Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Funnies--the stupid shall rule

From the White House to Hollywood to your next door neighbors, so it goes. By the way, this applies to black folk and Hispanics, too. Oh hell yeah.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Et tu, Dude?

It's refreshing to see former true believers shit all over the fanatics, creeps and trivial fools they served. Makes for great books, films, etc. Publishers love them. Not even any need for sex in the manuscript. Hell, if 40% of it is true and the punditry is talking and the objects of the derision are squawking (note Karl Rove whining on Hannity & Colmes on the Goebbels mean Fox) and you have a best seller going into the summer "reading season." This book by former White House Press Secretary and favorite son of the University of Texas Longhorns Scott McClellan isn't just about Iraq, or Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby--it even dishes the dirt on Bush and Hurricane Katrina. Bravo publishing industry for enriching us, so. We who are about to die, salute you...
But seriously, tell all Ides of March stuff from former White House Press Secretaries are rare. They usually fall into three categories: true academic pieces/behind the scenes reconterie regarding historical events and personalities--think JFK's man Pierre Salinger. Amusing anecdotes and "hey--I didn't know THAT" books"--think Ford's boy Ron Nessen, and utter self-aggrandizing "hey I'm important...I know a lot...and the old boss still loves me even though we disagree on a few things" crap--yep, think Dee Dee Meyers. All sell well. But this kind of stuff? If it wasn't so creepy, then Rove wouldn't be on TV and the White House wouldn't be dismissing Bush's favorite Texas golden boy as a "disgruntled employee." Well, it's disgruntled employees, ex-spouses and bitter children or grandchildren who make the best damn whistleblowers.
Is it the Ides of March? Not quite as earth-shattering, but it does give plenty-plenty currency to everyone outside of Fox News viewers and pundits, 70% of GOP elected officials (excluding, interestingly McCain) and all the cartoonish wingnut bloggers out there. And you know, it's always been a rational argument that Caesar had it coming...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

RAFBN-Week 2

Week Two: Summer's "read a f-ing book, n- "series...
James McBride is my hero. An African American LITERARY author of somewhat popular note. A brother who is not plagiarizing Candace Bushnell and replacing the white girls with obese church ladies lookin' to score wid the pastor. Who isn't writing thug fables and calling it "the reality of the street" (Ha!). Whose lead character isn't a conflicted handsome, mysterious dude romancing female lawyers who look and act suspiciously like video hoes. Whose lead character isn't a conflicted handsome mysterious clown romancing MALE lawyers. His Song Yet Sung (buy it at the right) is a paeon to the Chesapeake, to the slaves who toiled, yearned and struck out for freedom at water's edge; of course I'll try to best him with Yella Patsy's Boys. His first foray into the historical fiction genre came a few years ago with Miracle at St. Anna. I offer this selection in honor of ALL vets and dead soldiers (except Confederates--why the hell should those redneck traitors count?) this Memorial Day.
The setting is Italy, WWII, 1944. The true event is the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre: retreating German (call them German...stop with this "Nazi" shit) Waffen-SS Panzergrenadiers rounded up about 500 women, children and old folks--in retaliation for guerilla activity--and shot them, then burned them (many were just wounded so they were burned alive). The other element is the 92nd Infantry--a segregated combat unit which encompassed most of the old "Buffalo Soldier" infantry regiments. Led by incompetent and racist white officers, plagued by so-called "Greatest Generation" white boy GIs on the one hand, they must also deal with a desperate enemy hell bent on taking as many Americans with them to the bitter end (the Waffen-SS were the most fanatical German troops).
Here's where it gets interesting. McBride gives us a sweet yet dim witted black soldier (think Lenny from Of Mice and Men with a rifle and a tan) who befriends an orphan against the backdrop of this atrocity. Allegory's all there on many levels, including a symbolic device with a statue's head; pain, bravery, treachery, love, miracles...ensue. And don't look for the usual "cross-section of society" stereotypes re: the dudes in the group of four black soldiers caught behind German lines. Read/re-read this book before Spike Lee's film comes out. McBride penned the screenplay but Spike's already up to his old bullshit braying and self-promo--given his pretty much needless attacks on Clint Eastwood for "Flags of Our Father/Letters of Iwo Jima" and Speilberg for "Saving Private Ryan". Interesting as Clint's ALWAYS been a thoughtful, artful director and even did the Charlie Parker biopic. Did you, Spike? Nah. So shut up. Speilberg did The Color Purple and yeah--Amistad. Did you, Spike? Nah. So shut up. Why not A Soldier's Story? Or any number of films and TV-movies of the week on blacks and WWII, blacks and any war (hey you can option Yella Patsy's Boys once it drops and show the freed slaves burning down the White House with the British in 1814 if you want--one of those patented moving shots of your on Dolley Madison realizing she gotta run before she's caught would be cool...). Going into the merits of his attacks on the WWII movies is silly as the attacks are silly; again I'm sure 99.99% of it is just his ego/personality, and I'm praying my hero Brother McBride tempers that stuff. Would he allow Hollywood succubus to steal his soul, a la Mariane Pearl and Brangelina in A Mighty Heart? Likely not. He's my hero, after all. Read and learn.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday Funnies

What does John McCain and Jill Scott and finding a good black man have in common? Essence. My, has the world changed. I tell my right wing friends all the time--McCain is going to break your hearts. I'm sure they know this, but hey, they'll never admit it. Why not? When Hillary's cracking about RFK and saying she's gotta hang in there b/c who knows, somebody might take Barack out...and other Democrats like Ferraro claiming a vast nigger conspiracy in the media by the NABJ--and we all know blacks are overwhelmingly represented in print, TV newsrooms (chuckle)--no one should be shocked that McCain's in Essence. Yes, we, not Jews, control the media...didn't you hear? Yet many folks are shocked McCain's in there. And he's saying nice things about about Obama and Ted Kennedy. Lawdy. Check out the interview (click the Essence link above). Not bad. Makes you even think about voting for him, huh?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Forgotten Campaign Issue

That's Ed Burns, Dave Simon and bestselling mystery author (and neighbor of Me & Mrs Nat's) George P. Pelecanos . They write-produce-direct HBO's The Wire. Probably the best show on TV, ever. And not many people watched because it was too "real." Uh huh. When you poll members in focus groups--especially in places like Concord NC or Davenport, Iowa--that's the response you get, interestingly. Not that it's "alien" or "too black/ethnic" or "too East Coast" or "bleak" or "obscene." Nah. Too real. America in the Dubya Years--thanks.
Not too long ago in Time, Ed (a former tough street cop turned public school teacher turned Hollywood producer), David (a former Baltimore Sun reporter and editor who quit when the stories lost depth and were replaced with fluff by vapid, cost-cutting owners, now a MAJOR Hollywood producer) and George (one of the best "hard boiled" detective writers of all time and chronicler of the "other" D.C. beyond the monuments and K Street and embassy parties) presented their view of this so-called War on Drugs. They were joined by bestselling authors Richard Price (Lush Life, Clockers) and Dennis Lehane (Mystic River). My one regret--and trust me this IS a BIG issue--was that the new-school marquis African American authors were too busy writing about oral sex with the pastor, or strippers marrying a reformed pimp, thugs who must come to terms with their thuggery, to be a part of this in a meaningful way. Indeed, we produce "House of Payne" and "Norbit;" they do "The Wire." Something ain't right, and that's our cross to tote in this matter.
But I digress.This silly, draining war actually rivals the War on Terror in its destructiveness, collateral damage, horror, toll on governments, the cops, communities. Americans. No candidate is talking about it. Everyone wants to be "tough on crime." Hell, even recently a Bush Admin. official shilled on herself on NPR, declaraing "Yes, demand for drugs is one important element in this problem." Huh? Hey White Lady: it is THE element. The only element, really. Why do people get high? Ask Rush Limbaugh. Because they're weak? Stupid? Oh, no...
Here I link one modest proposal from the Time piece. Your thoughts? Rail if you will. OK, but how's the current course working for ya? And if if you're white and insulated from gas prices etc. I'd still ask the question. Poison is eveywhere, and I mean the effects of the drugs, the policies--not the drugs themselves.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

RAFBN-Week 1

Welcome to the inaugural post of my Summer Reading Campaign. Hope you will enjoy my selections. Every Sunday evening, from now to the week before Labor Day, I will recommend one book and of course hope you will read it. These aren't necessarily reviews, and yeah, there may be a spoiler or two, but come on--most folks read a book based some tease of the spoiler anyway, okay? By the way RAFBN is an acronym for my favorite Hip Hop parody satire "Read a F--- book, N---" Satire's supposed to dig into deeper issues, so if you're offended by the acronym it usually means you're too shallow to get it. (wink)
The first selection is entitled One Thousand White Women, by Gary Fergus. No, the title's not about NFL groupies, or Reggie Bush or the USC hoops/football team's appetite. It is 1875. The Cheyenne Indians ponder the genocide of the East Coat and New England tribes over the course of 200 years. They've seen the futile battles of the Indians of the Midwest under Tecumseh. The so-called "Civilized" Tribes of Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Cherokee in the South have been ripped from the their lands and hauled away to Oklahoma. They know it will only be a matter of time before the mighty Sioux fall dead on the plains, and the Apache are pried, bloodily, out of the desert. Their only hope of avoiding being erased: in return for ponies, disarming, getting out of the white man's way, they will ask for 1000 white women of breeding age. The aim? Marry them, learn from them, impregnate them, and build a generation of offspring that will have the rights of Americans and thus help the Cheyenne assimilate into this terrifying new world. These children will carry at least some tiny seed and memory of the Cheyenne people forward. Better that than be wiped out.
The chiefs travel to Washington to make a peace plea to President Grant. Though already beseiged by claims of corruption and the drain of Reconstruction in the South, the Grant Administration agrees to a sit-down. The First Lady literally faints dead away when the chiefs share their plans at a White House luncheon in their honor. The 19th Century equivalents of O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity go ape in their newpspaer columns. The Indians barely get out without being lynched...yet secretly, Grant assents to the request. Might not be a bad idea--pacifying the Indians without killing them all. So the word quietly goes out to prisons, debt farms, young womens homes (reform schools/orphanages for teenage girls), lunatic asylums. Along with women who willingly want to start over--including some freed slaves who see nothing but terror and ruin in the South and who likely want kids with good hair--the women arrive in the Dakotas. Chaos ensues...and not the happy sit-com kind.
Of course, this didn't really happen. This brand of historical fiction is a new one and breaths life in the genre. The narrative is that of a fiction character named Mary Dodd, who's sprung from a mental hospital as part of the brides-for-Injuns plot.
Not good for a beach read, but beats picking your ass whilst you wait in airports, train depots, on Metro platforms, in traffic (as a first) or as your kid's in line registering for summer camp. Read and learn...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Journalism Friday Funnies

My students have seen my own meltdown over the state of TV "journalism" and the rise of soap opera, target demo punditry. Turn down the sound, and prepare to dance.

Sue was a patient of my dad's in Baltimore, so that was especially amusing. And of course my favorite "journalist" of all time:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Springtime of Pride

Now the winter of our discontent has turned glorious springtime thanks to Barack (still on pins and needles) and Felicia Pride, author and purveyor of TheBackList.
Though The Message, 100 Life Lessons From Hip Hop's Greatest Songs dropped late last year, Spring ushers a timely and welcome return. Boy do we need it, as politics get nastier and the patina of racial harmony's peeled away. As rappers become more nakedly commercial, disgusting, talentless, useless. As R. Kelly finally goes on trial.
The book is not a mere survey of top 100 hits, or a recounting of "Where was I when I heard THAT song." Instead, Pride interweaves personal reflections with the poetry and emotion rife in these, the BEST songs to produce a collection of affirmations that will not just take up permanent residence on your nightstand or coffee table, collecting dust. You'll actually READ this stuff, fanboys and girls. Lest you think I'm channelling Michael Eric Dyson, let me remind you I despise 90% of the Hip Hop so-called "culture" out there--especially in its contemporary face. Of course, the 10% makes the other 90% bearable. Then again, now we have icons like Snoop and Flav as buffoonish self-parodies, and Jay-Z is starting to remind me of the greedy formulaic white moguls he tried to innovate over and bypass as a kid just busting into the sick music biz. So what they're making money? Our souls (and theirs) are being forfeited in trade, and that's what we should be telling our kids. Perhaps they can get those souls back by reading Felicia's book?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday Curmudgeonliness

I have reprinted sections of the AP piece below, rather than linked it, for effect. As you read, think about this: my father's alma mater, Howard University Medical School, will likely approach majority Caucasian, with a significant number of folk from India, Pakistan, European Union, even South America, the Phillipines...if it hasn't already. The law school's packed with tradition but often little else. On the undergrad tip most HBCUs already sporting 5 to 1 black female to black male ratios, are also hurting for cash. Even the biggies like Howard call on Uncle Sam for their endowment, has trouble retaining a lot of male students for the four years; many of the smaller schools don't have any endowment to speak of and some have ratios approaching 8 to 1. There may come a time when a chunk of their student body will come from Ukraine or some place like that.
Here's the point: Too, too many of our teens and young black men are catching hell despite the mountains they climb and flags they plant. Whether they are poor or the sons of professionals, their trials are unique and their accomplishments grand must be chronicled!
Here's the rub: Unfortunately they each carry a ton of deadweight around their necks--the legions of their "brothers"...all too busy being angry or lazy or plain silly. Too busy wanting to be Lebron or Jay-Z ...or R. Kelly. Or lionizes that shithead Reggie Bush sleeping with that whore Kim Khardashian (yes I said "doody" and I said "whore." I'm no prude. fanboys and girls, but let's be real about who people really are and what they dothings). Too busy playing on XBox. Too busy cracking only books that cost less than $10 and have the word "Trippin'" or "Chocolate Ooze" in the titles. Too busy cleaning those $150 Nikes or Tims and waxing those rims but got no money to save for a notebook computer and classes...and hey, gotta spot clean those Nikes and detail your whip in front of your mama's or girlfriend's driveway...whilst you dump a quart of used motor oil down the gutter ...ditch your Popeye's box and bones, and your bottle of Fanta cherry on the sidewalk. All that is more important than sacrifice and achievement. The kicker: you have brothers who are jumping up for Barack, yet aren't registered to vote and can't even show up to polls on time and understand the touchscreen if they are. These folk will the first to jump off when McCain's elected, or the cops beat some junior thieves. "Woe, woe is us," this type of fool whines, growls or shouts. Black women, you gotta endure us 'cause it's tough out there and we can't do no better than what we're doing... Yeah, it's a struggle just get out and fight. But why oh why do we choose--yes, choose--to make it even worse on ourselves with this clowning?
Now, read on. It's inspiring and makes me proud of the student, all of his suportive classmates, and Morehouse's commitment to learning. But yeah, part of me's pissed off. Deeply.

Valedictorian A Different Kind Of ``Morehouse Man''
By Associated PressMay 12, 2008, 22:21

From his first day at Morehouse College, the country's only institution of higher learning dedicated to the education of Black men, Joshua Packwood has been a standout.
His popularity got him elected dorm president as a freshman. His looks and physique made him a fashion-show favorite. His intellect made him a Rhodes Scholar finalist. His work ethic landed him a job at the prestigious investment banking firm Goldman Sachs in New York City.
But it's his skin that has made all of this an anomaly. This month, Packwood is set to take the stage and address his classmates as the first White valedictorian in Morehouse's 141-year history.
The 22-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., will graduate on May 18 with a perfect 4.0 GPA and a degree in economics.
He could have gone elsewhere, to a school like Columbia, Stanford or Yale, but his four-year journey through Morehouse has taught him a few things that they could not, and he makes it clear that he has no regrets.
``I've been forced to see the world in a different perspective, that I don't think I could've gotten anywhere else,'' he said. ``None of the Ivies, no matter how large their enrollment is, no matter how many Nobel laureates they have on their faculty ... none of them could've provided me with the perspective I have now.''
When Packwood applied to Morehouse, he had frequent conversations with George Gray, an alumnus who was a recruiter at the school. Gray was impressed by Packwood's credentials and spent months trying to talk the sought-after senior into choosing Morehouse over other elite schools.
``He had outstanding numbers,'' said Gray, now director of admissions at historically Black Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. ``He was the kind of kid we were looking for to be a presidential scholar.''
After several conversations, Packwood began to suspect that Gray had no idea that he was White. His suspicions were confirmed when one of Gray's calls caught Packwood in the middle of track practice.
``Don't let the White kids walk you down,'' Gray quipped.
``Wait,'' Packwood responded. ``You know I'm White, right?''
Silence. Uneasy laughter. Confirmation.
``The challenge was to get the best student that we could, and Josh definitely fit that,'' Gray said.
And for Packwood, knowing that he had been picked on his merits, and not as a token White recruit, made the difference.
``That said I could come here and, ironically, be accepted for who I am,'' With each semester, Packwood's grades remained high, his confidence grew and his resume became more impressive. Summers were spent on Wall Street at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, he studied abroad in London and Costa Rica, and his studies have taken him to China and Switzerland.
He also drew attention with his looks -- some Atlanta University Center coeds took to calling him ``Tom Cruise.'' His photo album on Facebook shows a smiling Packwood posing with dozens of young, Black women who fill his page with notes.
``He kind of sticks out, but he's still relatable and he works with all of us,'' Douglas said.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Funnies

From today's Washington Post, A section (following -up from another quote last week):

Christopher Chambers, a Georgetown University professor and Obama supporter, said a woman
tracked down his cellphone number, dialed it and called him a race traitor after
he said Wright's performance would doom the senator's presidential run if he did
not act decisively. Obama denounced Wright's appearance later that day.

Probably an ex. They all shriek alike, so it's hard to tell which one it was...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Old Farts Rule: Jonny Quest

Perhaps it was the nostalgia of my high school (McDonogh, Maryland) reunion, or the lingering excitement of the new Iron Man movie (behold the old cartoon in the May 2 post below)...but here I've managed to find archives of old ABC commercials for Jonny Quest from 1964. Yes, 1964. No, I wasn't in high school. I was a toddler, however. Wasn't even allowed to stay up past 730pm back there in No'theast D.C. and then Brooklyn, so primetime was a blur. And Jonny Quest started on primetime. ABC, being the poorest of then three networks, was actually innovative (imagine that) in those days--programming cartoons and other shows like Batman (Adam West's version) and The Green Hornet (with a very young Bruce Lee) in 66-67 for kids and the primordial fanboy nation. By '67-68, ABC put Jonny Quest on Saturday mornings, ending around 1pm. At 1pm, once that "This is a Screen Gems presentation" dancing sticks graphic ceased, that magical time of Saturday morning was done and it was time to go outside. Imagine that...go outside. Play. Tag, ride bikes, shoot baskets, toss a Frisbee, pee on girls...even read. Yeah--read.
Laughing, are you kiddies? Old crap. Well, we old people whose imaginations were born in cradles such as this now dictate and finance the games you play on Xbox and online, the adventure and Special FX films you pay $9 to see, the fantasy/horror/sci fi/manga books you read, the stacks of graphic novels and comics you keep on your nightstands. Laugh now, whippersnappers. Of course, we can do better. Marketing turds and the mean green tend to sniff out creativity. But hey, at least we had some classics to nuture us. I apologize for not bequeathing the best stuff to you youngfolks.

[addendum, by popular demand!]

Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday Funnies

As pop culture madness takes a break from Jeremiah Wright and embraces Iron Man, I thought it would be fun to show you what OLD men like me celebrated when we were little kids. Forget Downey...this was the real Tony Stark, 1966 (voiced by the late John Vernon, aka "Dean Wormer" from Animal House).