Tuesday, September 30, 2008
"Ugly,.Black and Unbankable"
This is a wonderfully sick allegory for so much that is wrong. Any thoughts? (Especially from you whitefolks who haven't yet understood that racism has morphed and adapted and more nuanced than calling people niggers through Klan hood fabric). I suppose these tools'd have no issue if Forest were a madcap ghettofab black comedian, right? Or a fat, ugly Seth Rogen (who resembles most producers and directors)? We share some infamy here, as blacfolks are notorious for shelling out box office cash to Tyler Perry's mawkishness, or at dramas or suspense stories where only single-word named ex rappers are the stars, not trained dramatic actors. Alas, that's just boneheadedness, easily shamed and curable as long people like Dyson, Tom Joyner el al stop jumping to simple-ass folk's defense. White producers, publishers et al are behind it in either case, and below the surface of their smiling faces is, well...do I have to spell it out. See above...
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Spike Lee & McBride do Good, not Great.
Okay, here's my ruminatant...moist cud spit for your inspection. That America is more tribalized than ever is axiomatic. The Sarah Palin white folks. Tyler Perry bamas (opposite sides of the same...er...coin). The former being the majority, don't look for EA's Call of Duty to incorporate a story line about black combat troops led in segregated units by incompetent, indifferent or outright racist officers into suicide missions. Or Nisei, for that matter--thrust into the most hellish of battles while their families are locked up in our own former Guantanmo, the "Internment camps" of Arizona. Call of Duty's still locked into the mythology that D-Day was the holy battle that decided WWII, when every day on the Russian Front and in the Pacific was Normandy. And thus...
Check the comments on Spike Lee on imdb.com and tell me the average white filmgoer "gets" him. Is that is own fault? Yes and no. Spike bought the rights to the deep and bitter sweet and unassuming novel by James McBride, my historical novel role model (since Michener's dead), Miracle at St. Anna. Yes, there's a lot of usual Spike preachyness and heavy-handed allegory...ego, lack of editing. But hey, he's Spike and James was likely so happy to be coopted by Hollywood, well, you know the story. And while Spike's attack on Clint Eastwood vis. Flags of Our Fathers was yet another indication that he's still got his head up his narrow ass, I'll say this time, he had the balls and credibility to back it, primarily because no one has ever addressed this aspect of our history. Yeah, there's a taste here in there in mawkish films like Glory, or underfunded, poorly written and acted (but for Danny Glover) crap like Buffalo Soldiers. White people don't like to viddy this schizophrenia that is America, especially when it comes to African Americans and this nation's wars. Clint touched on it in Flags by showing meek Pullman porters tending to the manufactured celebrities of Mt. Suribachi, and perhaps that what set off Spike's big mouth. Not Clint's intent to be superficial. Hardly. But he could have addressed this stuff as, for example, Spike did deftly (deft isn't often used with regard to Spike, who usually smacks you across the face) with a short scene. 70 year old Hector Negron silently watches John Wayne in the D-Day epic The Longest Day in all the Duke's cheezy patriotic mythic whatever-adjective -your -ass wants to add persona.
But there's vintage Spike in the rest of this film as he tackles these themes: religion as a function of individual sacrifice, redemption, love rather than tribal dogma. The racism of America versus that of the Third Reich. This dude is the only filmmaker in America who can be genius and annoying simultaneously. Yet these themes are reality based. German POWs welcomed in a Southern town's ice cream shop whilst black GIs are threatened at gunpoint, for example. But there are amazing craft points presented which you'd have never thought possible if you're as old as me and remember going to see She's Gotta have It on a Friday date with a silly girl. Lush cinematography. Complex subtitled scenes with Tuscan villagers, Italian partisans, an old strega (an Italian witch) and of course Germans (nice touch using Max Malestesta and Alexandra Maria Lara from my favorite Hitler flick, Downfall...with the beautiful and pouty Alexandra as "Axis Sally," exhorting black soldiers to throw down their guns "and dance," eat fried chicken and greens in her propaganda broadcasts). Things like that. I was impressed. I bet Clint is, so's Spielberg. The contemporary scenes (ca. 1983 per the book's plot) are much better, grittier and tighter (okay--due again to the book's plot) and less pat-syrup than anything from the look-at-the-old-men-as granddads now arcs in Flags or Private Ryan. Okay, maybe the last ten minutes are way to tear-jerking and fake, but hey...
The performances carry the flick when the over the top Spike Lee-ness over- or underwhelms you. Laz Alonso, Derek Luke and about three other dudes ...lord they are channeling Denzel in various persona, at various times in Denzel's career. And that's a good thing. Homage, fune-tuning, not imitation. Ex-Halle Berry beau Michael Ely is amazing. Omar Benson Miller as Train, the "Chocolate Giant" in the horror-addled fantasy of a little Italian boy, is out- Forrest Whittakering Forrest himself. Again I say imitation as homage, not copying, and pantomime, and his is about as close to McBride's vision in the novel as any character's. Yeah, there's Italian T & A (with Ely and buttery-bodied Valentina Cervi getting busy). Some anachronistic language. A view factual lapses (i.e. the 92nd Inf. wasn't a "liberal" experiment but rather the consolidation of venerable Buffalo Soldier regiments dating back to the end of the Civil War; the Germans along the Serchio River were crack parachute troops and panzergrenadiers who're veterans of North Africa, Sicily, even the Russian Front--not mud-humping greenhorn conscripts).
And then there's the 1944 Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre. Here Spike shows you just how he's as much as auteur and master as any in our American pantheon of Scorsese, Spielberg, Jewison, Altman et al. Yeah, I said it. Hate him if you must, but give the little devil his due. And I say pantheon because once you remove comedy directors like Judd Aptow and Ben Stiller from the mix (and they are getting annoying too, despite Tropic Thunder), all you have is the rest of the clowns who think they are directing music vidoes or computer games like Tour of Duty. World War Two, at it's most terrible, unfolds in forty seconds as the SS murders babies, children, grandparents. Sorry, angry right wing New York Jews--I'd bet your nemesis Spike could do justice to a gut-wrenching Holocaust film, or something on the 1948 War in Palestine. Hell, maybe remake Exodus...
...but there'd be no Exodus without Paul Newman. And that's the next story...
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Barack and the Debate
MSNBC's Tim Curry reports here. Republican reaction ranges from shrugged shoulders to knee-jerk (and bumbling) support from the usual Fox News attack dogs and of course Sarah Palin. Of course, in 1864, Abraham Lincoln was struggling to be re-elected during the darkest days of the Civil War. FDR pressed on to knock Herbert Hoover out of the White House during the Depression. America was falling apart 40 years ago in 1968, and yet neither Nixon nor Humprhey suspended their campaigns in the midst of war, rising prices, social protest, riots and the assassinations of RFK and MLK, Jr.
So there, I am 99.9% less eloquent than Barack and I've given a basis, a thesis for a turfing-the-scared old man speech (turfing in a nice way, sort of; I'd also extend a hand and say, may we issue a joint statement expressing our dismay over Paulsen's blank check, and the complete abdication of the government's regulatory and consumer protection role in the last 8 years?). I'm serious: get Penn and Carville on the payroll. It might be too late but hey, they provide some cushion come Election Day...for the last thing my acid reflux needs to deal with is the lament of hundreds of dejected bourgies, intellectuals and "young professionals" whining about the perfidy of knuckle dragging whitefolks should McCain win. Even the knuckle draggers and Wal Mart Moms could have been moved by a decisive, bold statement last night. Instead, we got more Barack...
Monday, September 22, 2008
Emmys: None of Sarah Palin's shows won
As I predicted, Mad Men won. So did Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney for John Adams. And 30 Rock. And Paul Cranston as the meth-cooking cancer ridden high school teacher in Breaking Bad. (Meth--that's that crime scourge white folks don't like talking about...especially in Alaska). What--no Dancing with the Stars? Or cage fighting or Army Wives of the NHL? Sorry Sarah. Hollywood--you aren't American enuf...
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Obama win? Not now, because Sarah's more American...
The Nation magazine considers Sarah Palin an ignorant wingnut ho. If that epithet's something tangible and corporeal in any sense, it gets the big "So what?" Now, how's that mesh with Harvard Law (Barack's alma mater) Prof. Randall Kennedy's recent piece the Washington Post's Outlook section, entitled "The big What if?" (e.g., if Barack loses). Utterly disparate themes?
Well first here's something on Randy. A blue chip black, Princeton '77. A paleo-Obama, like Roger Wilkens or Ken Chenault or Eric Holder, etc. etc. Someone whom the Palinphiles and working class lugs and rednecks and whatever label you wish (and their enablers on Fox or Glenn Beck) could hoist-- symbolically, that is--as antithetical boogeyman and effigy. Randy's a DC native like me, brother to august US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy, Princeton '71 (who's a friend of mine and the thesaurus synonym for "just" and "impartial"). But boogeyman in practice? Not really. Taciturn dude. Funny dude...after you plumb his mind and accept what's amusing to him. He's a gene splice of gadfly and forensic surgeon. A little Bill Cosby, a little HL Mencken, a little Woody Allen. His buzzing, pricking...his biopsies and autopsies.. are more aimed at the Liberal and at "black America's" conventions than at the Right, at white folks (redneck or Wall Street). Look at two illustratative works: Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal, and Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. In the former, he's not vicious at all the species of Muppet which includes Michael "Lexington" Steele or Ken Blackwell or my nigga Justice Clarence Thomas or these mega-preachers. In the latter, he doesn't chasten Southern whites ( nor does he condemn the souls of rappers). I'll leave it to you fanboys and girls as to how to measure the psycho-cultural thesis of his Post piece, but here's a typically Kennedyean conclusion: "I anticipate that most black Americans will believe that an Obama defeat will have stemmed in substantial part from a prejudice that robbed 40 million Americans of the chance to become president on the day they were born black. They will of course understand that race wasn't the only significant variable -- that party affiliation, ideological proclivities, strategic choices and dumb luck also mattered. But deep in their bones, they will believe -- and probably rightly -- that race was a key element, that had the racial shoe been on the other foot -- had John McCain been black and Obama white -- the result would have been different" Note, fanboys and girls--I an 100% sure this Colin Powell's take.
Mine's not that strident (cloaked in Randy's understated prose). Wow--Colin Powell, or Randy, more strident than moi? Yeah, I'm nuanced only in that I take the time to strip some national patina. I do so because I feel I have the background and expertise and swag. Too many liberals, too many black people (particularly the "bourgie" professionals, the crunchy granola dreadlocked arts elite and yeah, even the plain ol' unwashed--the ghettofab and the bammas of the Dirrrty-Dirty South) feel that this is a great country if you dig underneath the crud. Here's the secret that the real America, Sarah Palin's America, keeps unwhispered. Yet they know. And it keeps them in line. Even happy. Ask yourself why, despite the New Deal, hasn't there been a successful social revolution in this country? Why did countless rednecks die on the Sunken Road in Antietam or in Pickett's Charge at Gettyburg for fatcat planters and politicians whose ranks they couldn't ever hope to join based on the odds? Why did the Populist movement fail? Or the Federalist Party whither have to be re-born in costumed forms? Why the almost tedious ebb and crest and ebb of unions? Or why was the Progressive movement a function of the middle class, of elite reformers? Why were muckrackers usually the children of wealthy, educated folk. Still are. Why Andrew Jackson, over the clearly better qualified John Quincy Adams? Indeed...
Because this country is shining and beautiful and wondrous and true to its promise and hope on the surface, NOT under a layer of crud, as liberals, as black folks believe. It's underneath that the rot, the ugliness dwells, ferments, percolates up. Sarah Palin's not an accident of America--she's a reflection of it. She's the reason why Elizabeth Hasselback is a star, or Rachel Ray is the highest paid and recognized "chef" in America. When I was a child, I was told that Tim Conway was the most talented, funniest comedian in show biz. What about Flip Wilson, or this dude Richard Pryor?" I'd point out. Only to be shouted down or met not with hostility...but annoyance. Hmmm. Like I was ruining the tribal religion?
Like Randy Kennedy my heart swelled and my eyes watered when I followed Barack's ascendency, when I saw he and fellow Tiger Michelle together not like George and Wheezy Jefferson or Jay Z and Beyonce or Norbit and Rasputia--but as a symbol of who we could be. Trouble is, Norbit and Rasputia, rumpshaker and head roller and thug, is what we are in the real America, the happy caldera heated by the rotten magma chamber below. And like Randy, I sight to be the gadlfy. I was quoted online, in the Post, in the Charlotte Observer, etc. etc. blowing the horn of concern like Apollo Creed's manager in Rocky when Hillary switched to Mark Penn's strategy. When Barack navigated Jeremiah Wright and Fr. Timothy Phleger by tossing the former under the bus and ignoring the latter (Jeremiah's ego hastened his trip under the Goodyear radials; Fr. Tim was needlessly abused however). And Barack clinched, and arrived in Denver like a Roman General on a chariot and was bathed in love I channeled Harvey Keitel as "The Wolf" in Pulp Fiction, who warned: "Let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet." I said we have to serve the real America. Sarah Palin's America. Make Hillary the VP. Win first, sort the rest out later.
Randy Kennedy admits his attraction to Barack based on his "cosmopolitan ethos." Who's ever been elected on that? JFK one because of good ol fashioned machine politics and corruption. You can play the philospher king and install the audacity of hope as state religion after you win. Before, what even Randy, my role model gadlfy understates, even deep between the lines of his Post piece, is that we are a nation of tribes. Look at Gangs of New York below. Again, another indication that Martin Scorsese is a genuis. America was born in the streets. That was his thesis. That's what's real. That's what Barack and the legions of what blogger Field Negro calls "Obamaholics" just do not get. It is the surface manifestation of the crud beneath our glitter.
How else could a silver spoon moron like Dubya be elected? Or can you explain Dick Cheney? How is that creation science is even mentioned without a snicker when faced with, well, biochemistry, advanced genetics, etc.? Because what tribe or alliance of tribes--as unlikely as Ivy League Wall Streeters and Wal Mart Moms--wins, rules. There is no right or wrong. There is what the winner says. Iran is the biggest threat to mankind since Hitler. Putin is an ally...and controls oil and natural gas pipelines coming out of Central Asia. Sarah Palin's daughter, her husband's religious-political proclivities, etc. are none of anyone's business. China does not run our economy; China is good for us. High fructose corn syrup is god's gift to America, and oil drilling and SUVs are our birthright These are the tribal axioms of the tribe which got it's act together and won, despite being out-numbered and out-brained. These, we must obey. The Swift Boat alumni, Fox News, bloggers, Limbaugh, preachers, et al will beat the tribal drums. Even as the Oz-like curtain's drawn open on our economic carnival show this week. So what? John McCain got it. Barack is getting it, only too late.
Sarah Palin is most women. Women who weep in pride when their dullard sons join the military, not when Carrie Bradshaw marries "Big" in a new pair of Manolos. Her daughter is most girls. Teen pregancy and promiscuity is another tribe's problem. Gossip Girl really is how New York looks, lives. Might as well be. For it is the make believe on this surface of glitter. We, not the Palins are living in The Matrix...
Tribe implies constituency. Yuppies and a few co-eds and black folks and a reformed Rockefeller Republicans are not a constituency. Palin's tribe lives on the surface, revels in it. We think Elysium's just beneath. Back in 1984, MTV VJ Martha "Quim" (hehehe) Quinn asked Bruce Springsteen about how the GOP (Reagan Campaign) and George Will hijacked the true meaning of his iconic Born in the USA. After usual crap about it being an underlying patriotic in spirit tune (about the common man's plight) he paused and then mused that many listeners would be prone to take the GOP propaganda meaning--even his own fans. Why? Because they really have nothing else to hold on to. The Boss, as national philosopher. Explains why you'd charge rifled muskets at Gettyburg. Even explains why Tim Conway's better than Richard Pryor. Or my old neighbor, an Air Force bird-Colonel who himself channels Sterling Hayden's General Jack D Ripper character from Dr. Strangelove who says that Palin and her hubby represent "white trash sensibilities." But she is the nominee, and he must support her vigorously. "They'll have cow if those other people win," he said over the mail boxes. "Not Senator Obama himself. Or Joe Biden. I respect them. I used to liaze with the Clinton White House through the Joint Chiefs, recall, bck when I was a daisy fresh captain." Like Sterling Hayden he went on to say that Barack hadn't the head for "strategic thought." But he never mentioned Barack's race (in deference to me?), nor did he identify "those other people" or "They." Plenty of white folks, of Wall Street greed, even bankers and drug company moguls and oil men etc. in the Democratic fold. He wasn't talkign about blacks per se as the other people. But the They was clearly the real America. The people who need to cling to that surface glitter and who whisper about the rot. That tribe who will mobilize 'round Sarah, hell, even if it comes out she killed someone with an unlicensed handgun. Think about that one. Prophetically he went on to say that his cousin made the statement that black males with whom he played football and went to church (bammas down in the Tidewater) seemed more "genuine" than Obama. "Do you believe that?" I asked. "I guess I'm an oddity, too." He replied, "No not to me, but I'm not typical." And well it should be. We are a nation of tribes. Some loose cannon, some nanipulated by others. Tribes nonetheless.
Folks, finally after all this verbal diarrhea on my part is my point: when Barack loses, not if, it is because John McCain bowed to this reality. It will not be purely because of race, as Randy Kennedy relates. Race is something bound up in the power and history relationships whose tendrils have enmeshed this tribal warfare since white feet hit these shores. It soaks this election heavily, but look, it's not simply about the evil racist old white-haired "Endicott" from In the Heat of the Night, versus the articulate, knight-like Sidney Poitier's "Virgil Tibbs." It's Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams. It's Jefferson versus John Adams. That's why I don't get angry over Palin. Or anything on Fox News and Glenn Beck. They are working for the tribe, and there is nothing more American. I think Randall Kennedy would agree with me.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
RIP, David Foster Wallace
Bad Writers, Evil Writers
But for now, I have invective inventoried for authors, the book biz. Feast on this and apply it to whomever. I'll attribute later and it will surprise you...
Editors and agents should have a pimps for brothers so they'll have someone to look up to.
Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publication.
Truman Capote has made lying an art. A minor art.
On Hemingway: Remarks are not literature.
This [mega-selling novel] is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
Reading [Proust] is like bathing in someone else's dirty bathwater.
His work should not be read, but inhaled through a gas pipe.
Writers are a little below clowns and little above trained seals.
"I understand your book is full of single-entendre."
That's not writing, it's typing.
[The author on cranking out her books that become instant best-sellers]. "A sausage machine, a perfect sausage machine. And we all know what's in sausage."
(This one for my man Mike Gonzales and for Rob Kenner at Vibe...check it out): Most [music] journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read. (this now applies to political reporting and punditry)
(This one's for yours truly): The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Sunday Repose: Colin Channer on Jamaicans & the Olympics
Preach it in de Wall Street Journal...
Friday, September 05, 2008
Uncounted. Lawd have mercy...
Tuesday, September 9, 6pm at the AFI's HQ in beautiful downtown Silver Spring. Guest panelists: Bob Edwards, XM Radio's The Bob Edwards Show (Panel Moderator) DeForest Soaries, former commissioner, U.S. Election Assistance Commission (2004-2005) Mimi Kennedy, chair, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) Matthew Segal, founder & executive director, Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE) Robert Fitrakis, Ph.D., journalist & author, What Happened in Ohio? Rebecca Wilson, co-chair, SaveOurVotes Maryland