Thursday, January 31, 2008

That versatile N-word

I have big plans for Black History Month, y’all. I’m a history nerd regardless, so I’ve been saving up lots of material for February. (Text and audio in particular.)

I might encourage you to invite your children to read my Black History posts... except for, ummmm, ya know, the bad language. I don’t want any kids being corrupted by my silliness. So maybe not.

Speaking of bad language, I must warn those of you who hate seeing the N-word in print... this post is all about that word. So if you’d rather not read it, I’ll understand.

Now, my favorite reference book of all time is the authoritative “Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang”... a project so massive, they haven’t got past the letter “O.”

The thing about “nigger” is, it wasn’t used merely to refer to human beings. “Nigger” worked itself into the American vernacular in lots of ways, to describe everything from flowers and foods (like the nuts pictured above; you know what them nuts used to be called, right?) to rainstorms and fireworks.

It’s part of the cultural history of the United States, so why ignore it? Let’s study it. And not forget.

Here are some interesting examples, culled from the Random House slang dictionary:

nigger-chaser – a type of firecracker that would shoot off in several directions. The Random House dictionary cites a usage of this term as far back as 1882. And it quotes this line from Jack Conroy’s novel “The Disinherited” (1933): “The squibs were like Fourth of July nigger-chasers.”

nigger out – to back out in a cowardly fashion. In “Taking Chances” (1900), his collection of newspaper columns about the gambling life, Clarence L. Cullen wrote: “Of all the niggering out I ever saw... this is the worst.”

nigger luck – undeserved or unexpected good fortune. A once-well-known medical doctor named Rodney Glisan wrote in his 1874 memoirs (“Journal of Army Life”): “... I occasionally made him a little envious by my nigger-luck, as he is pleased to term it.”

nigger navel – a Black-Eyed Susan. According to a 1966 publication of the Indiana University Folklore Association: “Black-eyed Susans are called in Alabama by whites and coloureds, ‘Nigger Navels.’ ”

nigger toe – a Brazil nut. I heard this one from my own daddy. The slang dictionary cites journalist Robert Ruark, whose 1957 collection of magazine columns – “The Old Man and the Boy” – includes this: “The greasy, plump white Brazil nuts we called nigger-toes.” (Strange. Because it’s not the white nut-meat that earned them their nickname!)

nigger news – gossip. The Rev. J.D. Long, an opponent of slavery, wrote in 1857: “It is considered dishonorable for persons to break friendship on what is called ‘nigger news.’ ”

In the 1980s, a white journalist I worked with said that spreaders of newsroom gossip used to call themselves “the nigger network.” He laughed; I grinned.

nigger-heel molasses – 19th-Century Western vernacular for blackstrap molasses. As in Andrew Garcia’s “Tough Trip Through Paradise” (1942): “We had a quart bottle filled with black-strap or nigger-heel molasses, which was as black as tar.”

nigger in a blanket – a dessert made from raisins (or blackberries) rolled in pastry dough. In “Western Words: A Dictionary of the American West” (1944), Ramon F. Adams defined “nigger-in-a-blanket” as: “A cowboy dessert, usually made of raisins in dough.”

rain pitchforks and nigger babies – to rain heavily. For real. In W.R. Burnett’s 1940 novel “High Sierra” – which became a Humphrey Bogart movie – there is this: “It rained pitchforks and nigger babies.” And MacKinlay Kantor’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Andersonville” (1955) has it too: “It’s raining pitchforks and nigger-babies.”

I can’t top that one, so I’ll stop now.

American culture on the skids?

Or good clean fun? You decide:

Warren Zevon’s bad night

There are gaps in my pop-culture education. For example: I have never owned a record or CD by Bob Dylan. (I bet a white boy just fainted reading that. But it’s true.)

Lately I’ve wanted to fill some of those gaps. (Dylan’s not at the top of the list, however.) So I’m checking out some Warren Zevon.

Remember the “Werewolves of London” scene in “The Color of Money”? Cool scene, right? That was all I knew of Zevon’s music. That plus his occasional appearances on Letterman. And his one-off collaboration with George Clinton... a 1987 track called “Leave My Monkey Alone.” (Wanna hear it? It’s not good. Seriously, it blows. But if you’re curious, here it is... for historical purposes only.)

The track that’s got me wild about Warren Zevon right now is actually a bootleg. I stumbled across it on the intertubes. I will share it with you now.

On March 18, 2000, Zevon played a solo gig at Club Bene in South Amboy, N.J. (A Jersey Shore dive, basically.) No band. Just him, a guitar, a harmonica and a keyboard. A different kind of show for him.

Okay, now listen to him perform a song called “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” Lyrically, it’s loaded with Zevon’s dark sense of humor and fatalism. It’s especially powerful considering that Mr. Zevon would be diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2002. (He died in 2003.)

So... in 2000, Warren Zevon, with just his guitar, performs “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” Mid-way through the song, somebody yells out: “This sucks!” And repeats it. (This being a fan-recorded bootleg, the heckling is easy to hear.)

The thing is... it doesn’t suck! It has a haunting melody, and Zevon’s guitar playing is superb. If I had been lucky enough to witness this performance, I’m sure I would’ve perceived it as something special.

Still, that anonymous douchebag yelling “This sucks!” makes this recording extra special to me. Sort of a perfect artifact of Warren Zevon’s peculiar career.

Okay, let’s get to it now. Click here to hear the live solo performance of “My Shit’s Fucked Up.”

You can download the complete bootleg recording of Zevon’s March 18, 2000, show at Club Bene – any or all of it – by following this link to Internet Archive. Won’t cost you nothing.

And if you’d like to read a fan review of this particular gig – posted on the Web in August of 2000 – follow this link. According to the fan, Zevon’s performance was great, but “the crowd was dead. They just weren’t into it for some reason.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A free Ultra Naté download

Let’s hear it for Baltimore’s own Ultra Naté, a dance-music artiste of international stature... still cookin’ after 18 years of making records.

Her 2007 CD “Grime, Silk & Thunder” was well-received by fans.

Also last year, King Street Sounds digitally reissued Ultra Naté’s 1994 single “Party Girl (Turn Me Loose),” with remixes aplenty. The “Original Radio Edit” is available as a FREE MP3.

To hear “Party Girl” streaming on my Vox audio stash, click here.

To download it, click the song title below.

“Party Girl (Turn Me Loose)” (MP3)
EP available at iTunes Music Store
EP available at eMusic
EP available at Amazon

The Progressive Dinner blog carnival is served.

A team effort by six different bloggers, spanning the oceans, has come to fruition. The Progressive Dinner carnival in now online... a cavalcade of random posts by anyone who chose to take part. (I contributed some of my recent pieces, just to see how this event would come off.)

I now point you to the six “courses,” so you may see for yourself:

Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails are at The Gonzo Papers.

Appetizers are at Change Therapy.

The first course is at Fallen Word.

The main course is at Anja Merret.

Dessert is at Fiction Scribe.

And after-dinner drinks are at The Lives and Times...

That’s a whole lotta bloggin’, baby. My thanks to Kilroy_60 and all of the hosts.

UPDATE (01/31/08): I also thank Mark A. Rayner for including "Return of the... EXCEPTIONAL 4!" in his latest Carnival of Satire, which was posted today.

Are you hip to Lalo Alcaraz?

Cartoonist and satirist Lalo Alcaraz is like the Chicano Aaron McGruder. (Do people still say “Chicano”? I mean, people under 50?)

His syndicated comic strip, La Cucaracha, is the sharpest thing to hit the funny pages since The Boondocks. (After seeing Lalo’s strip today, I think he knows this.)

And guess what? Just like The Boondocks did, La Cucaracha occasionally kicks up some drama.

Meanwhile, Alcaraz also co-hosts a weekly satirical radio show, “The Pocho Power Hour,” on KPFK in Los Angeles.

Take a minute and check out Lalo Alcaraz’s MySpace page. He’s selling calendars, y’all!

Is Edwards quitting for Obama’s benefit?

I just woke up. I haven’t hit the political websites or turned on MSNBC. Just heard on the radio that John Edwards is dropping out of the presidential race today.

Shocker! Who saw that coming? Nobody, that’s who.

So I wanna put my own amateur analysis out there... see how it stacks up against the real thing, which we’ll be bombarded with on TV all week.

Timing-wise, I suspect Edwards is quitting now to benefit Barack Obama on Super Tuesday.

Think about it. The 10 to 15 percent of voters who’ve gravitated towards Edwards have already decided they’re not wild about Hillary, they want to go another direction. Right?

Edwards steps aside now... to give Obama a boost in next week’s Big Throwdown. Allow Barack and Hillary to debate one-on-one. Right?

A hardcore feminist might call this a typical patriarchal move, ganging up against the girl. (Rapist! Footbinder!) Whatever it is, it changes the game in a fascinating way.

UPDATE (01/30/08): Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza reports this piece of instant punditry from Charlie Cook:

"While one can plausibly argue that Edwards withdrawal may unite the anti-Clinton vote, one can also argue that Edwards overwhelmingly white block of supporters come loose and might behave much as other white Democrats have done in the contests after Iowa, not vote for Obama. I don't know which of those arguments will prevail."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Marcia Pappas fights like a girl.

I first encountered her name tonight on the HickTown Press blog. Marcia Pappas, head of the New York state chapter of the National Organization for Women, attacked Sen. Ted Kennedy Monday for the crime of endorsing Barack Obama.

“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal,” reads a NOW press release.

Kennedy’s endorsement “is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation – to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.”

Even the liberal Huffington Post describes this as a “rant.”

But that’s not the mind-blower.

NOW’s Teddy Kennedy press release has drawn attention to a January 11 manifesto from Marcia Pappas titled: “Psychological Gang Bang of Hillary is Proof We Need a Woman President.”

Gang bang? As the Field Negro says, “that was some tacky shit.”

Beyond tacky, I’d say. Approaching psychotic. I count eight exclamation points in the thing. And multiple spelling errors.

In her very first paragraph, by way of clearing her throat, Pappas refers to the playground taunting of little girls, and to sexual harassment in the workplace, and to “that movie where Jodie Foster portrayed the true story of [a] woman who was ganged raped in a bar while others looked on and encouraged [it]. ...”

“In short,” quoth Pappas, “gang raping of women is commonplace in our culture both physically and metaphorically.”

And who, pray tell, is guilty of the metaphorical mob rape of Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama, of course! And John Edwards. Heck, John Kerry too! Read the damn thing for yourself.

Ms. Pappas threw this Molotov cocktail after Sen. Clinton’s surprise victory in the New Hampshire primary, which cranked up the competition to another level.

Now, I’m not saying that Marcia Pappas is an agent of the Clinton campaign. But Pappas did spend 10 days in Iowa volunteering for Clinton. (She’s on the far left in the picture above.)

And Pappas certainly understands the power of words. She said so herself, in a 2005 radio interview with upstate New York talk-show host Scott Leffler. Click here to hear a 1-minute snippet on my Vox audio stash. (I promise, it will amuse you!)

Marcia Pappas also understands the seriousness of actual rape (not the metaphorical kind), because NOW successfully lobbied the New York state legislature to remove the statute of limitations in rape cases.

And via that, Ms. Pappas professes to understand the game of hardball politics – especially how to “manipulate” and “embarrass the hell out of” male politicians. Click here for a 2-minute audio bite from a symposium last April at Albany Law School. Pappas speaks on the subject of “Violence Against Women.”

“It’s really easy to embarrass politicians [in] election years,” she boasts. “Keep that in mind. Timing is, like, key.”

Add it all up and it’s plain to see: the NOW “gang rape” press release was a calculated political smear, with Pappas dealing the gender card from the bottom of the deck. She should be held to account for her outrageous, inflammatory rhetoric.

And Hillary Clinton should repudiate Marcia Pappas. Like, now.

Salute to TV writers: ‘In Living Color’

I was a fan of “In Living Color” during its early years. But it’s fair to say that the show’s strength was its cast, not its writing.

(By contrast, “Saturday Night Live” and “SCTV” had writers to match their players, while “Fridays” was burdened with a second-rate cast plus weak writing.)

One of my favorite “In Living Color” sketches didn’t even come from the writing staff. “Black World” was written and performed by cast member T’Keyah “Crystal” Keymah.

I interviewed Crystal in 1991, and she acknowledged that “Black World” owes a debt to Gilda Radner, who did a similar little-girl sketch on “SNL.”

“I think Gilda Radner’s pieces are classics,” she told me.

“Black World,” on top of being an acting showcase, is a fine piece of character writing and social satire. It was one of Crystal’s audition pieces for “In Living Color.” And it’s the one that got her hired.

To hear “Black World” on my Vox audio stash, click here. It was originally broadcast on May 12, 1990.

Making fun of the Armenians

Another piece of the puzzle regarding the sale of cigarettes at a Glendale donut shop: Armenians smoke a lot.

Glendale, Calif., has the largest Armenian population in the United States. I knew this. There are a number of coffee shops around my way, and you’ll often find clusters of Armenian men at the outdoor tables, smoking like chimneys.

How much do Armenian men smoke? Check out the satirical video below, from KROQ-FM morning deejays Kevin and Bean.

Let me say right now: I have nothing but love for the Armenian people. My landlady is Armenian. Sevan Chicken is the bomb biggity. Mignon Chocolate is all that and a box of chocolates.

Just joking around is all.

A reminder...

... that Mr. DeAngelo Starnes is blogging the current (and final) season of “The Wire” at Follow this link to read his take on Episode #4, which debuted Sunday night. (It repeats throughout the week.)

Episode #5 – co-written by David Simon and myself – is currently available “On Demand,” in advance of next Sunday’s showing. But don’t comment on that one here; DeAngelo doesn’t want to see any spoilers!

The place to comment on that “On Demand” joint is this thread, over at Alan Sepinwall’s blog. (Them some “Wire”-watchin’ muhfuggas over there, yo.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Playlist: Jams from my high school days

Aw heck... I’m caught up in a nostalgia loop, and it’s pulling me backward in time. I am compelled to dust off some old 78s, hand-crank the Victrola, and spin some tunes from 1978 and ’79... my high school days in P.G. County, Maryland. To stream this music on my Vox blog, click the song titles below.

1. “Funk ’n’ Roll” – Quazar

George Clinton’s P-Funk empire was in full flower. Even breakaway band members were getting major-label deals. Such as Jerome Brailey and Glen Goins, who formed Quazar.

This was Quazar’s only hit. By the time it was released, Goins had died of cancer... a loss still felt by hardcore funkateers.

2. “Hot Number” – Foxy

The hot, Florida-flavored Latin disco of Foxy was all over the radio my senior year. (R&B and pop.)

I interviewed group leader Ish Ledesma in the late 1980s for a newspaper piece titled “Disco Didn’t Suck.” ;^D

3. “Riding High” – Faze-O

This track has been sampled by hip-hoppers; you can tell why. There’s just something gangsterish about it.

4. “Smile” – The Emotions

Feel-good music from producer Maurice White. Tight musicianship from Earth, Wind & Fire. “Genetic harmonies” from Wanda, Sheila and Jeanette. Hell of a combination.

5. “Ready or Not” – Herbie Hancock

In the late ’70s, everybody was trying to sound like the Funk Mob, including established cats like George Duke, Ray Parker, Jr. and Herbie Hancock. This one still cranks.

Today, the Washington Post Co. (which used to employ me) planted a flag in the afrosphere by launching

Conceived by Post chairman Don Graham and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (pictured), and with the “sponsorship” of HBO, strives to be a high-toned webmagazine for black folks.

Prof. Gates sees it as part of a 180-year continuum... from Freedom’s Journal to The Crisis to Ebony magazine to now.

The Root’s editorial team comes from elite mainstream news organizations – Lynette Clemetson (New York Times), Terence Samuel (U.S. News & World Report) and Natalie Hopkinson (Washington Post).

Given all those credentials, I hope The Root won’t be too very “respectable”... eating fried chicken with a knife and fork and shit.

I hope there’ll be room in that enterprise for some of the funkdafied free speaking and reckless attitudinizing that characterizes the best of the black blogosphere. (I’m talking about bloggers like AngryBlackBitch, The Assimilated Negro, Field Negro and Ernest Hardy.)

Either way, I’ll be checking out The Root regularly.

UPDATE (01/29/08): If you’d like to read more about yesterday’s launch of, here are a couple of links...

Click here for the Washington Post’s news story.

The New York Times article is here.

Heavy weather...

At 2 a.m. this morning, I heard my first 2008 campaign ad on the radio. It was from fringe Republican Ron Paul, going negative on all four of his GOP opponents at once.

Already I was hyped about February 5. But it hadn’t dawned on me that California (as well as New York, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and the rest of the Super Tuesday states)... we’re in for a week of intense campaign advertising.

Like watching storm clouds roll in, I’m anticipating the thunder and lightning. It’s thrilling.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nigerian nostalgia

One of the absolute best blog posts I’ve read in recent months (click here) was on Comb & Razor’s music blog last November.

Comb & Razor wrote about a 1983 album by teenager Yvonne Maha. Apparently many young Nigerians wore the grooves out of this record.

But what’s really interesting is the “urban legend” that grew around Yvonne Maha in subsequent years. Read it and see for yourself.

Best of all, Comb & Razor ripped that vinyl so folks all over the world can download and enjoy it. I’d never heard of Yvonne, but I have heard of Sonny Okosuns, her producer and songwriter.

The songs are so cute. I mean, her face is cute, her accent is cute, the lyrics are super-cute. It’s too much cute!

I’m streaming two tracks on my Vox audio stash. Click here for “Lagos Town.” To hear “Going to School,” click here. You can just picture Yvonne skipping down the road, singing and smiling.

Now, as for the album title – “Child for Sale” – well... having read a bit about sex tourism, the title creeps me out a little bit.

A free Del tha Funkee Homosapien download

In 1991, soon before I quit paying attention to hip-hop, I got the debut album by Del tha Funkee Homosapien (also known as “Ice Cube’s cousin”). Del was deep into the P-Funk, which made him all right in my book.

Well, Del is still doin’ it. Last week he dropped a track called “Bubble Pop.” Guess what? It’s bouncy!

To hear it streaming on my Vox blog, click here.

To cop a FREE MP3, follow this link to

If you have a MySpace account, you can download a couple more free tracks off Del’s MySpace page. (News alert: Evidently he now spells his stage name “Del The Funkyhomosapien.”)

Red Bull, motherfucker.

This clip has been circulating in the blogosphere for days. But justjudith is the first blogger I’ve seen who identified the speaker: Marty King (MLK III).

Spread this one around, peoples. (Yo, Bill... don’t start none, won’t be none, bruh.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Satan’s donut shop

Here in lovely downscale Glendale, I recently stumbled upon a mom-and-pop donut shop in a humble strip mall.

Contrary to outward appearances, I don’t eat a lot of donuts. But I got a hankerin’ for ’em, ironically, during my one week of walking a picket line at the beginning of the writers’ strike. Nothing lifts your spirit on the line like some Krispy Kremes.

Anyway, I stepped into this neighborhood donut shop, right? And what I saw there stopped me in my tracks. Behind the counter was a wall full of cigarettes for sale.

Yes, cigarettes. In a damn donut shop. Who ever heard of such?

Now, I’ve been messing around with smoking for the past couple of years, and I’m embarrassed about that... disappointed in myself. So this moment brought forth a rush of emotions.

“You want donut?”

A small Asian woman behind the counter looked at me blankly.

“What’s with those?” I asked, pointing behind her. “What’s with the cigarettes?”

“You want cigarette? What kind you want?”

“No no no... I’m saying, you sell cigarettes and donuts? Why not just paint a skull and crossbones on the front door?”

She continued to look at me, expressing nothing.

“I mean, do you sleep well at night? You’re selling death here. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease...” I just couldn’t hold my tongue. “The only thing missing is guns. You sell guns too?”

“You no want donut?”

“It ain’t about me. I’m talking about you,” I said. “Cigarettes and donuts don’t even go together! Was life so bad in Pusan or wherever the fuck you come from, you had to come here and sell this shit?”

Her face didn’t change. She just said, “You want donut?”

I sighed and wiped my brow.

“Yeah,” I said, “give me an old-fashioned glazed and an old-fashioned chocolate. And a pack of Cigarettellos... the Nat Shermans in the red box. Yeah, those.”

As I walked out, a voice behind me called out musically: “See you again soooon.” I turned around. The Asian woman was smiling.

Coming attraction: ‘Desert Bayou’

The documentary film “Desert Bayou,” recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award, is coming out on DVD on February 19.

Directed by Alex LeMay, “Desert Bayou” tells a tale of culture shock as New Orleaneans displaced by Hurricane Katrina end up in Utah. White Utah. Mormon Utah.

The trailer is embedded below. More clips are available at the movie’s official website.

(Hat-tip: Field Negro.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Return of the... EXCEPTIONAL 4!

Our eyes were locked on the plasma-screen TV in the White Room... me, Tiger-Man and the Fresh Prince.

Baraka wasn’t with us. Baraka was up there on screen, debating Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in South Carolina.

Damn... it was like watching a car wreck in slow motion. The Fresh Prince and I were sipping on Courvoisier to settle our nerves. Tiger-Man was squeezing a golf ball, rolling it between his fingertips. And we watched...

“This campaign,” said Hillary, calm and confident, “is about who will be ready on Day One to lead the most powerful nation on Earth.”

“What I wanna know,” Baraka interrupted, “is what happens on Day One of your menstrual cycle? What if you’re feeling shitty, you got cramps, and you decide to invade Iran? Is that a chance we’re willing to take?”

There were audible gasps from the audience. I put my face in my hands.

“His focus is gone,” said Tiger-Man.

The Fresh Prince made a noise with his lips and said, “Tell me something I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Hillary didn’t break stride. “That kind of divisive rhetoric has no place in our politics. Barack, you should be ashamed of yourself.”

“Bitch, please,” Baraka said. “Divisive? Your husband has been going at me like an attack dog for the past two weeks! You wanna act like you’re above it all?”

“The American people do not want to hear this sort of bickering,” Hillary said. “The American people want to know what we’re going to do to fix this economy...”

“All right then,” said Baraka, grabbing his crotch, “let’s talk about my ‘stimulus package.’ I can talk about that all night long, baby doll! But it won’t change the fact that you can’t even run a marriage. How you gonna run a country?

“Blowjobs in the Oval Office... Jesus, Hillary, if you woulda ‘slicked his Willie’ every once in a while, nobody would know who Monica Lewinsky is!”

John Edwards piped up: “Can we please get back to talking about homeless vets who live under bridges?”

Baraka wheeled around and said, “Motherfucker, are you still here?”

I couldn’t take any more of it. I grabbed the remote and hit the mute button. After a few seconds of painful silence, I spoke softly: “Bill Clinton is all up inside his head. The man must be neutralized. Or else this whole operation is dead in the water.”

“You got a plan, light-skin?” said the Fresh Prince, pouring himself another cognac.

Indeed I did have a plan. “Do you know what a ‘honey trap’ is?”

“The fuck has this got to do with Yogi Bear?” said the Fresh Prince. I snatched the Courvoisier bottle from his hand. When I turned to Tiger-Man, his eyes met mine. I knew we were on the same page.

In unison, we said: “Hollyberry.”

Within hours, Tiger-Man, the Fresh Prince and I were in Beverly Hills, ringing a doorbell.

Hollyberry answered. She was beautifully pregnant, but a sad mood was all over her face. She was cradling her Academy Award.

“We need you,” said Tiger-Man. “Did you watch the debate tonight?”

“What debate?” Hollyberry drifted into the living room, not interested in any reply.

“Baraka’s in trouble,” I said. “You’re the only one who can save him.”

“I can’t work right now,” she said. “Maybe in a couple of weeks.”

“Couple of weeks could be too late,” I said. “What’s wrong?”

“I didn’t get nominated,” she said, gazing at her Oscar’s golden face.

The Fresh Prince asked, in all seriousness, “Were you in a movie this year?”

Hollyberry shot him a cold look. “ ‘Things We Lost in the Fire.’ I know it doesn’t have any zombies in it, so you probably didn’t notice.”

“You should’ve been nominated, definitely,” Tiger-Man lied. “But there are bigger things at stake.”

The Fresh Prince sidled up to Hollyberry and whispered, “Can I hold your Oscar? Please?” She stomped away from him; I blocked her path.

“We need you to seduce Bill Clinton,” I said.


“Don’t act like you forgot how,” said the Fresh Prince.

“I’m saying, look at me. I’m seven months pregnant.” Hollyberry waved a hand over her rounded belly.

“That won’t slow Bill Clinton down,” I said. “He calls that ‘getting two for one.’ ”

“Hollyberry,” said Tiger-Man, “the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.”

For the first time since our arrival, Hollyberry seemed interested. By the next morning, we were in South Carolina.

Me and Hollyberry walked into a Cracker Barrel restaurant in a town called Simpsonville. Bill Clinton was addressing a crowd of about 75 white citizens.

Hollyberry came dressed for the job... her milk-laden breasts on display like a couple of Christmas hams. But my eyes were scoping the crowd. Ol’ Bill had them hooked on his every word.

“The most unfair thing being said about me is that I’ve been disrespecting Senator Obama. So let me say this plainly.” Pointing his finger for emphasis, Clinton said: “Barack Hussein Obama is an exceptional African-American. He is articulate, he smells good, and his accomplishments at Harvard Law School speak for themselves. Barack is truly a shining example of the value of affirmative action. ...”

As Hollyberry made her way to the front, the former president kept talking, pausing every so often to bite his lower lip:

“And yes, he does bring a unique perspective to politics. His father came from Kenya, in Africa, and married a white woman. Young Barack was educated by Muslims in Indonesia, and I think that’s great. Barack Hussein Obama is someone to be looked up to and admired by all the young black people in all of our inner-city ghettos... especially those caught up in drugs. Because Barack is living proof that that need not be a dead-end street for anyone.

“Let me say this, too. I have a personal fondness for Barack Obama. I hope that when this hard-fought contest is overwith, he and I can get together and jam... me with my saxophone, and Barack with his bongo drums.”

I couldn’t tell what Hollyberry was doing up front, but by now Bill had definitely taken notice of her. This plan was coming together like clockwork.

“So I have come here,” Clinton proclaimed, “to Simpsonville, South Carolina, to let you good people know that race has nothing to do with this election. Don’t let anybody tell you different.”

After the speech, the folks lined up to shake Bill Clinton’s hand. I was amongst them... only I intended to slip a tiny listening device into his jacket when I got close. Hollyberry stayed near Clinton, exchanging quick glances with him. I silently thanked the ancestors that she was on our side.

“Mr. President, sir,” I said, shaking Clinton’s hand. “Keep on doing what you do.”

“Thank you,” Bill said with a smile. But then...

“Hey, white boy,” came a voice from behind him. “Remember us?”

Clinton turned around. It was Sister Souljah. And beside her stood Lani Guinier. They looked pissed.

Before I knew what was what, Sister Souljah kicked Bill Clinton in the groin, and Prof. Guinier followed through with a fierce uppercut to the face. Secret Service agents joined the fracas, and I quickly back-pedaled to Hollyberry. She was as stunned as I was.

“Did you put the mic on him?” she asked.

“No. You get his phone number?”

Hollyberry flashed me a tiny slip of paper. I never had a doubt.

“Let’s book,” I said. “We’ll figure this shit out later.”

This is all kinds of wrong...

... but funny as heck. Hat-tip to Thembi.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Playlist: Jams from my college days

Justjudith inspired me with the theme of her blog post tonight: favorite jams from her days at Howard University.

I am prone to powerful fits of nostalgia for my own college era (at the University of Maryland, College Park). Being that my era predates Judith’s by about a decade, I am also moved by a certain generational arrogance to educate this youngster. To wit: Our early-’80s funk was the best!! (All you middle-aged muhfuggas feel me, right?)

Click the song titles below if you wanna trip along with me...

1. “Searching” – Change

Luther Vandross’s breakout year was 1981 (the “Never Too Much” album). But the year before, Luther was all over the airwaves with his featured vocals on two tracks by Change.

For some reason, this one evokes wistful feelings in me.

2. “Work That Sucker to Death” – Xavier

In college, I was jonesing heavily for the P-Funk... at a point in history when George Clinton’s Corinthian colonnade of Rhythm-&-Business collapsed into dust (which George then freebased).

So when George and Bootsy dropped guest vocals on this 1982 joint, verily did I pop a chubby. The funk nerd in me still cracks a smile over George’s self-deprecating in-jokes. (“We sure do need a gig, don’t we, Bootsy?”)

3. “Thighs High” – Tom Browne

I swear to God, don’t you miss when black radio sounded like this?

4. “A Touch of Jazz (Playin’ Kinda Ruff Part II)” – Zapp

Yep, I was into Zapp too. Big time. I can’t dance a lick, but I loves the funky music. Ain’t that strange?

I saw Roger Troutman and Zapp at the Cap Centre, opening for Prince on the “Controvesy” tour.

5. “Weak at the Knees” – Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame

Steve Arrington is way underrated as a funk vocalist. To slip back into P-Funk geek mode for a second, I would put him up there with Garry Shider.

6. “Funky Sensation” – Gwen McCrae

Even though it came out in 1981, “Funky Sensation” to me pointed a way to the progressive, clubby funk sound of the mid-’80s. I know that might be slicing it rather fine... I’m just saying this track was ahead of its time. And it still kicks major ass.

Salute to TV writers: ‘The Richard Pryor Special?’

Yes, that question mark was part of the title. As if Mr. Pryor couldn’t believe it his own self.

I’m willing to bet that 99 out of every 100 black folks in their mid-40s remember watching that special. Especially Maya Angelou’s dramatic monologue (which puzzled me then). Or the pageant of black models posing to a recitation of Langston Hughes’s “Harlem Sweeties.”

Or the Idi Amin sketch.

I’m streaming audio of the Idi Amin sketch on my Vox blog. Click here to hear it. I don’t know for a fact who wrote it... but the bitter tang of it says Paul Mooney. (Note the strategic deployment of the N-word.)

By the way, Mooney and Richard Pryor earned their Writers Guild cards at the same time, after co-scripting an episode of “Sanford and Son.”

“The Richard Pryor Special?” aired on May 5, 1977. It’s available on DVD, packaged with the four episodes of “The Richard Pryor Show” that were broadcast in the fall of ’77 on NBC.

Coming attraction: ‘The Black List’

My man Elvis Mitchell has a project screening at the Sundance Film Festival this week. It’s a collaboration with his friend, the photographer and filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. It’s called “The Black List.”

The concept is conversation-as-portraiture. Elvis talked to 20 prominent black Americans, including Toni Morrison, Colin Powell, Russell Simmons and Vernon Jordan. (Complete list is here.) Then Elvis and his questions were edited out, leaving only the subjects... filmed against a simple backdrop.

It’s living, breathing oral history.

HBO has picked up “The Black List,” and plans a theatrical release later in 2008.

Hat-tip to Terry Glover, who blogged about “The Black List” for He interviewed Elvis Mitchell and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders together at Sundance.

Below is a clip from the film.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hey, let’s play... Negro, Not a Negro!

It’s been a while since we played this game. Here’s how it works:

The first person to correctly identify the above four persons, A thru D, as either Negro or not a Negro will win a prize. That prize is a brand new copy of the 2007 paperback “The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene.”

Mr. Woodson is the man who created Negro History Week, which we now know as Black History Month.

Only one set of guesses allowed per person. You don’t have to tell me who the people are. Just “Negro” or “Not a Negro.” Put your guesses in the comment thread. Good luck!

UPDATE (01/24/08): We have a winner. Genevagirl, hit me with an email at the address on my profile page to claim your prize.

A. Negro
B. Negro
C. Not a Negro
D. Not a Negro

A. is Lawrence Dennis, a political writer who passed as white during his adult life, but who first gained attention as a mulatto “child preacher.” Dennis is the subject of a 2006 biography, “The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States.” I’ll write more about him during Black History Month.

B. is Korla Pandit (born John Roland Redd), an organist and early television personality in Los Angeles. He claimed to have been born in New Delhi, but magazine journalist RJ Smith discovered the truth in recent years; “Korla Pandit” was actually born in St. Louis. Both of his parents were Negroes. Interestingly, when John Redd first moved to L.A., he tried passing as Mexican (under the name “Juan Rolando”).

I’ll post more about Korla Pandit soon.

C. is Notah Begay III, professional golfer and full-blooded Navajo Indian.

D. is model Yvette Nelson. German father, Armenian mother (according to Wikipedia).

Thanks for playing!

Coming attraction: ‘Chicago 10’

Speaking of the superb actor Jeffrey Wright (as I was last week), here’s something else to look forward to:

Brett Morgen’s documentary film “Chicago 10” opens in limited release on February 29. It includes animated re-creations of the notorious Chicago Seven trial (originally the Chicago Eight), based on actual court transcripts.

Jeffrey Wright provides the voice of Black Panther Bobby Seale. Embedded above is a 1-minute clip from the movie (with Roy Scheider as Judge Julius Hoffman). To view the official trailer, follow this link.

MBP of the Week: San Francisco Chronicle

To the long list of things that bluesmen and rappers share in common, add this: susceptibility to the Misidentified Black Person syndrome.

See the picture above? The white guy is Chris Strachwitz, founder of the wonderful folk-music label Arhoolie Records.

San Francisco Chronicle music writer Joel Selvin recently profiled Mr. Strachwitz.

Now, can you name that Negro?

At first, the Chronicle said it was Lightnin’ Hopkins. But it’s not.

The following correction was published on Sunday:

“The Jan. 13 edition of the Chronicle Magazine misidentified a person in a photograph caption on page 12. It is Mississippi Fred McDowell standing to the left of Chris Strachwitz.”

Funny thing is, the San Francisco Chronicle website still captions that photo “Hopkins and Strachwitz in Houston.”

For the record: It is McDowell and Strachwitz in Como, Mississippi.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Anybody but Hillary.

Seriously, peoples... do we really want these two shysters back in the White House?

Given how Hillary and Bill have been twisting Barack Obama’s words in recent days, how could we ever expect her as president to tell us the straight truth about anything?

I would vote for John McCain before I’d vote for her.

Mitt Romney... hepcat!

Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president, is so comfortable around black folks... it’s just amazing to watch. He decided to hang around some black folks yesterday in Florida... you know, because it was Martin Luther King Day.

Look at how down and with it and funky-fresh he is with the young’uns. Like when he says, “Who let the dogs out? Hoo, hoo!”

Watch out, Barack. Somebody else wants to be America’s Second Black President!

At one point, Romney is pressing the flesh while a marching band in the background plays “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” I wish someone would’ve asked him, “Yo, Mitt... can you name that tune?”

A free Stevie Salas download

Guitarist Stevie Salas has recorded with George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Bill Laswell. He has toured with Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger. And I’ve read that Mr. Salas is a big-deal solo artist in Japan. He is no doubt the funkiest member of the Mescalero Apache Nation.

Last year he released a double-CD compilation, “The Sun and the Earth – The Essential Stevie Salas Vol. 1.” If you’re new to Stevie, this is the place to start. And why not start with a FREE MP3?

To hear his cover version of Robbie Robertson’s “Shake This Town,” click here. To download the track, click the song title below.

“Shake This Town” (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store
Album available at eMusic
Album available at Amazon

This date in Beatles history: 1969

Some call him “the fifth Beatle.”

On January 22, 1969, keyboard player Billy Preston joined John, Paul, George and Ringo in their Apple Studio on Savile Row, London, to cut some tracks.

This was the first day of the so-called “Get Back” sessions, a proposed film project to document the creation of a Beatles album. The “Get Back” sessions eventually resulted in the band’s final LP, “Let It Be.” But they also produced the smash hit single “Get Back,” credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston.” (The master take was recorded on January 28.)

Historian Mark Lewisohn superbly tells the tale of the Twilight of the Beatles in “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.”

According to Lewisohn, Billy Preston “happened to be in the Apple reception area on 22 January, and he was literally grabbed by George Harrison and cajoled into joining the Beatles sessions to alleviate the tense atmosphere” amongst the band... and also to add a fifth element to the organic, live-band sound of this particular project.

“The Beatles had known Preston since 1962,” writes Lewisohn, “when he was a teenage member of Little Richard’s backing group, sharing a two-week bill with the Beatles at the Star-Club, Hamburg.”

One of the songs recorded on Billy Preston’s first day with the Beatles was “Bathroom Window,” an early version of Paul McCartney’s “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window.” This song was set aside until the “Abbey Road” sessions later in ’69.

Click here to hear that early take of “Bathroom Window.” At the end, you’ll hear McCartney talking to Billy Preston about ways to change up the electric piano part.

This recording is available on the double-CD “The Beatles Anthology 3.”

Monday, January 21, 2008

Stakes Be High, pt. 5

My man DeAngelo Starnes points out that MLK Day is the perfect time to resume our Stakes Be High dialogues. I couldn’t agree more.

We both intend to keep these debates going until one or the other of us throws in the towel. As always, readers are invited to goad us in the comments section.

DeAngelo says: “I had an experience that was a ‘Crash’ moment. Got rear-ended by this Hispanic cat who did a hit-and-run. As liberal and/or progressive as I’ve tried to be on immigration, I found myself confronted with some real internal prejudices. I mean raw bigotry. So the next question is...”
QUESTION #5: Isn’t there a dark place within all of us that harbors deep-rooted bigotry? If so, isn’t that emblematic of a white supremacy system in that non-white people have taken on similar characteristics of white racists?

The Rev. Martin Luther King speaks

To honor the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., I’m streaming a 4-minute excerpt of “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” Dr. King’s bold address before the anti-war group Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam.

Click here to hear it. And apply his words as you will to present-day circumstances.

The complete 55-minute speech is available as an MP3 file, courtesy of the Free Information Society. To commence downloading, click here.

You can find the text of the speech here.

Dr. King delivered this speech at New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, precisely one year before he was assassinated.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Right-wing comedian is proud of his ‘nigger’ joke

I’d never heard of Evan Sayet before last night. He’s a comedian who wrote for Bill Maher during the early days of “Politically Incorrect.”

Sayet says he used to be a typical Hollywood liberal; now he’s a conservative... with a website featuring pictures of himself alongside Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Medved, Larry Elder and David Horowitz.

Evan Sayet makes his living nowadays performing at conservative functions, and occasionally headlining “Right to Laugh” club dates with other right-wing comics.

Last night, he was on KFI’s “Joe Hicks Show” (Hicks being the only black host on that talk-radio powerhouse); he was promoting an upcoming “Right to Laugh” gig in North Hollywood.

Dude didn’t impress me with his sense of humor on the radio. Not at all. But I figured I’d look into him... see if it might be worth my time checking out his show and blogging about it.

As it turns out, Internet personality Luke Ford posted an interview with Evan Sayet last month. Ford even uploaded audio files of their phone conversation.

At one point, Luke Ford asked him whether standup comedy is the only place in society “where we can talk honestly about race.”

Sayet responded with a very unfunny joke involving Michael Richards, Al Sharpton and the N-word. Click here to hear it. (The sound quality is about as poor as the joke itself. If you can’t understand him, read the transcript on Ford’s site.)

What cracks me up is hearing Sayet describe that dumb shit as a “witty observation.”

No... what really cracks me up is Evan Sayet charging $30 a head for his “Right to Laugh” comedy show. (Including a buffet.)

Elvis Mitchell interviews Denzel Washington

“I said to somebody once... ‘I’ve been called a nigger more in the movies than I have my whole life.’ In one movie, I got called that more than I did in 40, 50 years on this planet!”

Elvis Mitchell, on his radio show “The Treatment” last week, interviewed Denzel Washington. Especially interesting is their discussion of the development of the “Great Debaters” script. Denzel explains why he toned down “the racist stuff.” And he describes how the story was improved by Horton Foote, the two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter.

Click here to hear a 2-minute excerpt of that interview on my Vox site.

To stream the entire half-hour program, follow this link to Or you can download it from iTunes as a free podcast.

Does Mitt Romney wear the mystical Mormon long johns?

Last week I cracked a joke about “magic underwear” in regard to Mitt Romney’s father, George W. Romney, himself a former Republican candidate for president.

I have no beef with the Mormons. But I am intrigued by their underwear. Other bloggers are too.

In late 2006, Wonkette wrote that Mitt Romney “refus[es] to say whether or not he wears the magic Mormon underwear.”

Wonkette was probably referring to an Atlantic Monthly article, in which Sridhar Pappu asked Mitt flat out: “Do you wear the temple garments?” Gov. Romney replied: “I’ll just say those sorts of things I’ll keep private.”

Gay conservative Andrew Sullivan posted a photo of the sacred drawers, prompting this response from Daniel Pulliam, a religion blogger:

“[T]his underwear issue should be dropped. ... I wonder why Sullivan has never asked whether the next Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, wears Mormon undergarments? Or Sen. Orrin Hatch? ...

“If a reporter had 10 questions to ask Romney, one should not be asking about what he is wearing underneath his suit. ... Leave the undergarment questions for ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report.’”

Well... how did Mitt Romney’s father handle this underwear issue 40 years ago, when Mormonism no doubt was considered even more weird than it is today?

Let’s consult a 1967 biography, “Romney’s Way – A Man and An Idea,” written by magazine journalist T. George Harris. The following comes from a chapter titled “A Missionary’s Long Underwear”:
T. GEORGE HARRIS: The Governor of Michigan wears peculiar drawers. They are the kind of long johns that Mormons call “temple garments.” He earned the right to them when he was 19, and put them on at a ceremony in Salt Lake’s home temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. He does not buy any other kind of underwear.

Should he smoke, drink or give less than ten percent of his gross income to his church, he would by his lights forfeit the privilege. They are sort of holy BVD’s, a cynic would say, for they have stitched marks across the front copied from symbols used in LDS temple oaths.

These signs on fresh-laundered underclothes remind him that his muscular body is a tabernacle of God and that his actions and motives will one day be judged by a court that has all the evidence. The real significance of those garments, however, takes a second thought: His personal religion, worn next to the skin, is as plain and serviceable as cotton knit. ...

[N]ot yet well educated on [George] Romney, I imagined that he would hunt a theological excuse for a less distinctive fashion, say boxer shorts. Visual symbols have always been dangerous in Presidential campaigns, especially if they somehow sum up the man.

Among the disparaging symbols recently hung on campaigners – from Tom Dewey’s “little man on top of a wedding cake” to Richard Nixon’s dog Checkers, Adlai Stevenson’s old shoe and Lyndon Johnson’s wheeler-dealer Stetson – none has invited ridicule like a pair of saintly long johns.

Romney knew this. Democrats were already tagging him Batman to deride his earnest manner. They sure would wave the drawers. But when I happened to learn that he had not given up the garments, he simply tried to make me understand why.

“You saw me receive an honorary doctorate the other day, another degree [he had 17] that I did not earn,” he said. “But people are proud to wear the robes for degrees they earn. Though not visible, the garments are something I earned by living up to certain standards.”

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hottentot Venus

I finally caught up with that Australian TV tennis commentator who made an ass of himself by engaging in some public booty worship of Venus Williams. (In the middle of a damn match!)

Now I’m wondering: If that Roger Rasheed got so mesmerized by Venus, what would’ve happened if it was Serena? Would the top of his head have blown off?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Something literal-minded from Dan Meth

You say there’s not much cool original content on the Web? Check out this bit of silliness from Internet animator Dan Meth:

Salute to TV writers: ‘Taxi’

I deeply believe in the Eugenic Theory of Good Television. (Actually, I just thought of it yesterday. But it does make a lot of sense.)

Writers who come from great TV shows tend to create great shows of their own.

For instance, the creators of “Taxi” – James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis and Ed. Weinberger – all worked on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” For “Taxi” they hired Glen and Les Charles, who later created “Cheers.”

And writers hired by the Charles brothers on “Cheers” – David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee – went on to create “Frasier.”

What a wonderful comedy bloodline, spanning 34 years.

As part of my continuing celebration of TV writers, I’m streaming a little bit of a “Taxi” episode written by the Charles brothers and Barton Dean. This was Episode #8 of the first season, titled “Paper Marriage.” (Original air date: October 31, 1978.)

The plot concerns Latka (Andy Kaufman) marrying a hooker in order to avoid deportation. The wedding is performed by “Rev. Jim” (Christopher Lloyd). Rev. Jim would later become a main character, but this was his introduction.

Click here to hear it.

As always, I’m presenting audio (instead of video) so that we may focus on the words. Yes, Christopher Lloyd’s performance was terrific. But it all started with words on a page.

Glen and Les Charles were twice nominated for writing Emmys for their work on “Taxi.” They finally got those trophies for an episode of “Cheers.”