Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blind item of the day

The Drudge Report has posted the following tease (yes, in red type):

PAPER: OLYMPIC HERO PICTURED SMOKING BONG... DEVELOPING...

'NEWS OF THE WORLD' SET TO ROCK SPORTS WITH SHOCK PHOTO, STORY...

Who do you think it is? My wild guess is Usain Bolt... just because I want to avoid the obvious, and there were only two Olympic heroes.

UPDATE: Well... it’s the obvious.

Saturday morning cartoon

Bow down to Tex Avery, one of the greatest Hollywood animators ever.

He created Daffy Duck for Warner Bros., a character that represents in a nutshell Avery’s sense of humor and visual style: absolute anarchy.

Avery’s influence on the popular culture has been immense, from Ralph Bakshi to “Ren & Stimpy” to “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Not to mention “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “The Mask.”

(Remember the sight gag where Jim Carrey’s eyeballs fly out of their sockets, then snap back into place? That’s a Tex Avery move.)

Today’s cartoon is “Magical Maestro,” a 1952 short that Avery directed for MGM, where he spent many productive years after leaving Warner Bros.

“Magical Maestro” is brilliant in every way. Indeed, it’s part of the National Film Registry, a collection of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films” being preserved by the Library of Congress.

According to Wikipedia, some of the racial gags in “Magical Maestro” have been edited out by the Cartoon Network. Embedded below is the uncut version.

Bonus trivia: Later in life, Tex Avery got paid making Raid commercials featuring cartoon roaches. He also animated the “Frito Bandito.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

Random hotness

Playlist: ‘Thriller’

1. “Billie Jean” – Heath Brandon

2. “The Girl Is Mine” – Horace Andy

3. “Thriller” – Ian Brown

4. “Beat It” – Richard Cheese

Siskel & Ebert on ‘American History X’

Today, Gene and Roger discuss one of my favorite Edward Norton performances.

I’d forgotten that Norton was nominated for an Academy Award for this role. It was his second nomination and his last... so far. That was 10 years ago.

Which raises the question: Is Ed Norton still thought of as “the best actor of his generation”? Dude turns 40 this year. Shouldn’t he be snapping off more great performances? (Sean Penn’s pushing 50 and remains in tip-top form.)

Has Norton lived up to his potential?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random wrongness

MBP of the Week: WTSP-TV (Tampa)

Rarely is a Misidentified Black Person misidentified to his face... on live television.

This one you must see to believe. Follow this link and sit through the commercial. (Hat-tip: Eric Deggans.)

Name the singer, win a prize.

Another contest, y’all. Click here and listen to a mystery track on my Vox blog.

The first person to correctly identify that singer – in the comments section here – will win a prize. Only one guess per reader, please.

The prize is a brand new DVD: “A Good Day To Be Black and Sexy.” This DVD will be available in stores and online next week.

“Black and Sexy” is the debut feature by a young filmmaker named Dennis Dortch. The trailer is below.

UPDATE (01/29/09): We have a winner. Woe correctly identified the singer as Molly Johnson, the pride of Canada. She also happens to be Clark Johnson’s sister. I blogged about her here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Remember Judy Pace?

I was recently pondering the plight of dark-skinned black actresses in Hollywood. Gabrielle Union is about the only one with a popping career right now.

But do you remember Judy Pace, the hottest black sex symbol this side of Pam Grier? If you’re a black guy between the ages of 45 and 55, I know you do.

Judy Pace appeared in blaxploitation movies like “Cool Breeze” and “The Slams.” But she is probably better known for her television work... in quality productions like “Brian’s Song” and as a guest star on hit shows like “Sanford & Son” and “Kung Fu.”

Now guess what? Judy Pace has a daughter who’s a Hollywood actress as well. Julia Pace Mitchell is her name. (Her father, Don Mitchell – Judy’s first husband – was a co-star on “Ironside.”)

I haven’t seen “Notorious” yet, but Julia Pace Mitchell is in it.

Let me salute both women, YouTube-style. The first clip is Judy Pace in “Good Times.” (Blazing hot!) The second clip is Julia’s “demo reel,” containing a variety of scenes and TV commercials.

A free King Changó download

Here’s some Latin hotness from David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. The band is King Changó from New York City.

Click here to hear “Melting Pot” on my Vox blog. This track was originally released in 1996.

To download the FREE MP3, click the song title below.

“Melting Pot” (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store
Album available at Amazon MP3

Why YouTube is better than television

Reason #20: African Americans abroad.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playlist: Italian-American actors, singing

Joe Pesci. Tony Danza. Danny Aiello. Dominic Chianese. Put ’em together and you’ve got a kick-ass gangster movie. Or a not-so-kick-ass record album.

Click the song titles below to listen via my Vox blog.

1. “Pennies from Heaven” – Joey DeFrancesco & Joe Pesci

2. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” – Tony Danza

3. “All of Me” – Danny Aiello

4. “For the Good Times” – Dominic Chianese

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘Wikka Wrap’

This U.K. record was a hit on American black radio... even though Americans didn’t get the joke.

The lead vocal (by songwriter Graham de Wilde) is an impersonation of Alan Whicker, a famous British broadcaster (pictured above).

Now... did Tom Browne get paid? That’s what I wanna know.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chris Rock’s ‘Good Hair’

At the Sundance Film Festival, which ended yesterday, Chris Rock had a documentary film in competition. It’s called “Good Hair,” and it’s about the culture and economics of black hair. It won a Special Jury Prize.

Rock also did a lot of interviews. Here are three of them:

Random hotness

A free Mos Def download

Mos Def’s latest single is available as a FREE MP3. Happy Monday, y’all.

Click here to stream “Life In Marvelous Times” on my Vox blog. It’s old-schoolish.

To download it, follow this link to RCRD LBL.

This track will be on Mos Def's new album, “The Ecstatic,” which is due out in late February.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

‘Obamacide’

Not everyone is feeling all good about America now that President Obama is in the White House.

Consider this young Christian conservative, Jared Duba, a.k.a. Jesus Disciple. He uploaded this song and video on Inauguration Day:

Why YouTube is better than television

Reason #18: Nerds!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

George Clinton does reality TV?

I don’t know what to say. Except that I’m fed the fuck up with reality television, so I will not be watching the new season of “Gone Country” on CMT... even though George Clinton is part of the cast.

It’s a contest where non-country stars compete for the privilege of recording a country-music single. (Past contestants have included Bobby Brown, Jermaine Jackson, Sisqo and Irene Cara.)

In addition to George, the Season 3 cast includes Sheila E., Justin Guarini, Taylor Dayne and Micky Dolenz.

The new season starts tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central Time). I’d rather be waterboarded.

Here’s the trailer:

Saturday morning cartoon

My reader Fay called attention to this cool clip the other day in the “White singers, Beyoncé songs” thread.

The music is by English hipsters Patrick & Eugene. (To hear the full 4-minute song on my Vox blog, click here.)

The animation is by an American artist named Heather Williamee.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Painting the White House black

George Clinton has toyed with the notion of a black president twice in song (“Chocolate City” in 1975; “Paint the White House Black” in 1993).

This week, George performed at two Obama inaugural parties in D.C. – the Aloha Ball and the Heroes Red White and Blue Ball for wounded military veterans.

Reporting on the Heroes Ball, the Army Times wrote: “George Clinton brought on rarely seen Sly Stone with his group, and was a big hit with the troops, many of whom flocked forward to the stage.”

But Clinton and his P-Funk All Stars reaped some bad publicity after dancer Carlos “Sir Nose” McMurray unfurled a towel with the hand- written message “Fuck George” during the show.

A Washington Times blogger wrote that “several” and/or “many” offended veterans walked out, perceiving that f-bomb as an insult to outgoing President George Bush.

The rabid Obama-haters who dwell at the No Quarter blog jumped all over the Washington Times report yesterday. One of them snarked, “Wow, Obama really attracts some classy folks, doesn’t he?”

Another one declared: “[H]olding a sign saying ‘fuck George’ in a crowd of vets [is] inappropriate anywhere except maybe a skanky club.”

Those funkless wonders fail to realize that the “Fuck George” towel has become a regular part of P-Funk shows. The photo above was taken in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2007.

And because it’s the “Sir Nose” character who waves it – Sir Nose being the mythical arch enemy of all things funky – I take “Fuck George” to be directed mainly at George Clinton... and secondarily as a slap at George Bush.

So George Clinton and the band did NOT choose an inaugural ball to launch a specially designed curse at the ex-president.

Still, they should’ve had the good sense and good taste to leave that towel in the trunk for Inauguration Night.

Why YouTube is better than television

Reason #29: Kimya Dawson.

Siskel & Ebert on ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

They really lurved it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eyewitnessing history

I usually don’t brag on family... but my nephew did Inauguration Week right. That’s him and his wife ’n’ kids on the balcony from which they viewed the inaugural parade.

My nephew also got hooked up for several balls and parties. He dapped up Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans... and even introduced himself to Aretha Franklin. (Dude is not shy.)

At some point during the several days of hoopla, my nephew’s firstborn son turned to him and said: “Dad, you a baller.”

Random wrongness

A free Saul Williams download

On Inauguration Day, poet/singer/actor Saul Williams released a FREE MP3, and it’s rather funky.

Click here to hear “The Government” on my Vox blog. To commence your own personal download, hit this link.

David ‘Fathead’ Newman (1933-2009)

Texas tenor man David “Fathead” Newman, whose music career spanned more than half a century, died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer. He was 75.

Newman spent a decade performing with Ray Charles during Mr. Charles’s magnificent prime. (Bokeem Woodbine portrayed him in the movie “Ray.”)

As a solo artist, Newman maintained a prolific output. His latest album, “Diamondhead,” was released a year ago.

I am streaming two tracks on my Vox blog in Mr. Newman’s honor.

Click here to hear his classic rendition of “Hard Times,” from the 1958 album “Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David ‘Fathead’ Newman.” (Ray plays piano on this cut.)

Then click here for “Georgia On My Mind,” from Newman’s 2005 CD “I Remember Brother Ray.”

Mazel tov!

Y’all muhfuggas can be all “post-racial” if you wanna be. I still take a special pride in any Negro who gets nominated for an Academy Award.

This year, there are only two... and they’re both in the same damn category! Taraji P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and Viola Davis (“Doubt”) will compete for the Best Supporting Actress trophy.

Rock on, black woman. Nobody has it harder in Hollywood than you.

The full list of this year’s Oscar nominees – announced this morning – is here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A free Byard Lancaster download

A little funk alert for that azz: I can point you to a FREE MP3 featuring Philly reed man Byard Lancaster, who since the 1960s has worked with the likes of Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner and Sonny Sharrock.

Click here to stream “It’s Okay to Love” on my Vox blog. Lancaster blew all over this track by fONKSQUISh, a project led by Chuck Fishman, a guy I remember from the online funk-fan community back in the ’90s.

To download the cut, follow this link to last.fm.

First episode of a brand new show

Speaking of Beyoncé...

... how cool was this?

Playlist: White singers, Beyoncé songs

I don’t usually go the bootleg/illegal download route. Because I respect copyright laws, and I don’t mind paying for good music.

But yesterday I stumbled on an enchanting cover of Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” by Antony and the Johnsons, from a live bootleg. So I just had to put together a playlist of Beyoncé covers. By any means necessary.

Click the song titles below to stream the music on my Vox blog.

1. “Crazy In Love” – Antony and the Johnsons

Tell me this track ain’t hot.

Idiosyncratic balladeer Antony Hegarty is sort of like a 21st-Century Boy George, except ten times hipper. Dude has worked with Lou Reed, Bryan Ferry, Rufus Wainwright and Björk. (And Boy George.) I think he’s, like, transgender or something.

Antony and the Johnsons released their new studio album this week. I wish this song were on it.

2. “Irreplaceable” – Kate Nash

Kate Nash is one of England’s rising stars. She just slays me with her working-class London accent. I don’t care if it’s fake like people say.

This is a poorly recorded live cover of Beyoncé’s second-biggest hit. But it’s cute.

3. “Bootylicious” – Flamboyant Bella

Flamboyant Bella is an unsigned British pop band that has developed a following on MySpace. Sounds like they covered this Destiny’s Child tune as a goof.

UPDATE (01/21/09): Big thanks to Kellybelle for adding this Lelia Broussard performance to the gumbo...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

America’s first non-white vice president

Now that America has its first non-white president, let us take a moment and remember the first non-white vice president.

His name was Charles Curtis. He served as Herbert Hoover’s v.p. from 1929 to 1933.

Curtis was an enrolled member of the Kaw or Kanza tribe (for whom the state of Kansas is named). His father was white, but his mother was three-quarters American Indian, with Osage and Potawatomi ancestry as well as Kaw.

Charles Curtis spent part of his childhood with his grandparents on Indian territory. According to USA Today, Curtis learned the Kanza language before he learned to speak English.

But when the tribe was relocated from Kansas to Oklahoma, young Curtis was sent into the white world... to be cared for by his father’s people in Topeka.

Curtis would have a successful 34-year career in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, rising to the rank of Senate Majority Leader. He was more of a back-room dealmaker than a man of ideas.

Here’s part of a New York Times profile published on November 6, 1927, when Sen. Curtis declared himself a Republican candidate for the presidency at age 67:

“His grandmother, Julie Pappan, an Indian, was the inspiration of Curtis’s boyhood. Her wise advice turned him from the tepees of his forefathers and persuaded him to cast his lot with the white men of Topeka, to toil and toil hard, to study and win an education and ‘go far’ along the road that leads to honors.” (Curtis’s mother died when he was 5 years old.)

The Times story continued: “It was nearly sixty years ago – in 1868 – when what may be described as the turning point in Senator Curtis’s life came. He was 10 years old. Already at home in the saddle, he could follow a trail like an Indian brave, was tireless afoot or astride – about the smartest boy in the whole Kaw tribe.

“When the Kaws were encamped west of Topeka, the peace-loving Kaws were attacked by their ancient enemies, the Cheyennes....

“Senator Curtis remembers that day as if it were yesterday. The war cries of the Cheyennes, the rain of arrows that poured into the Kaw camp, the struggle to hold the Cheyennes in check. It was a losing battle, and in desperation the chiefs of the Kaws decided to call on the whites of Topeka for help.

“Somebody had to take the message through the Cheyenne lines, and there would then be a ride of sixty miles to the frontier town that is now the capital of Kansas.

“Charles Curtis, the 10-year-old, was the courier to whom was entrusted the delivery of the message on which the lives of the Kaws depended. ...

“The message was delivered; the Kaws were saved.”

Evidently, Curtis’s racial status wasn’t a political liability. But neither was it ignored. Upon his death in 1936, the New York Times wrote: “Mr. Curtis showed his Indian blood distinctly. He was swarthy, had black hair and high cheekbones and many other characteristics of the Indian.”

In his 1928 bid for the presidential nomination, Charles Curtis didn’t do well. But on the eve of the Republican National Convention, the Kansas senator positioned himself as a “compromise candidate” between the frontrunner, Commerce Secretary Hoover, and a movement to draft incumbent President Calvin Coolidge for a third term.

Herbert Hoover won the nomination easily, but the convention selected Curtis as his running mate... to increase Hoover’s appeal to farm-state voters.

During Hoover’s White House years, the president and his vice president weren’t close. According to a U.S. Senate biography of Curtis, “his advice was neither sought nor followed” by Hoover.

But Curtis embraced the status of his title, talking up his rise “from Kaw tepee to Capitol.” He displayed his racial pride by hanging paintings of famous Indian chiefs on the walls of his vice presidential office. He would even pose for photographs wearing an Indian headdress.

And in 1932, when Curtis’s name was placed in nomination for a second term as Hoover’s vice president, a fellow Kansan told the Republican convention this: “[O]n that long road from an Indian reservation to the Vice Presidency of the United States, Charles Curtis never had anything handed to him. What he got he earned.”

Any thoughts on Obama’s inaugural speech?

I must say I thought it was a mediocre speech, and not very well delivered.

Oh well. We already know Barack Obama can deliver a good speech. Maybe he will do better at the next inauguration.

1:34 p.m. (Pacific Time): The ceremonial stuff didn’t really move me. But watching President Obama and the First Lady walk the parade route... that’s cool as shit!

No pressure, Barack.

You’re only being compared to Lincoln, JFK, Martin Luther King...

And on “Tavis Smiley” last night, Maya Angelou said: “He reminds me of Nelson Mandela.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

‘Abraham, Martin and John’

Today was a first for UBM-TV. I posted a video clip of a song I do not like. (Now embedded below.)

I know that “Abraham, Martin and John” is an American pop classic. Dion had a major hit with it in 1968, and the tune has been recorded by Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Mahalia Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Kenny Rogers... even Moms Mabley.

Am I the only one who thinks “Abraham, Martin and John” is a bad song? Mawkish and dull? Emotionally cheap?

So I’m in the 7-Eleven...

... buying a big ol’ Snapple peach iced tea, because that stuff is tasty. And I see by the checkout counter a display for “Commemorative Obama Water.”

That’s 16-ounce bottles of water with pictures of Barack Obama and his family on it. Price: $1.59.

The whole concept just froze me where I stood. Commemorative Obama Water. What the hell is commemorative water? I mean, two hours after you drink it, you take your Commemorative Obama Piss, and that’s it. Commemoration over.

Maybe you’re supposed to save the plastic bottle and pass it down to your grandkids.

I’m not the only blogger who noticed this in a 7-Eleven today. Here’s another.

There’s something sad about a lousy merchandising idea. Someone in an office somewhere probably got this brainstorm while standing at the water cooler. He looked at the paper cup in his hand, filled with water, and he thought, “Oh hell yeah!”

Then he ran to his boss. “You are gonna be real glad you hired me,” he probably said. “Sit down, boss. I don’t want your knees to buckle when you hear this. ...”

Martin Luther King’s Motown album

In 1963, Berry Gordy released an LP (on the Gordy label) called “The Great March to Freedom.” It was a speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on June 23, 1963, in Detroit.

British-born historian Brian Ward tells the story behind this record in his 1998 book “Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations.”

Actually, Atlantic Records had expressed an early interest in recording one of Dr. King’s speeches. Dr. King was interested as well, but nothing came of this.

Then, in 1962, black entrepreneur Dootsie Williams released a bootleg album on his Dooto label – “Martin Luther King at Zion Hill” – of Dr. King speaking at a Baptist church in Los Angeles.

A Southern Christian Leadership Conference official recalled: “I asked a gentleman who was preparing to set up a recorder, for what purpose the tape would be used. He replied it was ‘for the church.’ Three months later while we were in Albany, the record came out. … Neither Dr. King nor anyone connected with SCLC knew anything about the record until it was being distributed.”

The SCLC ended up taking Dootsie Williams to court.

In September of 1962, Motown vice president Esther Edwards (Berry Gordy’s sister) reached out to Dr. King regarding an authorized LP release. Dr. King negotiated a deal whereby his artist royalties would go to the SCLC.

The album was released in August of 1963... on the date of Dr. King’s March on Washington. In fact, the Detroit speech concludes with an early version of the “I have a dream” portion of the March on Washington speech.

“The Great March to Freedom” is now available as an MP3 download (from Amazon, eMusic and iTunes).

I’m streaming a 9-minute excerpt on my Vox blog. Click here to listen.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meet an African: Archbishop John Sentamu

With this series of posts, I want to write about notable Africans not only in Africa but elsewhere across the globe.

Such as John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, the second highest-ranking priest in the Church of England. (Sentamu’s full title is “The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop of York.”)

The Anglican Communion has an estimated 80 million members worldwide... with more than half of them in Africa.

Archbishop Sentamu was born in Uganda, earned a law degree there and practiced law. Then he emigrated to England in 1974... after being jailed for his opposition to Idi Amin.

In England, Sentamu earned undergraduate and advanced degrees in theology from Cambridge, and he was ordained a priest in 1979.

Since becoming archbishop, Sentamu has been an outspoken critic of Robert Mugabe, the dictator of Zimbabwe. In the 9-minute video clip below, recorded last month, Archbishop Sentamu describes Mugabe as sort of the second coming of Idi Amin:

“He has done exactly what Amin did. And because he is very educated and speaks well, people think he has not been brutal. ... [Mugabe] has been a very very very very vicious ruler, really. Very brutal against his own people.”

Oh noes!

One of my favorite YouTubers just got her account suspended. I speak of Diana Campanella (a.k.a. artemisbell), whom I’ve featured on this blog... here and here.

Ms. Campanella had uploaded more than 300 videos of her joyous dancing to funky hit records. Alas, such a flagrant violation of copyright laws could not be allowed to stand!

A real shame. Her life force always lifted my spirits.

Diana does have about 30 dance videos posted on her MySpace Video channel. With more to come, no doubt.

Can’t keep a good woman down.

A free Willie Nelson download

I know nothing about “Western swing,” a once-popular fusion of country music, old-time jazz and blues. But Willie Nelson has a new CD coming out as a tribute to the style.

Willie teamed up with the modern-day Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel. Their album (“Willie and the Wheel”) drops on February 3.

One track is available now as a FREE MP3.

Click here to hear “Hesitation Blues” on my Vox blog. To download it, click the song title below.

“Hesitation Blues” is a traditional tune that’s been recorded by Louis Armstrong, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Lead Belly, Rev. Gary Davis, Lena Horne, Hot Tuna and many others over the past century.

“Hesitation Blues” (MP3)
More on this album

Saturday, January 17, 2009

MBP of the Week: Charlotte Observer

Announcing the first Misidentified Black Person of 2009! The following correction was posted online by the Charlotte Observer on Monday:

“A photo of Toni Morrison accompanying the Winter Arts Preview in Sunday’s Carolina Living section was incorrectly identified as being of Terry McMillan, the author, who will be appearing at Lenoir-Rhyne University. ...”

Oh MBPs, how I have missed you. (Hat-tip: Regret the Error.)

Prince’s new website

Prince has launched a new interactive site – www.lotusflow3r.com – that will feature music from his upcoming album “Lotusflow3r.”

As of now, he’s only got three song snippets streaming there. But I recommend you visit to hear a bit of “A Colonized Mind.” Hella tasty.

Saturday morning cartoon

Here’s a historically significant one... from the earliest days of the “golden age” of Hollywood animation.

Every living American is probably familiar with “Looney Tunes,” the long-running series of Warner Bros. cartoons that made Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck famous. But did you know that the first “Looney Tunes” star was black?

By black I mean, of course, a caricature of an American Negro that spoke in a comical dialect like “Amos ’n’ Andy.” (“Well here I is, and I sho’ feels good!”)

The character was named Bosko, and he was created by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising.

After working for Walt Disney during the 1920s, Harman and Ising wanted to branch out on their own. So they self-financed a 5-minute demo reel in 1929.

That film – “Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid” – got Harman and Ising hired by Warner Bros. Their Bosko was promptly featured in early “Looney Tunes” shorts such as “Congo Jazz,” “Box Car Blues” and “Bosko Shipwrecked!”

Harman and Ising quit Warner Bros. in 1933 and went to work for MGM, where Hugh Harman directed more Bosko cartoons. The closest Rudy Ising came to creating another popular character was with Barney Bear, featured in MGM shorts through the 1940s and early ’50s.

Embedded below is “Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid.” The guy playing the animator is Rudolf Ising himself. (Bosko’s voice was provided by Max Maxwell, another former Disney animator.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why YouTube is better than television

Reason #6: Huge facial tumors. (WARNING: Might gross you out. Seriously.)

Siskel & Ebert on ‘Midnight Run’

They lurved it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A free Heavyweight Dub Champion download

Been blogging light this week, as I’m traveling hither and yon. So let me put another FREE MP3 out there... always a good way to pass the time.

Heavyweight Dub Champion got started in Colorado, now it’s based in San Francisco, and its shamanistic fusion of hip-hop, dub reggae and electronica has attracted collaborators such as KRS-One and Killah Priest.

Click here to hear a 2005 track called “Liberation Process.” To download it, click the song title below.

“Liberation Process” (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store
Album available at eMusic
Album available at Amazon MP3

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Random Japaneseness

A free Ida Corr/Fedde Le Grand download

“Let Me Think About It” – an international dance-music hit last year – is now available as a FREE MP3. Which is cool, because I’d never heard it before.

It is sung by a mixed-race Danish cutie named Ida Corr, with music by Dutch DJ Fedde Le Grand.

The music video has been viewed 25 million times on YouTube, and you can see why.

To get the MP3, follow this link to Download.com.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why YouTube is better than television

Reason #23: Cockney rappers.

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘Walking Into Sunshine’

You old folks might remember this cut from 1981. I never knew that Central Line was a British band. (And yet this single wasn’t a hit in the U.K.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Random wrongness

Playlist: Three more non-singin’-ass actors

Did you know that Terrence Howard – talented actor and gossip-bait – has a music CD out? You probably did.

But did you know that two other stars of the movie “Iron Man” have released albums? Yep. Robert Downey, Jr.’s came out in 2004. Jeff Bridges put one out in 2000.

You know what that means. Time to stream some more songs by actors acting like they can sing. (Previous playlists in this series are here and here.)

Click the titles below to listen on my Vox blog. (And guess who’s singing along with Jeff Bridges on the chorus?)

1. “Mr. Johnson’s Lawn” – Terrence Howard

2. “Broken” – Robert Downey, Jr.

3. “She Lay Her Whip Down” – Jeff Bridges

Now, just to keep the “Iron Man” vibe flowing... here’s Gwyneth Paltrow singing “Bette Davis Eyes.” (And she can sing!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Elvis Mitchell interviews Jenny Lumet

Couple of weeks ago, Elvis Mitchell interviewed screenwriter Jenny Lumet on his radio show.

She’s the granddaughter of Lena Horne, the daughter of Sidney Lumet, and she wrote the critically acclaimed new movie “Rachel Getting Married” (directed by Jonathan Demme).

Ms. Lumet probably has a decent shot at an Academy Award nomination.

I haven’t seen “Rachel Getting Married,” but I was well entertained by Jenny Lumet’s conversation with Elvis. Click here to hear a 3-minute excerpt on my Vox blog.

To stream or download the complete half-hour interview, follow this link to KCRW.com.

European guys with basses

Okay, I’ll admit it. Even I am getting tired of chicks with ukuleles. So I present to you some European guys with basses.

You got monstrous MarloweDK from Denmark. Followed by feisty funkstar650 from the Netherlands. Finishing off with France’s easygoing gobassgo1.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Random hipness

I used to wear this game out.

Saturday morning cartoon

Remember when the Harlem Globetrotters had their own Saturday morning cartoon? I barely do. And I don’t remember the singing.

The music for this Hanna-Barbera show was supervised by Don Kirshner, who likewise oversaw the music for the Archies. The song below (“Bouncin’ All Over the World”) was co-written by Neil Sedaka.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Coonette?

Not having watched much “MADtv” in recent years, I was unfamiliar with Nicole Randall Johnson.

After seeing a few of her performances on YouTube, I must ask: Did every one of her sketches have as its comic premise that black folks make life unpleasant for white folks?

Ms. Johnson is no longer a “MADtv” cast member. But the third clip below has been viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube.

Tell me what y’all think: gifted comedienne... or shameless coonette?

Siskel & Ebert on ‘Barfly’

Have you seen the TV commercial for “The Wrestler”... the one where the announcer says: “Witness the resurrection of Mickey Rourke”? What a strange tagline that is.

I haven’t seen “The Wrestler” yet, but I intend to. I used to be intrigued by Mickey Rourke’s acting (in films such as “The Pope of Greenwich Village” and “Angel Heart”), even though his style was self-conscious and mannered.

Then he went and became a professional boxer and a plastic-surgery addict. Oh well.

For me, Rourke was resurrected in the 2005 movie “Domino.” His performance was the only good thing in that piece of garbage.

Twenty-one years ago, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert disagreed fiercely on “Barfly,” a film I remember enjoying. Their argument was all about Rourke’s acting choices.

Ebert got hot, boy. He was throwing long-ago bullshit in Siskel’s face like some kind of pissed-off wife. Watch:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Earthquake?

I just felt a very slight rumble (in Glendale, Calif.). Anybody else?

7:56 p.m. (Pacific Time): KFI, the talk-radio station, says the quake hit way out in San Bernardino County. Apparently it was felt throughout the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. ...

Before They Were Porn Stars II

During the 1960s and ’70s, whenever a black actor turned up on a lily- white sitcom, it tended to burn itself into one’s memory. Greg Morris on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Sammy Davis, Jr. on “I Dream of Jeannie.” Richard Pryor and Lou Gossett on “The Partridge Family.”

And who could forget Fonzie’s black friend, Sticks, on “Happy Days”?

Sticks only appeared in two episodes, but I’ll never forget him. Soon thereafter, comic actor John-Anthony Bailey co-starred in a kiddie show called “Wonderbug.” He was also in the memorable “Big Jim Slade” sketch from “Kentucky Fried Movie.”

Between 1984 and 1994, Mr. Bailey starred in a lot of pornos under the name “Jack Baker.” Movies such as “The Adventures of Dick Black, the Black Dick,” “Ubangis on Uranus” and “Slut Safari.”

Bailey died of bladder cancer in 1994. Let us remember him now with the latest installment of... Before They Were Porn Stars.

The top clip below is from John-Anthony Bailey’s first appearance on “Happy Days” in 1975.

The bottom clip is a (non-sex) scene from “New Wave Hookers,” a mid-’80s classic which included such X-rated all-stars as Ginger Lynn, Traci Lords, Jamie Gillis and Peter North.

video

anN CoUlTer

So Ann Coulter is back with another book. And she’s all over the TV popping her usual shit, like how Michelle Obama is no Jackie Kennedy.

Made me wanna dust off this audio clip from 2007. (I swear, how does Coulter get away with saying such things?)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

‘Kingpin’ revisited

I’ve been meaning to upload more clips from “Kingpin,” the 2003 TV show I created for NBC. In particular, I’d like to illustrate how music can enhance visual storytelling.

Late in the process of writing the pilot script, I latched onto the idea of using a lot of songs... the way “Miami Vice” used to do. I figured that could be a hook, a distinguishing characteristic of the series. Something an audience might come to look forward to.

Indeed, I was delighted when the Los Angeles Times wrote an article about the use of Spanish-language tunes in “Kingpin.”

David Simon, for “The Corner” and “The Wire,” made the choice not to use much music. Any songs you heard were likely coming from some character’s radio. (Except for those season-ending montages in “The Wire.”)

Simon’s choice fit the tone of those shows – stark, dry, naturalistic, anti-cinematic. The tone of “Kingpin” was different – highly stylized, melodramatic, grandiose, with dream sequences and any other filmic device that seemed appropriate.

Rather than hire a music supervisor, I selected every song myself. (Surprised?) It was a thrill to get in the editing room and lay sound over picture and make it work.

The final 10 minutes of the “Kingpin” pilot are below. Notice how the tracks by Lila Downs and Grace Jones are put to use.

Allen Coulter, best known for his work on “The Sopranos,” directed the hell out of this. Film editor Anthony Redman cut it superbly.

Meet an African: Lebo Mashile

This year I plan to shine a light on some notable Africans. If you consume mainstream media, you realize that the creative and intellectual life of African nations is almost entirely hidden from us. And that sucks.

So let’s talk about spoken word. While the entire planet has embraced the aesthetics and dialectics of hip-hop, American-style performance poetry hasn’t spread quite so conspicuously.

Except in South Africa, where a spoken-word scene is flourishing.

Lebo Mashile, a month shy of 30 years old, is a television personality and an actress. (She portrayed Odette Nyiramilimo in the movie “Hotel Rwanda.”) She is also one of South Africa’s leading performance poets.

On my Vox blog, I’m streaming a couple of tracks from Ms. Mashile’s 2005 CD “Lebo Mashile Live!” (I purchased it from OneWorld.co.za, my sole source for South African music.)

Click here to hear “I Like It Deep Sometimes.” Apart from Lebo’s poetry, you have got to hear the groove her live band puts down.

Click here to hear “Tell Your Story.”

I’m also streaming a brief excerpt from an interview Mashile did last year on South Africa’s 702 Talk Radio. To listen, click here.

What could possibly be more cute than...

... a kid who knows how to sell a song?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Random hipness

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘In the Bush’

As I mentioned a few months ago, this surprise hit from 1978 by Musique featured Jocelyn Brown as one of four female vocalists. Ms. Brown later established herself as a solo artist, and she is still rocking the U.K.

Musique was the creation of Patrick Adams, a Harlem-based producer, arranger, engineer and songwriter.

Adams produced other dance-club hits such as “I’m Caught Up (In a One Night Love Affair”), “Dance and Shake Your Tambourine” (one of the earliest 12-inch singles) and Narada Michael Walden’s “I Don’t Want Nobody Else (To Dance with You).”

Happy Armenian Christmas!

Yes, today is Christmas Day for worldwide followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Which means I can forget about strolling to Mignon Chocolate for a 12-ounce latte. Most of the merchants in my neighborhood will be closed today.

From what I’ve gathered on the internets, the Armenian version of Santa Claus is called Gaghant Baba (“Papa New Year”) or Dzmer Papik (“Grandpa Winter”), and he brings gifts to the little children on New Year’s, not Christmas.

Nevertheless, let me wish my Armenian neighbors all the joys of the season... with a gift of funk (below).

UPDATE 01/06/09: I just drove by Mignon Chocolate, and the joint was open! And everything else in the strip mall was open too... the market, the video-rental place. What’s up with that?

I went into Mignon and said to the guy behind the counter: “I thought you’d be closed for Armenian Christmas.”

He said: “No, we’re open.”

I asked him: “This is Armenian Christmas, right?”

He said: “Yeah, this is the day.”

I asked if they were open for the other Christmas. He said yes, but it was a short day.

So... I should not have assumed that an Armenian neighborhood would shut down for Armenian Christmas. Even though this is supposed to be a big family feast day.

(I wonder what the Baby Jesus thinks about this.)