Friday, February 29, 2008

Calling all DJs

April 2, 2008, would have been Marvin Gaye’s 69th birthday. In honor of that, I wanna try something special.

If you’re a DJ, and if you do remixes and mashups, or if you just fool around with audio software for fun (like me), I invite you to create a remix/mashup of “Sexual Healing,” using the a cappella vocal track from Marvin’s classic cut.

(For 99 cents, you can download a super-high-quality MP3 of this vocal track from Amazon. Follow this link.)

Come April 2, I’ll stream the results on my Vox blog.

I put one together myself, just to test the concept. Click here to listen. I’d much rather hear what a full-time beat mechanic could do with that amazing vocal.

If anybody’s interested, let me know.

MLK and LBJ: a phone conversation

I found another great audio artifact at the website of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs: an actual telephone conversation between the Rev. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson!

The phone call took place on January 15, 1965. Dr. King first congratulated the president on his State of the Union address. Then he made this appeal on behalf of civil rights leaders nationwide:

“We have a strong feeling that it would mean so much to the health of our whole democracy, to the Negro and to the nation to have a Negro in the Cabinet.”

MLK continued: “It would really be a great step forward for the nation, for the Negro, for our international image, and would do so much to give many people a lift who need a lift now. And I’m sure that it could give a new sense of dignity and self-respect to millions of Negroes....”

Click here to hear a 6½-minute excerpt from that call on my Vox blog. (Johnson’s voice is clear as a bell, but King’s end of the conversation is harder to hear.)

President Johnson agreed with King, and talked about his plan to create a Cabinet-level department for housing and urban affairs. (This came to pass later in 1965.) Johnson said he wanted to appoint Robert C. Weaver to head such a department.

Indeed, Weaver (pictured) became the first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development... and the first African American to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.

Doubling down on the gender card

So. On “Nightline” last night, Hillary Clinton said this: “No woman has ever won a presidential primary before I won New Hampshire. This is hard. And I don’t expect any sympathy, I don’t expect any... allowances or special privileges, because I knew what I was getting myself into.

“Every so often I just wish that it were a little more of an even playing field....”

Get it, ladies? This game is rigged against the girl. (Y’all can relate, right?) So vote for Hillary and strike a blow against the “glass ceiling”!

Please. Enough. Yo, Hillary, you’re running against a black guy whose middle name is Hussein. If you want better odds than that, I don’t know what to tell you.

I busted Sen. Clinton on that gender-card shit when she first dealt it eight weeks ago. But, hey, it worked for her then.

The media was all aflutter when Hillary “almost cried” right before the New Hampshire primary. Then, in the debate before Super Tuesday, Clinton said flat-out: “Having the first woman president would be a huge change for America and the world.” And she rocked the female vote once more.

Now, with the stakes never higher, the Clinton campaign has released a TV ad in Texas appealing to women – as women – to vote for the woman. It’s embedded below. It’s called “One of a Million.” It’s deep.

Notice anything about the women in that ad? Go ahead, watch it... I’ll wait.

Okay. Most of those women are (let us say) “average-looking.” Half of them are overweight. I’m sure that was calculated. I am sure the Clinton strategists went out of their way not to cast anyone too pretty.

Not to be sexist or lookist about it, but we’re talking about Texas. Where children’s beauty pageants are a religious practice... and cheerleading counts as national service.

To hell with them Texas beauties. The Clinton campaign is like, “Find us a woman who looks like Ruth Buzzi. And one who looks like she’s got Down syndrome.”

And did you notice they got a sister to deliver the subtle putdown of Barack Obama? “I’m not a movement.”

Indeed, you’re not. Hillary Clinton just wishes you were.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thought I might be going nuts...

A few minutes ago, I stumbled on a TV commercial that stopped me in my tracks. I could’ve sworn the blond guy in it was a young Heath Ledger.

Was I looking at one of those “before-they-were-famous” TV specials? Or maybe an E! retrospective of Ledger’s career?

Confusingly, this commercial was in Spanish. And it was for Pine-Sol. And when it was over, a telenovela kicked in.

I sat there puzzled. Then I jumped into the interwebz... Heath Ledger? Pine-Sol? Spanish? WTF?

Well... here’s the commercial. It is not Heath Ledger. But can you see what I’m talking about?

Get your search on

Well, I did something useful today. I created a Google “custom search engine.”

Look over in the right-hand column, where it says “Search the Black Blogosphere.” I got more than 90 websites loaded up in that bad boy, covering everything from music and movies to current events.

Actually, I’m not sure how useful that’ll be to anybody. But say you read something – like about Buddy Miles – and you go, “I wonder what the rest of the black blogosphere is saying?” Search for “Buddy Miles,” and you’ll see.

Or maybe you want a quick handle on what folks think of the new Erykah Badu album. Just search for “New Amerykah.” It’s that damn easy.

So give it a test drive, why don’t you? Search for something silly, like “fried chicken” or “big booties.” Or, on the serious side, “Farrakhan” and “Obama.”

Whatever. It’s there if you wanna use it.

Coolest Black History Month audio evar!

In the generation before Martin Luther King rose to prominence, America’s premier black activist was A. Philip Randolph, union leader and civil-rights organizer.

On September 27, 1940, Mr. Randolph met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Oval Office, along with Walter White of the NAACP and T. Arnold Hill of the Urban League.

Their agenda: to convince FDR to end racial discrimination in the armed forces. They didn’t succeed.

Believe it or not, this meeting was secretly recorded. The microphone was hidden in a lampshade on President Roosevelt’s desk.

On orders from FDR, the Secret Service had set up an experimental recording system in June of 1940. The system was operational for less than three months. This meeting was one of several that was recorded.

These recordings survive. Which means that we, today, can hear the actual sound of Negro leaders going toe-to-toe with the most powerful man in the free world... in 1940! It is history brought to life.

I’m streaming an 8-minute recording on my Vox audio stash. Click here to listen. Much of it is difficult to understand. But you can download an MP3 of this Roosevelt-Randolph meeting, courtesy of the University of Virginia. To commence downloading, hit this link.

Speaking of history, A. Philip Randolph pressed the issue in 1941, planning a “March on Washington” to protest segregation in the armed forces and job discrimination in the defense industries.

Concerned about the embarrassment such a protest would cause, FDR brought Randolph and Walter White back to the White House. He tried to convince them to cancel the march. But Randolph called it off only after Roosevelt issued an executive order banning racial discrimination in hiring by defense contractors.

The armed forces would remain segregated until 1948.

UPDATE (02/29/08): Thanks to a comment from a blogger named Paul, I’ve been digging deeper into the website of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, which has the “secret” FDR tapes – plus other presidential recordings – available for downloading.

Regarding this 1940 A. Philip Randolph conversation, I have a useful link: Click here and you can hear the audio while following an easy-to-read transcript on screen.

Fear of a Black First Lady

I’m still formulating my thoughts on the big brouhaha surrounding Michelle Obama’s remark that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.”

In the meantime, I’m streaming a 3-minute audio clip from last weekend’s “McLaughlin Group.” Click here to listen.

Cool thing about that was, when John McLaughlin asked Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page whether Mrs. Obama is a “black militant,” Page replied: “I’m a black militant, John.”

Part of this mess is about language. And I’m glad Clarence Page was hip to that.

Hillary Clinton didn’t exploit the “proud of my country” moment, and the mainstream media has moved on to other scandals-du-jour. But don’t get it wrong: We haven’t heard the last of attacks on Michelle Obama (and her husband) as “anti-American.” Far-right bloggers will keep it going until the game is over.

I refer y’all to the Inverted World, a white-racialist blog run by Ian Jobling, a brainy fellow with a Ph.D. in literature.

Please, go read Dr. Jobling’s analysis of Mrs. Obama. And leave a comment there... just to let Ian know he’s being read. Be polite. Be intelligent. And then, like rattling the monkey cage at the zoo, be ready to dodge the flying feces that comes back at you from the Inverted World’s racist regulars.

Try it; it can be fun. Just stay polite and stay intelligent.

UPDATE (02/28/08): Looks like a couple of you have waded into the water. Well done, mates.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Buddy Miles (1947-2008)

Word is just getting out tonight that Buddy Miles – the monstrously talented rock musician and vocalist – has passed. He was 60 years old.

According to the Associated Press, Miles died last night at his home in Austin, Texas. He had been suffering from congestive heart failure.

A teenage prodigy on the drums, Buddy Miles has a secure place in rock history due to his association with Jimi Hendrix in Band of Gypsys.

Miles was no slouch on the guitar himself, and he was an exciting singer. In 1967, he was recruited by guitarist Mike Bloomfield to play drums and sing in the Electric Flag, a rock/R&B fusion band.

Click here to check out Buddy’s bluesy vocal on the 1968 Electric Flag track “Texas.”

Miles had a fruitful solo career in the 1970s. Click here to hear his soulful cover of Neil Young’s “Down By the River,” off his 1970 album “Them Changes.” (That’s Buddy on lead guitar.)

I’m also streaming a few funky curiosities from the Buddy Miles catalogue.

Click here to hear “Doriella Du Fontaine,” the product of an impromptu 1969 recording session with Miles, Jimi Hendrix and “Lightnin’ Rod” (a.k.a. Jalal Nuriddin of the Last Poets). This track wasn’t released on wax till 1984, and first appeared on CD in 1993. Miles plays organ as well as drums.

Click here to hear an extended jam with Eddie Hazel from the mid ’70s. George Clinton edited this track, laid vocals over it, and issued it as “Comin’ Round the Mountain” on the Funkadelic LP “Hardcore Jollies.”

Finally, click here to hear Buddy Miles cover Prince’s “Baby I’m a Star.” This was released in 1999 (naturally) on a Prince tribute album called “Party o’ the Times.”

May Buddy rest in peace.

American Mammy

Q: What was the first situation comedy on radio to have an African-American star in the lead role?

A: “Beulah”... about a loyal Negro maid and her white employers.

The Beulah character was created by Marlin Hurt, a white actor, in 1939. He voiced the role on various radio programs, including the hugely popular “Fibber McGee and Molly.”

Beulah got “her” own sitcom in 1945, with Mr. Hurt still voicing the part. Two years later, an actual black woman took over the role: Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel.

“Beulah” was so popular, it became a television series in 1950, starring Ethel Waters. Radio and TV versions of “Beulah” ran throughout the early ’50s, with various black actresses in the role.

I’m streaming a 7-minute clip from a 1953 radio episode. At this point, Beulah was played by Broadway and movie veteran Amanda Randolph, who would later play the loyal Negro maid on “The Danny Thomas Show.”

Click here to listen. (The role of “Oriole” was played by Ruby Dandridge, Dorothy Dandridge’s mother.)

You can find episodes of “Beulah” for sale at the Old Time Radio Show Catalog. This particular episode, “Honorary Santa,” is downloadable for free.

Playlist: South African dance music

Writing about “Zero Tolerance” made me nostaligic for the South African music I was turned on to during my visit to Joburg in 2000.

So I’m streaming a few tracks by producer Arthur Mafokate (or just “Arthur”), who is called the “King of Kwaito.”

Kwaito is the popular South African style of dance music combining house and hip-hop. It’s hot.

Click the songs titles below to hear what Arthur is about. (“Yiyo Lendawo” is included on the CD samplers “Kwaito: South African Hip Hop” and “Tales of Urban S.A.,” which are easy to find. The other tracks... not so much.)

1. “Seven Phezulu”

2. “Yiyo Lendawo”

3. “Club Temple”

4. “Jwaela Kabi”

5. “Kwasa Kwasa”

William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008)

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, you must acknowledge that William F. Buckley was perhaps America’s dominant public intellectual of the last 50 years.

He founded National Review in 1955, and became an architect of modern conservativism.

Mr. Buckley died today of emphysema. He had smoked cigarettes as a young man and cigars as an older man.

When I was a youngster, I would occasionally watch “Firing Line Debates” on TV. I had no idea what anybody was talking about, but the sophisticated use of language and the engagement with big ideas intrigued me.

Buckley late in life shocked some conservatives by strongly advocating the legalization of drugs. Follow this link to watch a half-hour TV program from 1996 in which Buckley makes his case. (“... the war against drugs is futile.”)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Live-blogging the Ohio debate

Pizza’s on the way...

6:12 p.m. (Pacific Time) – More hair-splitting on their health-care plans. Nothing we haven’t heard before.

But Obama interestingly accused the Clinton campaign of a barrage of negative attacks throughout the campaign. “We haven’t whined about it,” he said, “because that’s the nature of these campaigns.” Implying that Hillary has been “whining” the past couple of days.

Hillary didn’t rise to this bait. ...

6:20 p.m. – Oh shit, here’s news! Brian Williams asks Hillary about NAFTA. And Hillary starts out complaining about getting the first question all the time!

Then she brought up “Saturday Night Live” – oh yes she did! – and said, “Maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow.”


6:43 p.m. – Hillary threw a left jab on foreign policy: “Last summer, he basically threatened to bomb Pakistan.” Obama responded with a half-snicker.

We’re hearing a lot of what we’ve heard before – on NAFTA, on Iraq. None of this is going to change the game any. And Obama seems sharp and unflappable. ...

6:51 p.m. – Clinton finally landed a clean punch. She said Obama talks about the U.S. needing to do more in Afghanistan... but on the subcommittee he chairs within the Foreign Relations Committee, Obama has held no oversight hearings on Afghanistan.

Obama had to admit that that’s true. The reason? Because he’s been running for president for the past 15 months. Not the most impressive reply. ...

7:19 p.m. – Well... more news. Russert brought up Minister Louis Farrakhan’s recent words of praise for Obama. Russert asked Obama flat-out: “Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?”

In the minutes that followed, Obama was more uncomfortable than I’ve seen him in recent debats. “I have been very clear in my denunciations of [Farrakhan] and his past statements,” Obama said. And he declared his support for Israel, and boasted of the Jewish support he has in this campaign.

Then Hillary said that Obama should go farther and “reject” Farrakhan’s support. “There’s a difference between denouncing and rejecting,” Clinton said. Obama smiled weirdly. And then Obama meandered to a point of saying, basically, if the word “reject” is so important to Hillary, “then I denounce and reject.”

I can’t wait to see this hashed out during the post-game analysis, because Obama was clearly off-balance during this exchange. ...

7:46 p.m. – We’re into the analysis now. NBC White House correspondent David Gregory says that Obama actually “defused the issue” of Farrakhan, and avoided a trap set by Hillary with her insistence that he “reject” Farrakhan’s support.

I don’t know about that. We will see. ...

7:59 p.m. – Oowee, Jesse Jackson’s gonna be on in the next hour. Can’t wait to hear what he has to say about the Farrakhan moment, being that he got tangled up with that “tar baby” 24 years ago. ...

8:22 p.m. – Well, Bro. Jesse can thank Bill O’Reilly for giving him the “Get Out of Jail Free” card vis-à-vis Farrakhan. Because as soon as Chris Matthews brought up Farrakhan, Jackson slammed O’Reilly for his “lynching party” remark about Michelle Obama... and for how those words created an “atmosphere of danger.”

On the night overall, Jackson gave Hillary points for foreign-affairs expertise, gave Obama points for his rhetoric on trade, and spanked them both for not mentioning the home-foreclosure crisis.

Matthews also asked Jackson: “Who’s the better speaker, you or Obama?” Jackson smiled and said, “Barack.”

8:57 p.m. – I’m done. Good night, all.

South Africa’s ‘Homicide’

In 2000, David Simon and I traveled to Johannesburg as guests of TV producers Hilary Blecher and Indra de Lanerolle. It was a wonderful two weeks. Our hosts treated us royally. And we met bunches of people from throughout the South African television industry – white, black, coloured and Asian.

They wanted to hear from Simon in particular because “Homicide: Life on the Street” is beloved in South Africa. Hilary and Indra were developing a police drama that aspired to a “Homicide”-like level of quality.

Simon and I spent a week sitting in on writers’ meetings for this show, “Zero Tolerance.” I was impressed with what they wanted to do. Even more so when I learned about the history of South African TV.

Basically, South Africa didn’t even have television until the mid 1970s. Why? Because the small white population was so scattered geographically, it didn’t make sense to construct a nationwide broadcasting infrastructure... except for radio. Radio was the place for drama and comedy in South Africa.

Once the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) got into the TV business, the government’s apartheid policies dictated what was seen. You wouldn’t see, for instance, black people and white people on screen at the same time.

Nowadays, the SABC is a tool of the governing African National Congress.

“Zero Tolerance” was produced and broadcast a few years after Simon and I visited. I have seen four episodes from Season One. I dig it to death. The writing, the acting, the production values... all top-notch. “Zero Tolerance” is a showpiece of the South African entertainment industry.

I’ve uploaded a 4-minute video clip to YouTube so you can see for yourself. In just this little bit, you can see that actor Tony Kgoroge (pictured) is the real deal. (He has since appeared in international films such as “Hotel Rwanda” and “Blood Diamond.”)

Ben Kruger is cool also... the Dennis Franz of the Afrikaners. I like how “Zero Tolerance” at least acknowledges the political tensions of black rule and white subordination.

This episode also deals frankly with a type of crime that might embarrass the black majority – so-called “muti killings,” in which humans are murdered and dismembered so their body parts can be used to make magic potions.

Check out this little window into a different society:

The final debate

If you feel like chatting about tonight’s Clinton-Obama debate in Ohio, I’ll be live-blogging it... along with the MSNBC post-game analysis, which is always feisty.

(I have a man crush on Chuck Todd. Just wanted to lay all my cards on the table here.)

I wonder whether Hillary, desperate to stop Obama’s momentum, will try something harsh. Judging by the past couple of days, the Clinton campaign is throwing all kinds of crap against the wall, hoping something will stick.

Bring on the drama!

UPDATE (02/26/08): Chris Matthews just began “Hardball” by saying of tonight's showdown, “There will be blood.” He wishes!

Monday, February 25, 2008


Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was quite funny on “Saturday Night Live” the other night, poking fun at himself in a charming way.

Amazingly, the Associated Press and The Nation magazine totally didn’t get the final joke.

Gov. Huckabee talked about how he won’t “overstay [his] welcome” in the presidential race... and then he refused to leave the stage when Seth Meyers made it clear his time was up. All part of the comedy, folks. Meyers, Huckabee and Amy Poehler continued to read off cue cards during this fake-awkward moment.

But the AP put out a story with this headline: “Huckabee Lingers on the Set of ‘SNL.’ ” As if he really did miss his cue to exit.

The Nation also posted a piece last night headlined “Huckabee Overstays His Welcome.”

“Even as Meyes signaled that the segment was done,” The Nation reported, “Huckabee stuck around, grabbing an unwarranted share of camera time.

“Huckabee’s timing was impeccable, in an entirely inappropriate but amusing way. ... Sort of an apt metaphor for Huckabee’s continued presence in the Republican race, no?”

Uhhh... hence the joke, dumbasses!

DeAngelo, what about yo’ boy?

Will Ralph Nader peel votes away from Obama? Will he make it easier for the Republicans to keep the White House?

Hooray for Clark Johnson’s sister!

I meant to post this last week. Better late than never.

Are y’all enjoying the final weeks of “The Wire”? It pleases me to watch Clark Johnson’s acting on a weekly basis. The man is cool.

Did you know his sister is a big deal in Canada? Yep. Molly Johnson. She’s a pop and jazz vocalist whose popularity extends to France.

Last Friday, Ms. Johnson received her nation’s highest civilian honor – the Order of Canada – for her creative achievements and humanitarian works. Cheers to her.

Molly and Clark Johnson got their start on stage together, performing as kids in a Toronto production of “Porgy and Bess.”

Click here to hear Molly’s smoky rendition of “Summertime,” from her 2002 album “Another Day.”

(Thanks, Anna, for letting me know.)

MBP of the Week: InStyle magazine

Let’s face it, it’s Beyonce’s world. If you’re a different ex-member of Destiny’s Child – like Kelly Rowland or Michelle Williams – you can’t even count on InStyle magazine to correctly identify you when they print your picture.

(The hell am I saying? This has happened to Beyonce too!)

Anyway, that’s a scanned page from InStyle above, posted today on Kid Fury’s blog. The photo caption says it’s Michelle, but no... that’s Kelly Rowland.

I guess if you’re black and famous, you simply have to accept that this is going to happen to you.

(Thank you, Invisible Woman.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Debbie Schlussel’s Oscar thoughts

Far-right bloggers can be so entertaining. You really should add a few to your blog diet. Take Debbie Schlussel. She live-blogged the Oscars.

Who is Debbie Schlussel? Well... she describes herself as an “Attorney, Columnist, and Hip, Conservative Info-Babe Commentator.” And she’s a movie fan. Let’s see what we can discern about Debbie’s politics and personality from her Oscar-related commentary:

“Figures that the vastly over-rated Javier Bardem wins the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Feh. He played a cold-blooded serial killer with no redeeming purpose...”

“It was the dreadful Tilda Swinton of the dreadful ‘Michael Clayton’ wearing an equally dreadful black satin pillowcase. Oy. ... Yet another androgynous ‘woman’ wins an Oscar for a female role.”

“Penelope Cruz is talking. Someone please get me an interpreter. Listening to this woman is probably more annoying than listening to Hillary Rodham Cankles. Oy. Make it stop.”

“Cameron Diaz . . . Official Spokesmodel for Hollywood liberal airheads (and smoked too much pot before the ceremony).”

“Damn. Annoying, liberal ‘Juno’ won the Best Screenplay Oscar...”

“Self-hating, pro-Palestinian Jew Daniel Day-Lewis who stars in the very depressing, awful anti-Christian, anti-business, ‘There Will Be Blood,’ wins Best Actor. Predictable.”

“And the bizarre, violent, weirdly-ending ‘No Country for Old Men’ won Best Director and Best Picture. Yup, more Hollywood rewarding movies glorifying killing for no reason.”

And that’s just a small sampling of the wit and wisdom of Debbie Schlussel.

Isn’t it uncanny how she can put into words exactly what everybody is feeling as we watch the Academy Awards? “Daniel Day-Lewis – self-hating Jew.” We all thought it; Debbie Schlussel said it.

Why isn’t this woman as famous as Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham? You go, Debbie Deb! Give those Hollywood liberals and androgynous “women” and self-hating Jews hell!

A forgotten page from Negro history (#4)

Obligatory Oscar ostinato

In six hours, the Academy Awards will begin. Folks don’t seem as pumped as usual. I wonder why? Did we striking writers spoil the spirit of the season?

Whatev. Here are my Oscar picks. Feel free to share your own.

BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis. Bet the house.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Javier Bardem. This is a good competitive category. If there’s an upset, it’ll be Tom Wilkinson from “Michael Clayton.” P.S. Hoffman is being overpraised for his mannered performance in “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

BEST ACTRESS: Julie Christie. Oops. I didn’t see any of these movies. So I go with a wild guess.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Amy Ryan. I heard she was good in “Gone Baby Gone.”

BEST DIRECTOR: Joel & Ethan Coen. “No Country for Old Men” is a masterpiece of visual storytelling. Bet the boat.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Nancy Oliver for “Lars and the Real Girl.” It’s the longest of long shots, but I’m hoping.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Coen Brothers. Sweep!

BEST PICTURE: “No Country for Old Men.” I recently saw it for a second time. Less pissed off about the ending; more thrilled about everything else. Bet the first-born.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fred Armisen?

As Barack Obama? Sheeeeeeit.

Yo, Lorne Michaels... blow me! I told you nine months ago who to hire.

UPDATE (02/24/08): As for the whole show... it was so-so. Tina Fey + Steve Martin = funny. Any time, anywhere.

And I like the new cast member, Casey Wilson. She is the first zaftig woman in the 32-year history of “SNL.”

I’m not the world’s biggest Kristen Wiig fan, but that hot-air balloon sketch was deliciously absurd.

“I Drink Your Milkshake,” on the other hand, was plain awful. It was like all of those horrible parody movies that come out nowadays... like it’s supposed to be hye-larious just to repeat a few catch phrases from other movies.

Plus, the line “I drink your milkshake” was officially played out on February 5, 2008.

More eccentric blackness!

Big thanks to Bay Radical for introducing me to Thoth, a biracial, ambisexual performance artist. Thoth is fantastic... the very epitome of eccentric blackness.

His album “The Herma: The Life and Land of Nular-in” is available on iTunes. I’m streaming the track “Nular-in” on my Vox spot. Click here to listen. (Thoth sings in his own made-up language!)

Thoth was the subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary short film a few years ago.

More recently, he appeared as a contestant on “America’s Got Talent.” Thoth’s art was not appreciated by those Philistines:

A forgotten page from Negro history (#3)

‘Joe Louis’ on HBO tonight

Tonight on HBO comes a new sports documentary, “Joe Louis: America’s Hero... Betrayed.” In the East, it’ll be on at 8 o’clock. In the West, it starts after the Wladimir Klitschko fight.

Check out DeAngelo Starnes’ review at

DeAngelo writes: “Most interesting is the documentary’s emphasis on Louis being the anti-Jack Johnson. In that role, Louis’ path to the championship was saddled with conditions. He couldn’t publicly rejoice in victory, he couldn’t stand over his opponent with a raised fist if he knocked him down, and most of all, he couldn’t be seen in public with white women.

“This last condition was one that was probably more beneficial to Black America as it probably saved a few brothas from being the victim of the rope, even though Joe’s left hooks and right crosses probably sent a few to the trees anyway.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Guess the Criminal’s Race – the home game

Did you hear about the guy who was pistol-whipped and robbed in broad daylight today in midtown Manhattan? In front of a damn Starbucks?

Yep, got dragged halfway down the street, they say. I heard about it on MSNBC. And then I couldn’t help myself; my mind played Guess the Criminal’s Race.

I guessed: black dude.

Can’t explain why. Just that a pistol-whipping on a sidewalk – at mid-day – conjures up a mental image.

MSNBC didn’t report the suspect’s race this afternoon. So I tried to find out on the internets tonight.

Local station WNBC reports that the victim was robbed of $150,000 in cash. He had just withdrawn it from the bank.

According to WNBC: “Police were searching [for] a suspect they described as a man between 25 and 30 years old who was wearing a black parka, black pants is about five feet 9 inches tall.”

Uhhh... what? A “man”? That’s it?

I know there’s a controversy in journalism about whether or not to report the race of criminal suspects. I say that’s bullshit if the suspect is still on the loose. As this case illustrates.

You got a gunman at large, right? Why in hell do you report that he’s 5-foot-9... and not report whether he’s black, white, Hispanic or Asian? Makes no sense, except by some twisted liberal logic. Somebody want to explain it to me?

Anyway, competing station WCBS came through with the facts:

“The suspect is described as a black man about 25-30 years old, 5-foot-9 and wearing a black parka and black pants.”

Now... that’s reporting what happened. And I win this round of Guess the Criminal’s Race – the home game.

This is all kinds of wrong...

... but follow this link for a trippy Obama-Clinton thing. I promise, I won’t rick-roll you. (Hat-tip: Salto.)

Playlist: Eccentric blackness

I like weirdness. Even when it comes to music. Matter fact, I want to build up my collection of weird black music.

Perhaps y’all can help me. I welcome any recommendations of the most eccentric, off-the-wallest, out-to-lunchest black music you know about.

For examples... click the song titles below to stream these tracks on my Vox blog:

1. “I Whipped Batman’s Ass” – Wesley Willis

The late Wesley Willis was a bona fide schizophrenic; he talked about hearing “demon voices” in his head. He was homeless.

Yet Willis became a cult figure in Chicago’s rock-’n’-roll underground... and beyond.

In 1996, he appeared on “The Howard Stern Show” and “MTV News.” His fans included Rick Rubin and Jello Biafra.

“I Whipped Batman’s Ass” gives a sense of Wesley’s songwriting style. I promise, you have never heard anything quite like it.

Wesley Willis died from complications of leukemia in 2003. posted an obituary.

2. “Feast of the Mau-Mau” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

More than any other black singer, Jalacy Hawkins made weirdness pay. His 1956 single “I Put a Spell On You” – supposedly recorded while drunk – is an American classic.

And it was the legendary rock deejay Alan Freed who suggested that Hawkins spice up his act by climbing out of a coffin onstage.

“Feast of the Mau-Mau” might be offensive by the standards of modern race consciousness. But it is an impressive piece of eccentric blackness.

3. “Oh! Love of Life” – Albert Ayler

Albert Ayler was an influential free-jazz saxophonist. But it’s his singing on this track – from the 1969 album “Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe” – that blows my mind. I think it’ll blow yours too.

4. “Cousin Mosquito #2” – Congress-Woman Malinda Jackson Parker

Malinda Jackson Parker (pictured below) actually served in the Congress... of Liberia. But she is known today, among fans of “outsider music,” for her 1971 album “Tubman Goodtype Songs of Liberia.”

For this track, Parker wrote bizarre lyrics for Rachmaninoff’s famous “Prelude in C-sharp Minor.” Even weirder than the lyrics is her spoken introduction, in which she mispronounces the name “Rachmaninoff” three different ways.

She also gets the facts wrong concerning Rachmaninoff’s life. For one thing, the Russian composer didn’t live “centuries” ago, and he didn’t die in poverty. He died in 1943 in Beverly Hills. But hey... it’s the thought that counts.

5. “Vultures Ate My Dead Ass Up” – Wesley Willis

One more from Mr. Willis... in case you thought I was making it all up.

A forgotten page from Negro history (#2)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A forgotten page from Negro history (#1)

When Time magazine discovered black slang

On the list of things black people don’t get enough credit for, my favorite one is the shaping of American language.

Words and phrases are moving continuously from ghetto vernacular to Standard American English. Ten years ago, a few rappers started saying “bling bling.” Then athletes like Shaq were saying it. Then daytime talk-show hosts like Ricki Lake were saying it. Eventually, you saw the word “bling” in the political pages of the New York Times.

That tickles me.

When I was coming up, only black folks would say “from the get-go.” Now, only white folks say it.

“Mickey D’s” is another one. That went from black slang to corporate asset in one generation. McDonald’s calls itself Mickey D’s nowadays. I even saw it on a McDonald’s receipt one time.

But as years pass, white people tend to forget where these words came from. Us too. I didn’t know, until I bought the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, that “the Big Apple” was originally black slang for New York.

I recently stumbled upon a Time magazine article from 1963. It was all about the exotic mystery of black American speech.

Funny thing is, some of the terms that seemed exotic and mysterious to a white editor 45 years ago... they are now so much a part of white vernacular, it’s like blacks never invented them.

Here’s the first sentence from the Time article:

“A white man who attended a Negro civil rights rally as a spectator might well be puzzled to hear a speaker say ‘Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.’ ”

Isn’t that wild? Can you imagine a time when white people thought “nitty-gritty” was puzzling?

“When U.S. Negroes talk to one another, their speech is often marbled with expressions incomprehensible to whites,” according to Time magazine. “Since slavery days, Negroes have created an ever-changing argot of their own, full of ambiguities, tinged with humor and sorrow.”

More examples from the pages of Time in 1963:

Put down = insulted.

Busted = arrested.

Fox = pretty girl.

Fuzz = the police.

Phat = general adjective of approval.

The Man = whites in general.

Soul brother = a fellow Negro.

The magazine then points out a timeless truth: “Terms that are widely adopted by whites go out of style among Negroes.... ‘When it’s hip among whites,’ says one white investigator of the Negro argot, ‘it’s already square among Negroes.’ ”

( ^ Not from Time magazine.)

‘Banished’ on KCET tonight

An intriguing documentary will air tonight at 9 on KCET, the public television station in Los Angeles.

“Banished” tells the story of three American towns that expelled their black citizens several generations ago, stealing their land.

These towns remain all-white.

The trailer for “Banished” is embedded below, as well as an interview with filmmaker Marco Williams.

“Banished” will be shown on public television stations across the country; check your local schedules for date and time. (It will air on Washington’s WETA next Wednesday night, February 27. In New York City, it airs tomorrow night at 10 on WNET.)

UPDATE (02/22/08): Now that I’ve seen “Banished,” I doubly encourage you all to watch it (if it hasn’t already aired in your city). This is a very good documentary, but it would be better without the filmmaker’s heavy-handed reparationist agenda.

Particularly interesting were the psychological defenses of the white townsfolk Marco Williams talked to... a spectrum of denial, discomfort, shame and resentment.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Slime time at

At – the official campaign website – Hillary’s supporters are invited to “Start a Blog” there. And many folks have.

Lemme tell you, there is a lot of bashing and trashing of Barack Obama going on... at a site “Paid for by Hillary Clinton for President.” Some of it is ridiculously nasty. And some of it’s racial.

Take Johnathan Andrew. His blog at yesterday featured a post titled “The Affirmative Action Candidate (Obama).”

“Here you have a less-than-qualified candidate running against a qualified candidate,” Johnathan wrote. “But because of our attitudes here in America, we’re witnessing people making decisions based on race. ...

“Do you know what the promotion of someone with lesser qualifications is over someone else with larger qualifications due to race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin is? It’s the very definition of Affirmative Action.”

Blogger “DBP” had a post last Friday headlined “Obama the thief will make Bush & Nixon look like saints.” DBP wrote: “He is a liar and a thief! Stealing Hillary’s work and passing it of as his own.”

A different DBP post that same day was called “Obama is the modern day Pied Piper.” “He plays his flute and will lead his followers into dangerous waters where they’ll drown.”

Today, Hillary blogger TracyDuong posted “Obama – cause of disease.”

“The disease of addiction ruins people, their families, and their communities,” she wrote. “Obama is a dealer of the ‘dream solution’ and the ‘quick fix’. Reason is not required to buy his message. Obama addicts will wait in lines for hours, take time off of from work, to get their fix.”

Now this one takes the cake. It was posted by “about time”: “Obama was seen in gay bars in Washington DC.”

“I think Obama may be gay,” this idiot wrote. “[H]e is a married man with children and he is pretending to be the savior of everyone’s soul, so claims his wife Michelle. ...

“Personally, I have always felt something about was a FRAUD. I still feel that way. Hillary is the real deal we need Hillary as president.”

Blogger Chasmo calls his entire blog “An Obamination!” On Monday, Chasmo posted “An Obamination, Part IX (You wouldn’t vote for David Duke, would you?),” which rehashes old attacks about Trinity United Church of Christ, which Obama attends.

And whoever blogs on as “StopObama” provides links to an independent site,, which smears Sen. Obama as a “mediocre charlatan” who abuses his “perceived minority status.”

So what does this all mean? The words and ideas posted on community blogs at aren’t created by the Clinton campaign. They’re created by people like you and me.

But guess what? has community blogs also. And I don’t see any Hillary-bashing headlines there.

It seems to me that both candidates’ fan blogs say something about their campaigns. The Obama fans are enthusiastic, optimistic, focused on business. The Clinton supporters – a good number of them, anyway – are negative, nasty... and spinning their wheels in the mud.

UPDATE (02/21/08): Well well well... guess what? You probably know already, but each and every one of those slimy posts I linked to above has been removed from Including Chasmo’s entire “Obamination” blog.

Moderation at last. Good for them. Now play nice, kids.

Happy birthday, Sidney Poitier.

His Excellency Sir Sidney Poitier, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, was born 81 years ago today.

Raised in poverty in the Bahamas, Poitier spent his young adulthood in Harlem. He studied acting, making his stage debut in the 1940s with the American Negro Theater.

Sidney Poitier would become a Hollywood legend.

In his honor, I’m streaming a 4½-minute excerpt of Sir Sidney’s reading of his 2000 autobiography, “The Measure of a Man.”

Click here to listen as Poitier recalls the racial politics of the late ’60s, when some blacks accused him of being an “Uncle Tom” and a “house Negro” because of the roles he played.

Something unnecessary from Paula Abdul

Speaking of “American Idol,” who-da-hell was demanding new music from Paula Abdul? Can somebody please tell me?

This is the first single off Randy Jackson’s upcoming CD, “Music Club, Volume 1”.

A free KT Tunstall download

I don’t keep up with today’s pop music, so I don’t know much about KT Tunstall. Mainly that Katharine McPhee beat “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” into the ground two years ago on “American Idol.” I think she sang it five times.

Anyway, I got a chance to hit you off with some free music. So if you like KT, and you wanna hear her live cover version of “Walk Like an Egyptian,” click here to stream it.

This will be a B-side track on Tunstall’s upcoming single, “If Only.” But you can download a FREE WMA file (not an MP3) of “Walk Like an Egyptian” right now. To commence with that, click here. (PC users: Right-click and choose “save target as.”)

Now here’s something really cute: KT Tunstall’s solo acoustic version of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.” (Ms. Tunstall, a Scottish bird, claims Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and James Brown as some of her musical influences.) Well done, luv!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Strong man gittin’ stronger

Another good night for Barack Obama, another rough one for Hillary Clinton.

Interesting thing I noticed watching Obama’s speech in Texas tonight. Early on, he said “Y’all know how to do it here in Houston.” He also gave “a shout-out” to one of his supporters; another supporter was “in the house.”

No major presidential candidate has ever spoken this way. And it didn’t come across as racial but generational. He’s speaking to a young generation whose language has been shaped by hip-hop. Very interesting indeed.

In the minus column, the Obama campaign sent a Texas state senator onto MSNBC last night to hype Barack. Chris Matthews made this poor jerk look like an idiot... totally unprepared to do what he went there to do. Follow this link to the Huffington Post if you haven’t seen the video yet.

As for that image above, I got it from a site called Freaking News, where Photoshop geeks gather to share manipulated photos. The “cyborg” Obama was posted in late 2006, among other Obama images... some of dubious racial sensitivity.

Race is a recurring theme among these frolicsome Photoshoppers. A recent topic was “Black Celebrities,” which means white celebrities rendered black.

I must say, this “Black Bob Dylan” is kinda tight:

My new tumblelog

I just found out today what a “tumblelog” is. And I quickly created one at Tumblr.

You’ve probably noticed, I am embedding music-related videos in the upper right corner of this blog. I will update that spot with fresh hotness every day or two. It’s all about good music... especially stuff off the beaten path. (Like that Roland Kirk jawn.)

With a tumblelog – a no-frills blog, basically – I can have a repository of all my UBM-TV selections. No text, no comment threads, just video. Kind of like my Vox blog is a repository of audio files (more than 500 and growing).

So just hit that UBM-TV archive link if you even wanna scroll through those clips. (So far, we’re talking about Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron, Kid Creole & the Coconuts... and more.)

A Hillary Clinton fanboy

Today, I wanted to see if my prediction was coming true – that the words “danger” and “dangerous” would be hung on Barack Obama by those who oppose him.

I expected this would occur among right-wing whites. But I stumbled on a young black Hillary supporter playing this shady game. On the official Hillary Clinton website, in fact.

He blogs on as “J. Allen.” He is a college student in Ohio. And last week, he titled one of his posts “Obama’s Dangerous Message.”

“Senator Clinton knows the ins and outs of the white house, and red tape,” J. Allen wrote. “She makes promises she knows are reachableable. And when she’s in the White House she’ll work for us.”

He continued: “What we as young people need to know is you can’t vote for someone on words. Obama is preaching a dangerous message of Hope and Change, While Senator Clinton is preaching a message of Change with accountability. ... I wish my peers were better critical thinkers. They would not eat up this shallow message.”

J. Allen concluded the post with these words in boldface type:

As a African American
As a Male
As a Student
As a Homosexual
As an American

I vote Clinton. March 4th

I’m glad to see this youngster involved in politics. And I certainly expect Sen. Clinton to have her share of black supporters. But I wish J. Allen would go a little deeper than echoing the Clinton campaign’s talking points of the day.

Just yesterday, J. Allen posted a YouTube video pumping up Hillary and bashing Barack. He does this in the form of a parody of that famous “Leave Britney Alone” viral vid. He calls it: “Leave Obama ALONE!”

Again, nothing but Clinton campaign talking points... including the silly-ass charge of “plagiarism.” Check it out:

Jackie Robinson speaks

Anybody see Andy Pettitte’s news conference yesterday?

At the risk of having my collection of “Stop Snitching” T-shirts repossessed, I must say: I have no problem with Andy ratting out Roger Clemens. Baseball needs to be cleaned up. And grown-ass men need to take responsibility for their actions.

This whole mess got me pondering the nature of teammates.

I’ve got a 45-second audio clip of Jackie Robinson recalling the reaction of his Brooklyn Dodger teammates when opposing fans and players would treat him viciously. This clip has been on my hard drive so long, I forgot where it comes from.

Click here to listen.

Something Latin-loverish from Robi Rosa

I just got a request for more Latino music. (I’m widdit, Francisco.)

I have been wanting to drop this video for a while. Now that I’m feeling nostalgic for “Kingpin,” the time is right. For two reasons:

I used this track – “Dancing in the Rain” – in Episode 4, before the album even came out. (Yancey Arias hit me with an advance CD.)

And this video was directed by Angela Alvarado, one of the stars of “Kingpin.” She is married to singer-songwriter Robi Rosa.

Robi Rosa used to be in Menudo. Later he co-wrote “Livin’ la Vida Loca” for Ricky Martin. But he’s a serious musician, not just a wannabe pop star. Rosa’s abundant solo material is stylish and ambitious.

Monday, February 18, 2008

When Catholic girls go wrong...

... they can end up like Jessica Delfino, a clever comedian and saucy songwriter who isn’t ashamed to perform a rap song called “My Pussy Is Magic” on YouTube.

(Do you pray to Jesus with that mouth, Jessy?)

Guardian of decency William Donahue of the Catholic League condemned Ms. Delfino for this video. “Rapping about her genitals, she sings, ‘it will become your true religion.’ ”

Bill Donahue continued: “None of this is without malice. And at a time when radical Muslims are accusing Americans of harboring a depraved understanding of liberty, it only provides ammunition to the enemy.”

Wow. Since the stakes be that high – I mean, if this chick’s comedy could promote terrorist attacks – then it is your duty as a citizen to watch this video, so as to be cognizant of that existential threat.

Jessy Delfino can’t rap worf a damn. But if you don’t laugh out loud at one particular moment... I will give you your money back. Here it is:

Now, I first got into Jessica Delfino through another Web video – “I Wanna Be Famous” (embedded below). That one isn’t dirty, but the humor is “sick.” And it’s very very very very funny.

“I Wanna Be Famous” has had close to a million views on YouTube over the last two years. Let’s get together and put it over the top!

Ms. Delfino reports on her MySpace page that “I Wanna Be Famous” will be screened at the New York International Children’s Film Festival on March 1.

Congratulations, Jessy... you hellbound harlot. Bring your magic pussy out to L.A., and I’ll show you my Amazing Shrinking Dick trick.

A free Muddy Waters download

Need something to get your mojo workin’? Download this FREE MP3 of Muddy Waters live in concert.

Muddy and his killer band (including Pinetop Perkins, George “Harmonica” Smith and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith) played the University of Oregon on October 20, 1971.

This gig was well documented. Parts of it are included on the 1999 CD “The Lost Tapes,” which Michael G. Nastos of All Music Guide says “might be the best live Muddy Waters ever released.” The full set is available on DVD (“Muddy Waters – In Concert 1971”).

I’ve got “Mannish Boy” streaming on my Vox blog. Click here to listen.

To download this track, click the song title below.

“Mannish Boy” (MP3)
Album available at eMusic
Album available at Amazon