraud Email Gallery.)

I have the courage
to crave indulgence for this
important business...

We are ready to
transfer the fund overseas.
That is where you come in.

We have worked out all
modalities for a swift
and risk-free transfer.

When you contact me,
then we shall discuss how the
money will be split...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

‘The PJs’ on UBM-TV

Here’s a show that should’ve lasted longer... Eddie Murphy’s “The PJs.” Satire with teeth in it, pulled from YouTube to my Video Bar.


Considering her last name,
it’s no surprise that Sonia
is blessed with a
47 inch JLo

When this gorgeous
green eyed
Latina shakes her
ass cheeks
it looks like two tanned boxing gloves
punching each other.


Quality girth enhancers
Enlarge your p e.ni.s today.
Guys Need This

Mom does her best fucking with her

Best software price$.
Hey I found these online for super cheap and no
shipping charge
Get Swiss Rolex for sale HERE

Can’t get meds that you need?
Medication worldwide at low

(no subject)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rob Schneider: Bringing yellowface back

I don’t go around looking to get offended, particularly on behalf of other ethnic groups. But I saw some shit today that made me sick, angry and depressed.

Don’t ask me why I thought Adam Sandler’s new flick, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,” would have a few laughs in it. (It doesn’t.) But I wasn’t prepared to see Rob Schneider doing a Japanese caricature that turns back Hollywood’s clock 50 years.

We’re talking overbite and goofy glasses. We’re talking Earl Scheib skin tinting. And, of course, “ring” is pronounced ling.

Who was supposed to laugh at this?

We all know Rob Schneider hasn’t been funny in 15 years. (The Copy Guy sketches burned up all the comedy fuel in his comedy fuel tank.) Schneider must give excellent handjobs, or else why would Adam Sandler keep putting him in movies?

Better question: Are Asian Americans gonna tolerate this bullshit?

Please, somebody, call Mr. Schneider to account... just so I can hear him defend himself by saying he’s got Filipino ancestry and that makes him Asian so he’s entitled to do yellowface shtick.

I want to hear him say that.

Where y’all at, Sansei? What you gon’ do? Put the chopsticks down and RIOT, you meek motherfuckers!

And when you’re finished going all “Hai Karate” on Schneider, drag Mickey Rooney’s carcass out of the old-folks home and apply a little more foot-to-ass therapy. (Or have you forgotten “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”?)

Go ’head... it’ll make you feel good, my brothers and sisters from the Orient. And you know what? Whitey will respect you for it.

You don’t see him trying to pull that blackface crap anymore, do you?

Oh, wait... What the hell is this here? (HT: Racialicious.)

A shot of Don Imus, with an Amiri Baraka chaser

So... it looks like Don Imus might return to New York radio come September.

And the Rev. Al Sharpton says he’s cool with that. While the National Association of Black Journalists says uh-uh, hell no.

I could give a shit either way. But it’s a good excuse to stream a little bit of “comedy” from Imus’s 1974 LP, “This Honky’s Nuts.” (Apparently he fancied himself the white race’s answer to Richard Pryor.)

Click here for a 5-minute portion of Imus’s “Uptight White” routine (which, by my reckoning, contains just one funny joke).

And why not wash it down with some fiery spoken words from Amiri Baraka, also from the mid ’70s? Click here to listen to “Dope,” which is available on the Smithsonian Folkways double-CD “Every Tone a Testimony.”

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gwen Verdon gets crunk

Hat-tip to Carmen Van Kerckhove at Racialicious for pointing me to this hot mashup of Broadway hoofer Gwen Verdon and a young Southern rapper called Unk.

You don’t have to be a hip-hop fan to wanna watch this multiple times.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Black culture on the skids

Remember what black radio used to be? Black radio used to be the coolest thing in your life. It was the thrill of hearing that brand new Parliament single for the first time. It was commercials like this one... or this one.

Black radio was Donnie Simpson proclaiming that this guy was gonna be “the next Stevie Wonder.” (Didn’t turn out to be true, but “Mama Used To Say” was the bomb.)

Then, in the 21st Century, black radio sank to this:

“Smackfest” was banned a couple of years ago by the state of New York, and Hot 97 (WQHT-FM) was slapped with a quarter-million-dollar fine. But YouTube has plenty of old Smackfest vidclips, including multiple postings of the one above. Because the Man wants us to look bad, ya see...

(Hat-tip: The Assimilated Negro.)

By the way... do you wanna download some old blaxploitation commercials on MP3? Click here. They might not seem like much to be proud of. But compared to Smackfest, they were the Golden Age of Radio.

‘30 Rock’ on UBM-TV

I don’t watch a lot of TV these days. But the one new show I got into this past season was Tina Fey’s “30 Rock.” I love how she squeezes the sweetest juice from her writers’ mind-grapes! And I expect her show will be rewarded with an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy. (We’ll know soon.)

I pulled up some “30 Rock” clips on the ol’ Video Bar. Enjoy.

UPDATE (07/19/07): Cheers and hoorays to Tina Fey and her team at “30 Rock.” Emmy nominations were announced this morning, and “30 Rock” is up for six major awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series.

Fey and Alec Baldwin are nominated in the lead-actor categories. And the show got a best-director nomination and two writing nominations, including one for Ms. Fey. (That would be the “Tracy Does Conan” episode, “mind-grapes” and all.)

Elaine Stritch was nominated in the guest-actress category as Donaghy’s mother... but I guess Paul Ruebens’s inbred European prince was too out-there for ’em.

It’s all cool. This’ll give me something to root for on Emmy night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Coltrane speaks

“I felt if [the critics] were really and genuinely interested, or thought there was something here, instead of just condemning it... let’s talk about it. But no one ever came forth...”

Today is the 40th anniversary of the death of John Coltrane.

To honor that, I’m streaming a couple of minutes of a rare interview with Trane, recorded in November 1966 by historian Frank Kofsky. (Kofsky went on to write “John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960s.”)

Click here for the audio clip, in which Coltrane discusses the hostile critical reaction to his newer, avant-garde music... particularly from Down Beat magazine.

You can own Kofsky’s full hourlong interview with Coltrane on CD. It’s part of a 2-CD package from Pacifica Radio Archives, which includes a radio documentary featuring an interview with his widow, Alice Coltrane. The price is $28.50.

The artwork above – “Jazzman: A Portrait of John Coltrane” by William Noguera – is © 2006 Institute For Unpopular Culture. Prints are available for sale.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Name this band, win a prize.

Y’all know how this works: Click here and listen to the audio track. If you can name that band, and you’re the first person to put the band’s name in the comments section of this thread, you will receive a cool prize.

The prize is a book I mentioned on Friday: Tim Brooks’s “Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919.” The paperback is 800 pages of delicious yet little-known pop culture history.

UPDATE (07/20/07): No winner this time. The band is 8 Bold Souls out of Chicago, led by Edward Wilkerson, Jr.

The track is “Brown Town,” from the 2000 CD “Last Option.” It’s available through iTunes.

Presidential assassin vs. GIANT NEGRO!

I made a mistake in my first “giant negroes” post last week. I wrote that a giant Negro had saved the life of a U.S. president.

What actually happened, way back in 1901, was this: James Benjamin Parker – who reportedly stood 6-foot-6 – helped subdue the gunman who shot President McKinley twice at very close range. McKinley died of his wounds a week later.

The assassin was a Polish-American anarchist named Leon Czolgosz. The shooting occurred on September 6, 1901, at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y.

On September 8, the New York Times published a brief “Story of an Eyewitness.” The man, identified only as a “prominent Exposition official,” said this:

“Quick as was Czolgosz he was not quick enough to fire a third shot. He was seized by a Secret Service man, who stood directly opposite the President, and hurled to the floor. A huge negro leaped upon him as he fell and they rolled over the floor. ...”

The Atlanta Constitution on September 8 made a much bigger deal over Jim Parker’s involvement. The headline read: “Assassin Was Caught By an Atlanta Man. Jim Parker, Negro of This City, Overpowers Anarchist Czolgosz.”

“If I had not grabbed that crazy loon he would have shot again,” Parker said. “I got a strangle hold on his neck that I learned down south.”

Parker had been standing in line, like many others, to shake William McKinley’s hand.

“Just think,” he said, “old father Abe freed me, and now I saved his successor from death, provided that bullet that he fired into the president don’t kill him.”

The Atlanta paper described Parker as “a man of probably 6 feet 3 or 4 inches in stature and... Herculean physique. It is little wonder the president’s assailant was prevented from further violence once the hands of the Atlanta giant were placed upon him.”

Within weeks, however, the Atlanta Constitution was singing a different song.

During the assassin’s hasty trial, a Secret Service agent testified that “I never saw no colored man in the whole fracas.” (Jim Parker was not called to testify.) This led an editorial writer to wonder whether everyone had been “slickly duped” by the smooth-talking colored man “Jim.”

In December of 1901, Mr. Parker received what the Washington Post called “the first official recognition of his brave act” – in the form of a J-O-B.

As the Post reported on December 22: “James B. Parker, the giant negro whose trusty right hand felled the assassin Czolgosz in Buffalo... has been summoned to take a government position.” This was at the behest of presidential assistant George B. Cortelyou and two U.S. senators, among others.

Of course, the only civil-service job black folks could get 100 years ago was as “messengers.” So Mr. Parker became a messenger in Senate.

“My only regret,” Parker said on his way to D.C., “is that when I knocked Czolgosz down I did not bite off an ear or disfigure him in such a way as to furnish facial evidence that could not be questioned.”

According to the Post, Parker had been offered “large sums” to appear at museums or with traveling theatrical companies. But the big man refused.

“It would be against my sense of decency,” Parker is quoted as saying. “There are in this country ten millions of colored citizens, who regard it as an honor that one of their race should be the first to spring to the aid of the stricken President. Many of them have written me, telling me they were proud of me, and I could not after that turn myself into a dime museum freak.”

Way to go, Giant Negro!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

MBP of the Week: Edmonton Sun

Here I thought Canada was a multiculti paradise. Turns out they’ve got Misidentified Black People in newspapers up there too!

Would it shock you to learn that the Canadian Football League was somehow involved in this latest MBP?

I thought not.

The following correction ran in the Edmonton Sun last week:

“A photo in yesterday’s Sun ran with the incorrect information. Instead of it being a photo of [Edmonton] Eskimo Shannon Garrett, the photo was of Ricky Williams. Unfortunately, the file photo was misidentified in our system. The Sun apologizes for the error.”

Hat-tip to Craig Silverman at Regret the Error.

FYI, the top photo is Mr. Garrett (a 13-year veteran), the bottom photo is Mr. Williams (a rookie).

Lisa Lampanelli on UBM-TV

“As a white bitch, I’ve always felt we owe you black men the oral sex... to say ‘I’m sorry for slavery.’ ”

“Jewish men got the smallest thingies on the planet. The only thing shorter than a Jew’s penis is a black guy’s to-do list.”

Lisa Lampanelli is a wild one. If you’ve seen her on any of those Comedy Central roasts, you know this.

On the ol’ Video Bar, I’ve pulled up some clips from her 2007 DVD, “Dirty Girl.”

GIANT NEGRO to the rescue!

As I mentioned before, not every giant Negro in the news was a wrongdoer... snatching white ladies’ purses and tossing cops around like rag dolls.

Once in a while, a giant Negro turned out to be a genuine hero. The Associated Press wrote about one such man on February 19, 1952. The next day’s Washington Post headline read: “Giant Rips Open Jammed Cab, Frees Truckman.”

I’m presenting the full AP article here, because it builds to a classic Hollywood ending. (“Who was that giant Negro?”)
HOUSTON, Tex., Feb. 19 (AP). – A giant Negro walked out of the night on the highway about 10 miles northwest of here early today, saw a man trapped in the cab of his smouldering truck-trailer and ripped the cab apart to save the driver.

The unconscious driver fell free into the arms of waiting and astonished deputy sheriffs, and the Negro disappeared as quietly as he appeared.

“No one knows his name,” said Deputy Sheriff Don Henry, “but he did a job I couldn’t do with six trucks and a wrecker. It was a terrific display of human strength.”

The trapped truck driver was Roy Gaby, jr., 26, Houston.

Forced off the road by an apparently drunk driver, Gaby was trapped inside his telescoped truck. Flames appeared. A passing motorist notified the sheriff’s office. Officers, trucks and a wrecker congregated. But the men couldn’t budge the crushed metal with cables. A call went out for cutting torches.

The giant Negro appeared.

“Can I be of help?” he asked.

Then he walked up to the cab, placed his hands on the door and wrenched it off. He climbed into the cab, planted his feet on the floor and his neck and shoulders against the top.

“You could hear the metal give,” said Henry. “The top bowed out, the seat buckled down and the dash broke under the pressure.

“I saw his shirt sleeves rip open as his muscles bulged.”

In the excitement of the rescue no one thought to ask the Negro his name.

He walked off into the night.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Something kinda disturbing from Laz D

A white rapper with Down syndrome.

Sounds like a Fred Armisen sketch that Lorne Michaels would never put on the air, but it becomes a backstage legend at “Saturday Night Live.”

But no, it’s real. It’s realer than “Real Deal” Holyfield.

The rapper’s name is Cameron Lasley, a.k.a. “Laz D.” He is 25 years old and mentally retarded due to Down syndrome. And he’s got something to say about “the street.”

Unfortunately, I can’t quite understand what he’s saying about the street. Because of the Down syndrome.

Click here to watch Laz D’s “Street Anthem” video on YouTube. Be prepared to feel many conflicting emotions.

On one hand, this certainly qualifies as a triumph of the human spirit. Laz loves hip-hop music, there’s no doubt about that. And he is bravely following his lyric-spittin’ dreams in spite of the mocking laughter of a hostile world.

On the other hand, well... mocking laughter is pretty hard to resist in this case. You’ll see what I'm talking about.

Then you feel guilty for laughing. And so to mitigate that guilt, you condemn the legion of snarky assholes on the Web who have poked merciless fun at Laz D on various comment boards.

“[H]e has Down Syndrome, which makes him just slightly more retarded than Eminem,” wrote one cruel wit.

(Cut the kid some slack, why don’t you?)

“I wish he used the N word more or at least call himself a retard multiple times,” wrote another one.

(He’s got more courage than you, douchebag!)

And some guy wrote: “If I was a rapper with Down syndrome I’d call myself Chrommy 21.”

(Oh shit... now I’m laughing again! Ohhhh my God that’s funny...)