Friday, January 30, 2009

Bad Hair Week

This has been a rough week for the awkward coif. As a natty dread, I feel I am not entitled to criticize another person's do, but, after all the trials and tribulations these three men have suffered, you gotta wonder if all this could've been avoided if they just would've gotten a better haircut.

Timothy "Eraserhead" Geithner

The new Treasury Secretary got an EZ-Pass with the Senate. Despite what he said, come on, dude, we know that your not paying your taxes wasn't a "mistake." You just didn't feel like paying them. Linda Chavez had to withdraw her nomination for Secretary of Labor for paying her illegal alien domestic. Zoe Baird's bid for Attorney General went up in flames for the same, exact reason. But Geithner's domestic problems were easily glossed over. All because the Big Brother wants him. "Tim's work and the work of the entire Treasury Department must begin at once. We cannot lose a day because every day the economic picture is darkening here and across the globe." Boy, I sure hope you're right, Mr. President (I still like calling him that). To me, Geithner's spent too much time cozying up to the fat cats at the Free Market Kool-Aid Kocktail Party, and, while he's temporarily escaped Jonestown and is talking bookoo smack against his former fellow acolytes, I betcha he's got a return ticket to Guyana in his back pocket.

"Afrolistic" Al Franken

Franken thought he won the Minnesota Senate seat. He thought he beat Norm Coleman in the run-off. But apparently Senator Coleman doesn't feel taht way, and what has to be the longest Senatorial election in US history is going to court. I mean, sure, the Minnesota Election Board kept counting until their boy, Franken, finally won; yeah, in the issue of fairness, there really should've just been a run-off election; but hey, that's just politics. Coleman's a politician. He should understand that. Instead, he's become a sore loser of Mike Holmgren proportions, blaming the refs knowing damned well his team got its ass kicked. You were the champ, Norm. It shouldn't even have been close--especially against a satirist who's joked about internet child pornography. You got into a recount against this guy?! Buddy, you already lost. Just take your ass-kickin' like a man and walk off the field. Or are you hoping that Antonin Scalia resides over the Minnesota Supreme Court, too?

Rod "Cowpadour" Blagojevich

As it stands now, all you're guilty of is being caught on tape. While being executed in the court of public opinion (I admit, I was one of your--more humorous?--judges), you've given the good fight. I've actually found your classic-movie-quoting ass fun. And, boy, that corrupt ass also has gumption. And you've been right. The US Senate had no right to diss your nominee to replace Obama, Roland Burriss, the way they did. They threatened to never seat him. They threw an incredibly embarrassing hissy fit. But you stood your dirty ground, and, because you were right, Illinois now has its third black Senator in 16 years (though I'm sure that won't last long). Rod, buddy, this country was built on gumption and corruption. I thought you might just survive this whole fiasco--well, at least until Patrick Fitzgerald nailed you to the wall. You've been convicted of nothing, and our legal system is built on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Your impeachment trial was a kangaroo court (right again!) and a perversion of justice. One Senator actually complained that you didn't prove your innocence. So, he voted to convict. Apparently, the sanctimonious Senator hadn't read his Constitution of late. Neither did the rest of his colleagues. So, you've been ousted and doomed to become a quirky, little footnote in the annals of history. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted. But fear not, Blago. No one before you has ever had the daring to rock the cowlick and pompadour simultaneously. I am sure your bold styling choices will be all the rage in Paris and Milan in no time flat.

And now, to all my brothers out there who have know how to rock with and rock the horrible haircut, a message from your leader:


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Touching Tale of the Terrible Towel

All right, I know. My Steeler obsession this year has gone off the hinges. Chalk it up to staying home all day with the kid. But my boy Basque sent me this ESPN story about the Terrible Towel that I had no clue about and, well, as the title suggests, I found quite touching. I just had to share.

'Terrible' influence yields good results

By Greg Garber

TAMPA, Fla. -- Technically, Super Bowl XLIII is a home game for the Arizona Cardinals, who will wear their red jerseys for their first trip to the big show.

But Sunday, Raymond James Stadium likely will look and feel like Pittsburgh's Heinz Field. Steelers fans have descended on this city all week long in increasing, improbable numbers. The Terrible Towel, the madly twirling, swirling instrument of their passion, is likely to dominate the game.

The living legacy of the Terrible Towel lies nearly 900 miles north, just west of Pittsburgh, in the small village of Corapolis, Pa., on the banks of the Ohio River. Drive over the brick streets of the town center, up a steep hill and, finally, around a sharp turn and you will discover the Allegheny Valley School.

There are group houses scattered comfortably around what looks like a prep school campus, an achingly quiet, insular community that is home for the autistic and mentally disabled.

This is the story of how the disparate worlds of the Allegheny Valley School, where communication is often difficult, and the thunderous, full-throated ecstasy of Pittsburgh's fanatics are tied together by a common, 100 percent-cotton thread, the very fabric of Steeler Nation.

"This towel is very, very powerful," said Regis Champ, the president of the school. "The people of Pittsburgh understand what this towel does and they love the Steelers. It's a great combination for us."

The Steelers themselves are acutely aware of the power.

"I think every great nation has a flag," Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu said. "I think the Steeler Nation, it's obvious that that's our flag."

Added Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, "When they wave that towel, it's just something that comes from in their soul and tries to reach out to us players."

The Terrible Towel has evolved over 33 years into the best-known fan symbol in professional sports. According to the Steelers, more than 6 million towels have passed into the population, not to mention a myriad of related items, such as scarves, tote bags and gloves. The price is relatively modest; for $7.95 you can own a piece of history.

The most devoted Steelers fans have towels for each of the past five Super Bowls in which their team appeared. For nearly two weeks, the McArthur Towel and Sports Company of Baraboo, Wis., has been cranking out the signature towel for Super Bowl XLIII. So far, 500,000 have come out of the factory. If the Steelers win, according to president Gregg McArthur, a victory over the Cardinals would create a demand for 500,000 more.

Do the math. That's a million Terrible Towels, roughly the same number produced when the Steelers defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL three years ago. McArthur attended the 2009 AFC Championship Game against Baltimore.

"I never experienced anything like that," McArthur said. "It was amazing. No one holds a candle to what the Steelers do with the Terrible Towel."

It's not much to look at, really. It measures only 16 by 25 inches and weighs a little more than 3 ounces, but the Terrible Towel inspires an almost irrational loyalty.

When President Barack Obama visited Pittsburgh last April, he was presented with a Terrible Towel; eight months later they were seen among the sprawling crowd at his inauguration. When Kevin Cherilla, a native of Hampton, Pa., scaled Mount Everest in 2007, he left the Sherpas behind, but not the Terrible Towel. When he shares his slide show with local schoolchildren, the shot of the towel flapping at the summit invariably draws the most applause. The Terrible Towel has appeared on "Saturday Night Live," been waved at Vatican City, the Great Wall of China and has traveled with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After the Steelers beat the Ravens to advance to the Super Bowl, Mike Fincke celebrated. Fincke, who grew up in Emsworth, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, is the commander of NASA's Expedition 18 to the International Space Station. He looked into the camera and, in the gravity-free atmosphere high above the Earth, he unfurled his Terrible Towel and laughed.

Over the top

Great things are sometimes born of desperation and the Terrible Towel is no exception.

The Steelers won their first Super Bowl at the end of the 1974 season and the following season they won 12 of 14 games and advanced to the playoffs. The brain trust at WTAE, the team's flagship radio station -- general manager Ted Atkins, sales manager Larry Garrett and broadcaster Myron Cope -- tried to come up with a gimmick that would ride the crest of the team's success.

"I said, 'I'm not a gimmick guy,'" Cope said in a December 2006 interview with ESPN. "One of them reminded me my contract was coming up for negotiation ... and I said, 'I'm a gimmick guy.'"

The first idea was a black mask in the likeness of head coach Chuck Noll embossed in gold letters with his credo, "Whatever it takes." When the local novelty manufacturer quoted a price of 50 cents per piece, the Terrible Towel quickly became Plan B.

"Larry Garrett said, 'How about a towel -- everybody has a towel,'" remembered Bill Hillgrove, who broadcasts Steelers games today on WDVE. "And Cope immediately said, 'We'll call it the Terrible Towel and it will wreak its powers terribly on the opposition.'

"He's the only guy who could have given that life."

Cope was a character. He had a vivid imagination and he hyped the Terrible Towel in the days leading up to the 1975 divisional championship game against the Baltimore Colts at Three Rivers Stadium. He raved about it on his radio shows. He talked about it as if it were alive. He tossed towels at the anchor and weatherman on the 11 o'clock news.

"The Terrible Towel is poised to strike," Cope said, over and over again. "Bring a yellow, gold or black towel to the playoff game, and if you don't have one, buy one, if you don't want to buy one, dye one."

On the day of the game, the Steelers placed two gold towels in each player's locker. They weren't impressed. Safety Mike Wagner was in the tunnel, awaiting the introduction of the defense, when his pregame concentration was interrupted.

"All of a sudden, a couple of fellows were trying, were sticking these yellow rags, these things in our hands and asking us to run on the field for introduction spinning them around," Wagner said. "We looked at the fellows and said, 'I don't think so. We're trying to play football here.'"

The Steelers of the 1970s were a no-nonsense group, cast in the stoic image of Noll and the Rooney family, which owned the team. But when the defense was introduced, an estimated 30,000 of 50,000 fans pulled out their towels and started waving them and cheering. The players were impressed, but hardly moved. But when linebacker Andy Russell returned a fumble 93 yards for a touchdown, Three Rivers became a sea of shimmering, living gold.

The following Sunday, in the AFC Championship Game against the Raiders, wide receiver Lynn Swann put the towel completely over the top when the offense was introduced at Three Rivers.

"You have to understand that we were doing things as a team and that things weren't premeditated," Swann said. "Back in the '70s there were no Sharpies in your sock and I wasn't hiding a phone in the goalpost. It was a cold day, a wet day and I didn't have a towel. I grabbed the Terrible Towel and put it in my hand, and it was almost a nervousness.

"There was no choreographed move here, and I was standing there looking up into the stands, and I had the towel in my hand, and so I just started waving the towel. And when they saw me just hitting it against my leg and they saw me waving it, then all the sudden they picked up their towels and started waving their towels."

Said Hillgrove, "When Swannie, who was one of the leaders of that team, came out with the towel, I think the others took their cues. He was the guy. When Swann said 'Let's do it,' you know, I think the fans just grabbed. And they're still grabbing."

Wagner, an old-school guy to the end, never, ever waved the towel. His punishment? He's autographed thousands of them for fans over the years. Try autographing a towel with a Sharpie -- it's not that easy.

"Myron Cope was the unique guy," Wagner said. "He always was referring to it, and he was able to do it in a way that the fans here in Pittsburgh said, 'Yes, yes, this is important to us. This is our role here. Our role is to own a Terrible Towel, to wave it at opportune times, to work its magic.'"

An enduring legacy

Cope was ecstatic over the success of the Terrible Towel, but uneasy with the perception that he was making a financial killing. He donated his portion of the proceeds to several area charities, but in 1996 he signed over his copyright to the Allegheny Valley School.

Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope said the Terrible Towel had mystical powers.

"He came in, shut the door, came over and threw a sheaf of papers on my desk," remembered Champ, the school's CEO. "[He] said 'These are from my attorney. You are now the proud owner of the Terrible Towel. The Terrible Towel, it's yours, take care of it, protect it.'

"I was speechless. I immediately understood the importance of this. This was a very powerful symbol for Pittsburgh, all of Pittsburgh and he was turning it over to us."

Cope, as it turns out, had been visiting the school for years, along with his wife, Mildred, and daughter Elizabeth. The charismatic broadcaster who made a living crafting words had a son, Danny, who has never spoken a word in his life. He is autistic and for 27 years the Allegheny Valley School has been his home.

"Myron's love of his children was unsurpassed and he was so excited that he came up with the idea to donate it to the school and leave a legacy for his son," Champ said. "Not only his son, but all his son's friends and all the people we care for here at the Allegheny Valley School."

Daniel Torisky founded the Autism Society of Pittsburgh, along with Cope, with the $400 in royalties the Terrible Towel earned Cope in its first year.

"I don't want to sound preachy," Torisky said, "but [the towel is] a symbol of personal excellence, both in caring for people who are the most vulnerable citizens as well as caring for a pal who is helping you achieve an objective, like the Super Bowl.

"In the center of Pittsburgh is the Terrible Towel, believe it. This was the final meaning of his life -- talk about a legacy, pal. I believe he was aware that this would live beyond him."

Cope died last February. With snow falling outside Town Hall, more than 350 friends paid him tribute. They roared and waved the Terrible Towels that bore his name.

Cope's son Danny inspired him to leave the proceeds from the Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School.

To date, the Allegheny Valley School has received more than $2.5 million from sales of the Terrible Towel and related merchandise.

Many major sports franchises have tried at some point to market a similar towel, but none of them has had the staying power of the Terrible Towel. Why? Exquisite timing, early in the curve of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl success. Luck. The belief of a frenzied fan base. The towel, like Dorothy's ruby slippers in "The Wizard of Oz," has no inherent magical power. It's what you bring to the towel. The Steelers' fans who wave it have an enduring optimism that something good will come of it.

And what of those who disrespect the towel? History is littered with casualties. In 2005, Cincinnati receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh wiped his feet with a Terrible Towel after scoring a touchdown. The Bengals won the game, but the Steelers extracted their revenge, beating Cincinnati in the playoffs during their road to Super Bowl XL. After Ravens receiver Derrick Mason jumped on the towel before a September 2008 matchup, Baltimore lost all three of its games against Pittsburgh.

The Steelers' record in the 43-plus years before the towel is 230-299-20 (.435), with only four playoff victories and one Super Bowl. In the 33-plus years after the Terrible Towel was conceived it's 335-222-1 (.601), with 24 playoff victories and four Super Bowls. Pittsburgh has a chance to win an NFL-record sixth here in Tampa.

"The stadium will be moving," Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "So many towels going around, you know, they're twirling in a circle motion. It's crazy."

Swann is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is an accomplished broadcaster. He was the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania last year. But for some Steelers fans, he will be best remembered for bringing the Terrible Towel to life at Three Rivers Stadium.

"There is only one Terrible Towel for any team in the National Football League," Swann said. "Anyone who is waving any other color, means nothing. It's just one Terrible Towel."


Cool Never Gets Old

Miles Davis' Kind of Blue turns 50 this year. To commemorate one of the coolest albums in recorded history, Sony is issuing a two-CD box set with a DVD, book, some vinyl, and "snippets of studio chatter". Ashley Kahn has written the liner notes, which NPR has excerpted on its site.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A: 'Cause I Felt Like It, Motherfather!

Q: Bill, why the hell did you post this long-ass Frank Zappa?! video on Tome?!


Monday, January 26, 2009

The Arts Tsar

One can only imagine the first week of any President's administration as the opening scene of The Godfather. Last week, I could see President Obama sitting in the Oval Office with cotton stuffed in his cheeks with consigliere Rahm Emmanuel off in the corner giving his creepily silent "Yea" or "Nay" as supplicants approach asking for everything from the legalization of marijuana to boosting the DoD's budget.

Of course, Don Corleone, being a fictional Mafia boss, did not have to deal with the court of public opinion nor his interlocutors courting said court. Last week, with Obama barely able to warm his new seat, Quincy Jones became head jester for what I consider one of the most ridiculous causes I've heard so far (after all, don't we have two wars and an economy in the shitter?): that of Secretary of the Arts.

Apparently, Sir Quincy has been outraged over our present-day teenagers' inability to tell him who Duke Ellington and John Coltrane were. His ruffles ruffled, Jones started an on-line campaign for a federal Department of the Arts. He then took himself and his collected 150,000 electronic signatures and came to Washington buzzing his new brainchild into the ears of any who would listen.

As a novelist, I wholeheartedly support the encouraging of American arts. Hell, I'd even take a Republican-led tax-cut initiative to help us artists. (Seriously, do the Republicans think tax cuts are the remedy for everything? Like would they treat a gunshot wound with a 30 percent reduction in capital gains taxes?) I feel this corporatized drive to maximize profits within the arts has left our country's culture somewhat lacking. In popular music, we haven't had a scene-shifting new genre since grunge almost 20 years ago; house is about 25-years-old; and hip-hop is looking at 35. Hollywood, in a constant search for bankable hits, will remake anything--old TV shows, comic books, old Hollywood hits and flops, amusement park rides, you name it. Broadway has turned so many movies into musicals I'm waiting for them to stage Dude, Where's My Car? We black authors have been ghettoized into producing "ghetto lit" almost exclusively. And I'm still waiting for us Gen X'ers to produce our own Morrison or Hemingway or Scorsese, for that matter.

But I don't see how a Secretary of the Arts would remedy any of that. What exactly would SoA, if created, actually accomplish? Would her/his weekly briefings to the President ignite an international crisis within the University of Iowa's MFA program? Would it lead to the strategic bombing of the Indian subcontinent and its diaspora so they stop producing Booker Prize winners? Would federal agents flood the Mississippi delta and the Appalachian Mountains with guitars and banjos to insure that the blues and old-timey live on? Would there be molding clay in every pot? A piano in every parlor? Would Serranoan agents give each child coffee, a jar, and a crucifix to enliven the controversial artist's legacy?

I think Jones tipped his hand with his intentions for the Cabinet position with his invoking the names of the Duke and Trane. What he and the Ken Burnses and Wynton Marsalises of the world wish to do is elevate jazz as "America's Classical music." It's an annoying trend--if well-intentioned. Just because these men know that "serious," white cultural connoisseurs with their serious, white money laud Classical music, they chase after that moniker for the music they love best. But jazz--and all its subgenres--is jazz. Classical--and all its subgenres--is Classical. Jazz is great in its own right. Why try to mix the two? They have very little in common, and I feel this shotgun, dialectical "Me, too" marriage only diminishes jazz's greatness.

My diatribe aside, it shows that Jones doesn't really want to promote American art to this country or the world. He really wants to promote his art. After all, why isn't it equally disheartening that these kids don't know who Bill Monroe and Kool Herc are? If Jones were to get his Cabinet Secretary position or even a lesser "Arts Tsar," he would more than likely give state sanction to the art he loves. Jazz would definitely be elevated to what he feels is its rightful place, "America's Classical music." Perhaps he would branch out and give blessings and federal funds to the Harlem Renaissance's elevation. His replacement may be a modern art lover, and we would have nationwide celebrations of Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell. Maybe the next one will celebrate the life and art of Sam Bush. Either way you slice it, the SoA or Arts Tsar would sooner or later codify an official "American Art" to be celebrated and imitated nationwide in order to gain legitimacy and/or federal financing. The end result could be just as suffocating as the corporate-controlled media we have today (television being the sole bright light where corporate competition is actually improving the art). Either remedy turns into a malady in the eyes of truly innovative artists--no matter the genre.

Instead, if Jones, who has more money than God, really wants to promote American arts and culture, why doesn't he take some of that moolah and create private/public ventures in our nation's schools to do just that? If he's really worried about the state of American music, why doesn't he fund primary- and secondary-school music programs? After all, if it hadn't been for such programs in the past, with those poor children learning the art of the European marching band, would we have ever had jazz or funk? Not only would his maligned teenagers learn of the genius of Duke and Trane, but think of the new music they will ultimately create.

Jones and his Hollywood horde could fund extracurricular drama programs. They could hire local, starving actors come in and train aspiring or simply curious students in week-long, quarterly drama workshops. They could do the same for the visual and material arts. Local writers could also chip in to promote their craft. Other philanthropic media moguls could open up middle-school "news stations" to teach kids what that takes to produce.

Writers could also lobby to come up with better literature syllabi for high school readers. I've wanted to be a writer since I was nine-years-old, and yet, even I found high school literature classes a bore at best and mostly torture. High schoolers become totally divorced from literature as entertainment or self-edification while being tortured with works from Hardy and the like--which are completely irrelevant to their own situation. Of coure, finding more relevant reading for teens is fraught with disaster in a land where parents want to burn Harry Potter for teaching witchcraft. I would love to give every teenager Sapphire's Push, but I'm sure the story of a pregnant, molested, AIDS-infected teenager would cause a putsch in any local high school. However, I feel the effort to find such material would be worth it and pay dividends well into the future.

While I am generally not a fan of such "private-public" ventures, it seems to me that Jones and his ilk could better serve our arts and culture by doing something like this (since our own schools seem to have mostly given up) as opposed to erecting a federally-sanctioned "American Art." Not only would it promote a more proper respect for our culture's past, but it would also bolster a future, more vibrant art than we find ourselves with today.

The Arts Tsar--much as her/his corporate cousin does currently--would only create an American, Stalinized, "Capitalist-Realist" art that would codify conformity and thwart innovation. We need a more "bottom-up" approach to revitalize the culture. Jazz was born in brothels; hip-hop in Bronx projects; country in the Scots-Irish hills of Appalachia. That is American art. That is our culture. Not some government official telling us what is "Art" from on-high.


Nerd Crush Alert!!!

I'll confess that I've had a thing for incoming UN Ambassador Dr. Susan Elizabeth Rice for damned near a decade. Smart and sexy and fully knowledgeable of her weapons systems, she's everything a nerd like me could ask for. I mean, seriously, do argula go with that protein shake?

[Author's Note: The author is trying to lust more healthy these days.]

But when The Black Snob posted the photos from the New York Times Magazine's Obama staff shoot, I know have to ask myself: Is there room for both Rice and the new Domestic Policy Council Director, Melody Barnes, in my heart?

I can't wait 'til the Big Brother's White House comes out with a calendar, or a Swimsuit Issue, or something!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cold Case: The Hip-Hop Sagas

In an attempt to expand their audience beyond the "old white people" demographic, CBS has announced a bold new programming decision for the upcoming May Sweeps. According to network executives, CBS's hit crime procedural, Cold Case will become a reality show of sorts, tackling the real-life murders of some of hip-hop's preeminent martyrs. Kathryn Morris and other cast members will take the skills learned from playing homicide detectives for the series and apply them to the actual murders of rappers and DJs who have been slain and whose murders remain unsolved. "It's hard to believe that authorities have yet to solve these murders," said Morris in a recent interview. "As a citizen, as an American, I feel it is my duty to bring these murderers to justice. That is what the show is about. That is what this country is about." CBS executives, who knew hardly anything of these murders nor the music, are still enthusiastic about the ratings these reality-based episodes can bring. Many within the hip-hop community are "ecstatic." Noted "hip-hop activist" and journalist, Harry Allen (also known as "the Media Assassin"), says, "It's about damned time somebody do something about this bullshit."

Planned Cold Case Episodes:

Sunday, May 3--Lamont "Big L" Coleman
On February 15, 1999, this noted Harlem rapper was gunned down just blocks away from the apartments in which he grew up. It had been rumored that Coleman was just about to sign with Roc-A-Fella just weeks before he died. Though a childhood friend, Gerard Woodley, was charged with Coleman's murder, he was later released. Woodley is currently serving time in prison on federal gun charges.

Sunday, May 10--Jason William "Jam Master Jay" Mizell
Legendary, pioneer rap DJ of Run-DMC, Jason William "Jam Master Jay" Mizell was shot and killed on October 30, 2002, in a Merrick Boulevard recording studio in Queens, New York. Twenty-three-year old, Urieco Rincon, was also shot in the ankle during the incident. Ronald "Tenad" Washington was named as an accomplice in the murder by federal prosecutors back in April 2007. They had also suspected Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, a convicted drug dealer and friend of Murder, Inc., heads Irv and Chris Gotti. Most promising has been Washington, though, who's also suspected for the murder of a former Tupac Shakur associate, Randy Walker, in 1995. Neither have gone to court, yet, and many are skeptical. As Washington himself has put it: “They want to blame me for all the blood in rap."

Sunday, May 17 and Sunday, May 24--Pac and Biggie
Was the U.S. Federal government really and truly behind the September 6, 1996, assassination of Tupac Amaru "2Pac" Shakur and the March 9, 1997, assassination of Christopher George "Notorious B.I.G." Latore Wallace? In this two-part episode, Kathryn Morris and Crew dig deep, interview previously reluctant witnesses, go through previously classified government documents, and grill CIA, FBI, ATF, and FDA agents to finally get to the truth the government doesn't want you to hear.

Sunday, May 31--The Black-Eyed Peas
Cold Case: The Hip-Hop Sagas finally answers the burning question that has been plaguing hip-hop heads since 2003: Did Stacy Ann "Fergie" Ferguson really and truly kill William James "" Adams, Jr., Allen "" Pineda, and Jaime "Taboo" Gomez, more popularly known as The Black-Eyed Peas?


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Waterboarding Video of the Day


Oh Great

This morning, while head-nodding to the Dennis Coffey classic Black Belt Jones soundtrack, Poohbutt decided that she loves Daddy's All-Bran. Yes, it was cute. However, I'm thinking someone is about to earn her nickname later today.

That's cool. I know how to handle it.

Hey, whatever happened to Jim Kelly, anyway?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Guess Who's a Stillers Fan, Yall!

I knew I liked this brother for a reason. Dan Rooney apparently has other reasons. However, it's great knowing that my Steelers have White House backing for the upcoming Super Bowl.

But the Big Brother won't be alone. It's looking like all of our nation's capital will be cheering for the Black and Gold!

David Fleming has a great article on on whether or not the Steelers are the greatest franchise in sports. You can only guess on how I would answer that question.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

W Made Me Vote--RNC Made Me a Democrat

According to family lore, I was practically born political. Little William, all of four years of age, as my father likes to brag, stood up before his dad's business school students and proudly proclaimed, "They're gonna 'peach Nixon away!"

For the next 18 years, I was a staunch Democrat. I vaguely remember loving the election results in 1976. I wanted Kennedy to beat Carter and then wanted him to step down because he was making it too easy for Reagan. I was disgusted all throughout the Reagan/Bush years. I was even depressed that the 1988 Pennsylvania primary happened five days before I reached my majority, and I would never be able to vote for Jesse.

As a lifelong Dem, I should've been ecstatic over Clinton, but I wasn't. I was disgusted. Just the year before I was canvassing for the party, going door-to-door, to drum up support for what ultimately became the Family and Medical Leave Bill. I'd gone out of my way to make sure Harris Wofford beat Dick Thornburg for the PA Senate seat. But by '92, Rodney King and the riots had happened. I just couldn't believe in the American Experiment any longer, and nothing Clinton could say would make me think differently. I did vote for Carol Mosely Braun for Senate, though, and Lenora Fulani for Prez. that year. But that was it. I didn't want to vote again.

I'd become a Leftist, an anarchist to be more exact (don't laugh). I didn't want to vote anymore. I didn't want to give my stamp of approval to a system I no longer believed in. And, while I believed there were some philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans, I didn't think those differences were fundamental. They still believed in the System. It was chicken or beef with them--no vegetarian option in sight. And I had a big beef with a country that allowed Rodney Kings, Desert Storms, death penalties, etc., to exist. Things had to change, and our system was not built for the fundamental changes I wanted. In fact, I thought the system was built so that one, elected official couldn't make that much of a difference in how this country was run.

W. changed all that. Leftist Bill, of course, greeted his "election" with self-satisfied smugness. While the true believers screeched that the election "proved" that "every vote counts," 2000 actually proved quite the opposite. When all was said and done, Justices Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, O'Connor, and Kennedy had the only votes that truly mattered in a country of over 250 million people. Quite the opposite of the Democracy we've been taught to value.

2000 seems like a lifetime ago. I was smug in my own ignorance, I soon came to realize. I thought Bush was just a harmless, little savant who'd be gone in four years. Then 9/11 happened, and everything changed. I knee-jerked and was against the invasion of Afghanistan until I came to realize that every elected official in the history of the world would've invaded. It was the PATRIOT Act, the mass deportations, GITMO, FISA, all of it, that made me realize how dangerous the Bush Babee truly was.

The Iraq invasion put me over the top. Not only did I not believe the spiel nor did I disagree and protest the war, but that was one place where I could point to where it actually did matter who we had elected to the Presidency. Al Gore never would've ousted Saddam. No other elected official would've dared to get us into this elective war. None of them would've casually thrown out 30 years of military policy and committed our armed forces to a long, drawn-out war of occupation. No, this was personal for Bush, and if he'd have lost the Supreme Court vote, we never would've been bogged down in Mesopotamia.

The man had to be stopped. W. had to go. So, I registered to vote and, for the first time in 12 years, I did vote. For Kerry. And nothing depressed me more than W.'s re-election.

When 2008 rolled around, I figured I'd vote for the Dem who eventually won the nomination. I just knew that I didn't want the GOP in the White House again. When the primaries started, I only cared as a political junkie. I'm into the race horse, too, but I didn't feel personally invested.

I figured, despite common wisdom, Hillary would not win because of her baggage and lack of a (scrotal) sack. I thought Richardson was the most qualified, but America wasn't ready for a Latino POTUS. I liked Obama enough, but I thought he was a flash in the pan, someone white folks liked because he made them feel better about themselves ("See, I'm not racist--I like Barack Obama"). I just couldn't take the brother seriously. I figured, when the rubber hit the road and all those white people had to pull the lever, they'd ultimately go with the white guy, and the cutest white guy around was John Edwards.

But then Iowa happened, and I had to change my thinking. I mean, if all those lillies of the cornfields voted for the black man, I had to take Obama seriously.

Unfortunately, the Clintons came to the same conclusion. The attack was on, and it was dirty. There was Hillary belittling MLK and lauding LBJ for the Civil Rights movement (while I always marvel at LBJ's courage in pushing the legislation through, knowing his party would forever lose the "Solid South," let's be honest: LBJ died of old age; MLK, from a bullet), and then Bill totally discounted the black vote (after we vigorously supported him through thick and thin) saying "of course" we'd vote for Obama because he was black--never caring to admit that we black automatons didn't vote for Al Sharpton nor Carol Mosely Braun during their Presidential runs nor that we'd never support Alan Keyes. Our former Civil Rights heroes exposed themselves for chitlin'-eatin' table-scrappers perfectly willing to attack one of their own for the good of the almighty white folk. Andrew Young came out saying that Obama wasn't black, that Bill Clinton was blacker than him, and, in fact, Bill has "slept with more black women than Barack" (yeah, so did Strom Thurmond and Thomas Jefferson, what exactly was your point, Andy?). Then John Lewis was on The News Hour claiming that Obama was actually running a racist campaign. And I don't even want to talk about all the anti-Muslim shit the Clinton campaign pulled.

I watched and listened to all this in horror with RNC (Poohbutt's initials) in my arms. I can't speak for every black parent, but I was raised to believe that you fight the good fight, the right fight, in the hopes that those who come after you won't have to fight it. That you cannot end racism, maybe racism will never end, but you've got to do what you can do to chip away at its armor. That's what the generations before you--through the Middle Passages, through slavery and Jim Crow, through all of it--have done for you, and that's what you must do for your own children. I don't know how much I've actually done, but I had a child now. And there I was--with her and bottle in hand--watching Obama going through some of the same things I went through growing up writ large: attacks from blacks and whites for being too black, not black enough, a black radical, a sell-out, being all about race, not enough about race, of constantly using the Race Card. And I kept thinking, "This shit has got to stop."

So, for RNC and her future, I did what I thought I'd never do: I registered to vote as a Democrat (Maryland has closed primaries), and, because of my baby girl, I voted for Barack Obama. For her, I voted, I blogged, and while we were out campaigning for her grandfather, I (foolishly?) hoped that those white Virginian voters would look down at my little brown girl, while talking politics, and perhaps think that Obama might not be so bad, after all. Of course, none of this was enough nor decisive nor influential, but I did what I could.

And now, here we are, Inauguration Day. Barack Obama is now the 44th President of the United States (five minutes late--in true, black fashion). I don't know what all that means. None of us will for years to come. Perhaps we'll never know. I do know that a lot of my views of my country have definitely been changed forever. I know watching all the pomp and circumstance on the television while Poohbutt plays innocently with her blocks, I keep finding myself choking up. I know for the first time watching one of these things, I really and truly feel proud to be an American.

Having seen Lester Holt and Michael Eric Dyson choke up after speaking on NBC, I know I am not alone in this. I keep smiling, I keep choking up, I keep crying and holding my daughter and kissing the hell out of her chubby, little cheeks. I can't help thinking that this is the greatest event I've ever witnessed, and I feel blessed to be sharing it with her. I'm so glad my parents are around to see this. I wish my grandparents were, my great-grandparents. I wish that every African who survived and died during the Middle Passages could see this, every black person who suffered and died these past 400 years of oppression and humiliation could sit down and take this all in.

If somehow they can, I wonder what they're thinking. I wonder if they feel the pride I do at this very moment. I wonder if their eyes are also filled with tears of joy and honor.

Poohbutt has no clue why I'm crying right now. And nothing makes me happier than knowing that she will never exactly understand why her father was crying on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. She'll never know why I'll so fervently keep preaching to her, "You can be whatever you want to be in this world." She'll never understand that, on this beautiful day, I could say those words and actually believe them--unlike all the black parents before me. And she'll never, ever, ever quite get her old man and his hearty laugh when she screws up her face and rolls her eyes, and huffs, "Yeah, yeah, Dad. First black President. Whatever."

God, how I love this day!

[Author's Note: This, ironically, is my 100th post on Tome. Thank you, everyone for supporting and sticking with me. I hope we can continue to share. Keep on keeping on!]


Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Morning Mindfuck

While traveling down to Virginia to watch the Steeler game with some friends, the resonator pipe fell off our '97 Money Pit. I ended up having to spend the night at my friend, Flaco's house, getting up in the morning, and looking for a garage.

Last night, after that beautiful, beautiful Steeler game, Flaco and I stayed up for a little bit talking about politics--like we've done for decades now. Taking care of a baby all the time, I can generally only talk in stammers and starts or full-on rants around other adults. Last night, I was ranting about the different stimulus packages being proposed, passed, pissed down our throats.

Aside from the proposed tax cuts, the entire idea of "shovel-ready" projects has really been baffling me. With the amount of money they're talking about spending, I don't understand why they have to be in such a hurry. If the point of this stimulus (besides getting people working) is to jump us into this "green economy," then shouldn't every project point us towards this "economy of the future"? I mean, if a bunch of these shovel-ready projects are nothing but expanding roads or fixing potholes, don't they run counter to the very idea of jump-starting us into the future? As I told Flaco, I am all for this idea. I think in a few years, there's going to be steep competition for natural resources, and the further we can extricate ourselves from that competition, the better. Also, our moving ahead with solar, wind, etc., will hopefully weaken the Saudi Arabias and Irans in the world. Look at how Russia's been freezing out the rest of Europe by withholding their natural gas--all because they want to teach Ukraine a lesson. Who needs that crap? So, I say go ahead, give us this "green economy," give us the "America of the future." But don't go rushing on, full-steam ahead, just to spend money and look like you're doing something. If the project doesn't fulfill this environmentalist promise, don't friggin' do it!

As you can see, I can go on.

Well, anyway, this morning, I drove around NOVA looking for a garage that would weld my resonator pipe back on. Of course, you might as well try looking for someone to give you their last kidney. ("But, Mr. Campbell, if we fix your resonator pipe, we can only charge you $75 in labor. If we make you replace the resonator pipe, we can mark up that pipe and the labor and charge you well over $300. Do you see where I'm coming from?") During my quixotic search, I listened to NPR over the booming engine and scraping tailpipe. I could not believe what I was hearing. It sounded as though someone taped my little rant verbatim and were replaying it. Except it wasn't me on the radio. It definitely wasn't any House Democrat nor Republican.

It was Newt Gingrich.

I swear to God, I don't know what's happened to me. I used to be all radical, and shit. I used to be all Black Power--listening to X Clan, reading Malcolm X, eating bean pies. I used to be an anarchist. I voted for Lenora Fulani in '92 because I thought the Republicans and Dems were full of it. Then I refused to vote for years because I thought the whole system was full of it and I didn't want to give my seal of approval. I've read my Lenin and Trotsky and Fanon and Diop and Foucault and Bakunin. I've marched to free Mumia. I've pamphleteered. I've protested war and homelessness. I've worked for homeless causes and in inner-city public schools....

All this to only turn around and sound like Newt Gingrich?

Newt ... Gingrich?!

... shit ...

I cried all the way to the next garage--tailpipe scraping the road.


What More Can I Say?

Oh yeah:

Told ya so!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Flight of the Conchords Is Back!!!

All right, I don't have cable. So I pretty much miss everything on TV. However, back in '07, while I was traveling all over the place on the Booty Novel tour, I fell absolutely in love with Flight of the Conchords. In the world of quirky television, this has got to be one of the quirkiest. I absolutely love it! Tonight, Bret and Jemaine are back! Praise Jesus! I can't wait for the DVD.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Paying the Bills

Oh, crap.

"Bill! ¿Que honda, mi perro?"

Note to Self: Find a new bar.

"Not too much, Bill. Guess you're hiding out, eh?"

He plops down on the bar stool next to mine. Oddly enough, he's looking much better than the last time I saw him. Somehow fitter? Haler? Happy? Is that Armani?

"From what?" he asks, jovially.


I roll my eyes--maybe hiss, too. It's hard to say. He ignores me and raises a finger to the bartender.

"A Tecate and a shot of Patrón for me."

"That's pretty expensive," I mumble.

He looks at me. "No," he corrects, "make that a Negro Modelo."


"And a Red Stripe for my friend. Hell, give him a shot, too."

"Thanks, Bill, but that's not necessary."

"What is, Bill?"

"Oh, I don't know," I shrug, "coming clean to the Feds."

Bill laughs heartily. Funny, when I tell a joke, you can hear a pin drop; but when I'm deadly serious, the room explodes in laughter. The bartender puts down our drinks.

"Ooh," Bill coos, "how about that lovely corned beef and potatoes?"

"They're out," I damn-near scream. The bartender gives me a queer look. "They're out."

"Yeah. We're ... uh ... out."

"Maybe I should go back to the kitchen, talk to mi hermana, see what she can rustle up for her Mexican brother."

"She's gone, quit," I say, hurriedly. I just want him gone. "The new cook's Russian. All she can make is pork."

"Whatever," the bartender sighs, and walks away.

"That's no problem, Bill. I love pork."

"So, I've heard."

Bill gives me a quizzical look. "What's the problem, Bill? I thought we--I thought--you know--I thought we'd made a connection. You wrote some really nice things about me in Tome."

"You read that?"

"Well ... one of my aides ..."

"Of course."

"So then, what's the problem, Bill?"

"Well, Bill," I exhale deeply. "You are under federal investigation for corruption."

"Oh, that," Bill pee-shaws. "These things happen."

"Pay-to-play happens?"

"That's Blago. Not me."


"Do they have me on tape?"

I look at him. Incredulous.

"No," he whispers, harshly, "do they? What have you heard?"

"Dude, I take care of Poohbutt all day. I don't hear shit."

"Oh yeah," Bill chuckles. "'Talkin' Shit ... Literally.' That was funny--or, so my aide says."

"Some company gives your PAC a couple grand, so you, Governor, give them a fat million-dollar contract?!"

"You're oversimplifying things," Bill says, stiffly.

"Damnit, Bill. What happened to-" I start whining mockingly- "I served 14 years in Congress. I was deputy minority whip? I met with Saddam and Slobadan and the Sudanese?' What the hell happened to Blair, Jo, and Tootie?!"

"Ahhh, Tootie--"

"What the fuck happened to Vanessa del Rio, nigga?!"

Someone gasps. Bill jerks back.

"Oooh ... ahhh," I stammer. "Did I just say that? I'm sorry. I've been watching a lot of Boondocks lately." I inhale ... exhale. "It's just that--well--now more tha--why the quick buck, Bill? Just why?"

Before he can respond, there's a commotion at the door. We all turn. A well-tailored, well-muscled, well-armed phalanx of crew cuts, sunglasses, lapel pins, and funny, white ear-wires quick-step into the bar. Between them flows a river of Saudi robes. Suddenly, the place reeks of petrodollars. On the next wave of visitors comes a hearty, twanged laugh. The entire bar gasps.


He and his Saudi/Secret Service entourage head directly to us. Immediately, thoughts of Rodney King flash through my mind. Old habits die hard. I cringe when this Bill slaps me and the other Bill on our backs. I hope someone's getting this on their camera-phone.

"Ha, ha," he chuckles. "Bill ... Bill."


"Uh ... Bill?" I ask.

"A round on me! For everybody in the hooooouuuuuusssse!" the new Bill trumpets.

The crowd cheers. The bartender gets to work. New Bill gives me a deep, penetrating look. Damn, he's creeping me out. He does have charisma. Suddenly, I want to find a cigar and a little, blue dress.

"Now, Bill," he says to me, "don't be so hard on my boy, Bill, here. He's a good man, a fine politician, a fine Latino politician--a key demographic, you know."

"Oh, I know."

"One day he'll make a fine Commerce Secretary when this all blows over and, who knows, maybe one day, a fine President. Insha'allah."

The Saudis give a crude chuckle.

"Besides," Bill continues. "I taught the man everything he knows."

I give Bill a heated glare. He shrugs uncomfortably. 'Nuff said.

"Now, I'm off to go 'make a speech,'" Bill concludes. "See ya in the funny papers!"

Bill, the Secret Service, and the Saudis flow out of the bar. I watch, dumbfounded. The bartender slaps the tab down before me.

"That'll be $247.82."

"He didn't pay?!" I gasp.

The bartender shrugs.

Bill shrugs.

"We're always paying for what that man does."


Thursday, January 15, 2009

I've Got a Dee-sease

All right, I'm gonna try to stop being such a rabid Steeler fan, but penicillin doesn't work on this stuff. I must have it bad, though. This video's got me lovin' a Styx song. Geez.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Showin' They Asses Award -- January 2009 Edition

Yeah, a lot of us out there just handed the Democrats a sweeping victory in the hopes that they'd "change the way things are done in Washington." We had high hopes that things would indeed change and that the quagmire we find ourselves in would be drained, and America would have a brighter tomorrow.

Though not a big fan of the Democrats myself (since I worked for them back in '91), I too am hopeful, but this last Rod Blagojevic/Roland Burris fiasco has got me more than a little concerned. The Dems knew they didn't have a leg to stand on, knew they were going to seat the brother in the Senate; yet it seems that they tripped over each other to show their asses and show themselves to be asses during the whole debacle.

Thank goodness, it'll all be over tomorrow. Burris will be getting Obama's Senate seat. The whole episode was political theater at its worst. We all knew the eventual outcome but were forced to watch the absurdist drama to the bitter end. The whole thing deserves a Tony, but all we've got here at Tome is the Showin' They Asses Award.

I'm hoping that this prestigious honor will not be handed out on a monthly basis. But one's gotta wonder about these Democrats. Are they really going to squander the historical opportunity America has given them? Are they just going to piss it all away, drive up the deficit, and have us all scrambling for good, hard currency--you know, the yuan?

It's hard to say, but now I'm starting to understand why the Dems have chosen the animal they have for their mascot.

Here were the finalists for the Showin' They Asses Award for January 2009:

5. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White
First, Brother Jesse here acts all high-and-mighty, defiant in the face of the evil, evil Governor. He could not "in good conscience" sign off on any appointment made by said evil, evil guy. Then Harry Reid and those mighty, mighty Senators hide behind White's skirts, saying that Burris' credentials needed Blago's and the Secretary of State's signatures. Suddenly, White's the victim in all this. "They all said that he should stand down and that no one should accept his appointment. . . [Now] they leave me holding the bag . . . I've been put in a wheelchair and thrown down four flights of stairs." Then he was like, why are you looking at me? They don't need my signature. It's mainly ceremony, anyway. OK, while the Illinois Supreme Court did concur with this wuss tactic, if your signature didn't mean anything why didn't you just sign off in the first place? Why couldn't you just be the man of principle you were passing yourself off to be instead of just passing the buck?

4. Gov. Rod Blagojevich
I kinda hate doggin' the man. I've already made the obligatory jokes about his hair, and he has enough problems as it is. Besides, though he's corrupt yadda yadda, I kinda like how he gave the ultimate Up Yours to his national party. The man will not go without a fight. Federal corruption charges be damned! And this man fights dirty. Knowing damned well why the Senate didn't want to seat Burris, you played that funky race card, white boy with such ease and deadly accuracy, they need to start calling you Bullseye. Accusing Reid of racism, saying he rejected all your suggested black candidates and would only accept the white ones, left the Senate Majority Leader utterly eviscerated. He was left stammering and stuttering on Meet the Press: "Jesse Jackson Jr. is somebody that I think would be a good senator. And for Blagojevich to start throwing out these names of people who I wanted and didn't want ... He's making it up." As I said, I don't know whether to laud you or vilify you, but you definitely showed your ass, Corruptissus Maximus.

3. US Congressman Bobby Rush
In this "post-racial" world, this ex-Panther wanted to show that that ol' Race Dog still had some bite. And Rush bit the big one on Day 1: "Let me just remind you that there presently is no African-American in the U.S. Senate. I will ask you to not hang and lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer. I don't think that anyone -- any U.S. senator who's sitting in the Senate right now -- wants to go on record to deny one African-American for being seated in the U.S. Senate." On Day 2, the damned mutt went rabid with Rush comparing Reid to such legendary racists and anti-integrationists Orval Faubus, George Wallace and Bull Connor.

And then he went even further on Larry King talking about how there are 4 Latinos, 2 Asians, 11 women, and a gotdamned schnauzer in the US Senate, yet no bruthas! I think he went on to call King "honky," I'm not sure. Funny, he never once mentioned the corruption charges against Blago, about how he's on tape trying to sell the Senate seat, and how that might cast some sort of cloud over Burris' legitimacy. Nope, it was all about race. Who needs new tricks when you still think the old ones work so well?

(Author's Note: OK, the above pictures aren't actually of the Chicago congressman Bobby Rush, but the old blues man, Bobby Rush, performing in Chicago. It's just that the picture makes me wonder why they give rappers so much shit. That, and what exactly did he want the young woman's ass to say?)

2. Sen. Harry Reid
Wow, talk about playing yourself for an ass. Just like Brutha Jesse above, you were trying to be all high-and-mighty, etc. You were trying to act like this was all a matter of justice and respect for the law and anti-corruption. But nobody was fooled. You weren't being the paragon of virtue. You just didn't want to lose that Senate seat to Republicans in 2010. Now, you just look like an ass. Blago painted you as a racist who would never accept a black man as a fellow Senator. You painted yourself as a racist, denying Burris entrance into the Senate. You might as well just yelled out, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!!!"

And the Winner Is....

Roland Burris

Look, I was raised right. I want to respect my older generation. I want to give them their propers. We owe them a lot. If it weren't for brothers like Roland Burris, we wouldn't have a Barack Obama today.

But, damn, man, show some pride. I know you wanted to be a US Senator "in the worst way." Did you actually have to go that route, though? That whole Hoke bullshit you pulled in front of the Senate: "Gee, Miss Daisy, I don' rightly knows why dem mean ole white folkses wudn't let me in. I din't do nuffim." I mean, shit, Stepin Fetchit died in 1985, blood! And to let Blagojevich, The Man use you so shamelessly ... I just ... I ... I ...

Here, just take the award. You deserve it.


Go Steelers!!!


Monday, January 12, 2009

In-Law Black-and-Gold-Out

You all may remember my Super Bowl prediction. You may also remember my good-natured fake rivalry with my Eagles-loving in-laws. Now, we've come close in 2004 with this thing actually being real. The Steelers and Eagles were in their respective conference's championship, one ass-whipping away from the Super Bowl. The Steelers, however, once again ran into the Patriots' dynasty and got their asses stomped. It sucked as a Steeler fan but was good for family harmony. We were all to spend Super Bowl Sunday in Taipei. It could've gotten really ugly.

But now it's looking like it may actually happen. We may, for the first time in NFL history, have a Turnpike Super Bowl. What is a brother to do?

The Eagles seem to have a much easier road. They have to go to Arizona to face the Cardinals, whom they plucked for Thanksgiving dinner. The Cards are a much better team. Kurt Warner's making it feel good again to be 38. Larry Fitzgerald (a Pitt alum, by the way) is simply a god. You can double- and triple-team him, and he'll still get the ball. And Anquan Boldin's looking like he'll be healthy to line up on the other side. Philly's going to have its hands full trying to stop the air attack. And Edgerrin James suddenly thinks he's still a premier running back.

Despite this and Arizona's defense suddenly earning its paycheck, I can't see Donovan and his Eagles losing this one. It's almost guaranteed that they'll be playing for the Vince Trophy.

The Steelers, on the other hand, have a much harder row to hoe. Sure, they've swept the Ravens during the regular season; but each game was a bloodbath, and the Steelers eked wins both times (a GW FG in OT the first game, and a GW TD with less than a minute remaining in the second). It was less of a sweep than a painstaking picking-up of each, individual piece of lint off the floor.

That Ravens defense is only second to ours, and they're insane. I mean, Ray Lewis has killed two people already. There's no telling what he'll do to get back to a Super Bowl before he retires. Fortunately for us, three starters (Leonhard, Rolle, and Suggs) will be out, but nothing stops the Raven D from swarming. They'll hardly be a pushover, and you've got to be careful anytime Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are on the field.

The other thing going in our favor is that Bal'mer has a rookie QB. History's against them. I'm thinking Joe Flacco is the real deal, but Big Ben went 13-0 during the regular season in his rookie year and still didn't make it to the Super Bowl. It'd definitely be a miracle if Flacco can lead the Ravens to the Trophy this year. But, then again, it was against 30 years of US foreign policy to conduct a war of occupation. History--like rules--is made to be broken.

Now, if all this stuff actually happens, and Pittsburgh and Philly fight for that Super Bowl ring (which would be the Steelers' sixth, by the way--the Eagles' first), this family is going to be in a lot of trouble. Nobody's going to be talking; grudges will last long; there could be blood.

Hey, I can respect the Eagles. I actually would like to see Donovan win a Super Bowl ring and tell those Philly fans where they can put it. But not on our backs!

Besides, family only goes but so deep. This is the Steelers, we're talkin' 'bout here! If the two PA teams actually do meet, my in-laws and I will probably have to agree to never talk about whatever happens in the game or just to never see each other ever again. Either way...



Friday, January 9, 2009

The BEPpy Memorandum: "Doing What We Are Trained to Do"

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Fraternal Order of Police:

My fellow officers, in light of the tragic, fatal, New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Juliuss Grant, III, on a Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority (BART) train platform, I feel it is my duty to address all of you to remind us as to why we took this job in the first place.

Though there are numerous videos of the incident, we do not fully know all that occurred that fateful day. Let it be know, though they're mere transit police, they have the full support of the F.O.P. We are with these victims in mind, spirit, and legal counsel, and we will vigorously defend them against the liberal and racial forces that do not understand that these brave,
transit officers were merely "doing what they are trained to do." However, are we in the Fraternal Order still doing ours?

In 1938, when J. Edgar Hoover first tasked this nation's local law enforcement with the Black Extermination Program (BEPpy) and the killing of unarmed black men, he was met with nothing but mass skepticism. Could we really accomplish what slavery and Jim Crow had failed to do? Was it possible? However, with our brethren in the South, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York in the lead, BEPpy quickly became a success studied the world over. It was truly the Golden Age of American law enforcement.

But with the
Miranda ruling and the rise of the Civil Rights movement and the post-Watergate liberal media, BEPpy and we police have suffered some dramatic setbacks. Our homicide rates have fallen precipitously--falling well short of annual quotas and way far behind the rates in which African-American males kill each other. After the Rodney King riots, it's almost as though BEPpy has been erased from our training manuals. If it were not for the brave work of Giuliani/Bloomberg's NYPD, I don't know where we would be. They're constant use of brutal force and their constant scientific inquiries (with various choke holds, pepper spray, Tasers, and discovering, with Abner Louima, that sodomizing an African with a plunger is indeed not fatal as previously believed) should be commended and emulated.

The BEPpy Program has fallen into a state of serious disrepair. And we of the Fraternal Order should be ashamed that it has been left to
transit cops! to carry out the duties tasked to us. Their lack of training is all to evident in the video [see below] and should remind us that the Black Extermination Program should be left to trained professionals.

Therefore, I implore you to once again go over the original Hoover edict [attached] and to go back out there to do your job. That great man told us to kill unarmed black men. So, we must search them out wherever they may congregate. There's no use in searching neighborhood churches. We could start at nightclubs, check-cashing places, liquor stores, Chinese take-outs, fast food restaurants, and anywhere they sell Loosies and lottery tickets.

In the past, places of employment have proved futile. However, if you check the Nationwide Baby Mama Registry, you can find many unarmed black men in their children's biological mothers' homes--though federal guidelines strictly forbid such cohabitation. As has been stated, this is for
unarmed black men, so please do not stop any who are congregating on neighborhood street corners. These men can be found later in the evening at their grandmothers' residences (where they will often have their guard down). The same applies for high schoolers who have reached their majority.

With these simple guidelines, we of the Fraternal Order can once again restore BEPpy to its 1941-52 glory. With two wars, a struggling economy, the War on Terror, and the election of Barack Hussein Obama, these are indeed perilous times ladies and gentlemen. We of the Fraternal Order of Police are the thin blue line that keeps America safe. We must be forever vigilant. We must once again fight to keep BEPpy alive and do what we were originally trained to do. Also, we must convince FBI Director Robert Mueller to have congress pass its cousin, LEPpy into law.

Your Faithful Servant,

Mustafa McFriendly
Chief of Police
_______________, CA


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ill Doctrine: Hip-Hop Is Dead

Since I'm totally isolated from popular culture and all I do is read books, chase Poohbutt, and read books to Poohbutt (currently we're reading Ron Suskind's book on Paul O'Neill, desperately hoping his next one will be about Ron O'Neal), my little brother had to hep me to the video blog, Ill Doctrine. I'm really digging Jay Smooth and what he has to say about hip-hop. As you know, I've got my own ideas. I'm glad to see a possible kindred spirit out there.

Well, though I'm late to the party, I wanted to invite some fellow gate crashers along for the ride.

And for all you Old Hip-Hop Heads Who Considered Suicide 'Cause the Radio Ain't Enuff, check out these two videos. There's still good music out there, yall. Enjoy and stop hatin'!

But if these won't convince ya, here, go way back with Just-Ice and KRS-One:


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Redemptive Blackness

Sneer not at the nigger, for today it is in him we must find our Lord, and in serving him that we are to serve the church of God."

--Orestes Brownson, 1863, after the New York draft riots

Every millennium or so, Western civilization becomes so lost, so desperate, they look to the black man to save them. First, there was Jesus, of course. Then there was Prester John, the mythological Indian or Ethiopian or Malian Christian king who was supposed to save Europe from Mohammedan rage during the second Crusades. And, this past November, we Americans, knowing we needed a radical break from the past, radically broke with almost 400 years of history and voted a black man, Barack Hussein Obama, our Savior-in-Chief.

Despite these examples, whites have historically perceived themselves, despite overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary, as the messiahs of their darker brethren across the globe. This perception started in the very beginning of the colonial era over 500 years ago and still persists in our own present-day. Even when coming face-to-face with their own New World barbarity, many Europeans believed they were the only ones who could possibly save the natives from barbarism. As Father Bartolome de las Casas (who himself saw Spanish atrocities against the Arawaks on Espanola)stated in the 1500s, "there are no races in the world, however rude, uncultivated, barbarous, gross, or almost brutal they may be, who cannot be persuaded and brought to a good order and way of life, and made domestic, mild, and tractable."

As las Casas's own words intimate ("made domestic," "tractable"), accepting this form of white salvation only opened oneself up to exploitation. Las Casas himself, seeing the Arawak dying under the oppressive Spanish yoke, strongly advocated the abolition of Indian slavery and replacing it with its African cousin. This legendary humanitarian's advocacy (today las Casas is hailed as Spain's first anti-colonialist and anti-racist) did absolutely nothing to stop the extermination of the Arawaks, it brought countless African tribes across the Atlantic to populate the New World.

Ironic, ain't it?

Not really. This European notion of "The White Man's Burden" has always cloaked exploitation with notions of beneficence (no matter how sincere or disingenuous) from las Casas to Kipling to Sir Henry Stanley's ("Dr. Livingstone, I presume") trumpeting the abolition of slavery in Africa to the public while begging the European powers to open up Africa to colonization and the exploitation of African markets (after all, he ended up working for the most brutal colonial regime of all, King Leopold's "Free Congo State").

In the United States, we can find the same sort of duplicity. After all, Andrew Jackson considered himself the Indians' "Great White Father." Yet he was the one who initiated the Trail of Tears. The very notion of the reservation was thought to be a way of saving Native Americans from the brutality of western expansion. And Liberia and the repatriation of American blacks to Africa was thought to be another way to "save" former slaves.

However, here in America, the queer idea arouse that bringing salvation to the downtrodden Negro would, in some way, redeem whites from the very inception of our nation. And, like all things American, the notion was imbued with religious zeal. Benjamin Franklin, in an appeal to abolish slavery, wrote to the first Congress in 1790:

"A just & accurate Conception of the true Principles of liberty, as it spread through the land, produced accessions to their numbers, many friends to their Cause, & a legislative Co-operation with their views, which, by the blessing of Divine Providence, have been successfully directed to the relieving from bondage a large number of their fellow Creatures of the African Race."

As we all know, Congress ignored Franklin and retained slavery. Though there were minor abolitionist victories (by 1804 slavery was "abolished" everywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line though there were still some "permanent apprentices" in the North by 1860), America was too busy fearing invasion by the European powers to give much of a hoot about enslaved Africans. It wasn't until the 1830s with such radicals as William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Weld, and, later, Frederick Douglass did the abolitionist movement and this notion of racial redemption really start taking hold.

Born within the millenarian fire-and-brimstone of the Second Great Awakening, this generation of believed that America as a nation could only be redeemed by expunging from its soul America's Original Sin, slavery. America was God's chosen land and all of its troubles (there was a depression from 1837-43 and another in 1857) were God's punishment for the abomination of slavery. It was a divine mission from the Lord Himself. As John Brown said, "I am as content to die for God’s eternal truth on the scaffold as in any other way."

The abolitionists believed that freeing the slaves would not only rescue blacks from their physical chains but would also loosen whites' spiritual ones. "... no one who has not been an integral part of a slaveholding community, can have any idea of its abominations.... even were slavery no curse to its victims, the exercise of arbitrary power works such fearful ruin upon the hearts of slaveholders, that I should feel impelled to labor and pray for its overthrow with my last energies and latest breath," stated Angelina Grimke.

It was a belief and a fervor that brought us the Civil War (despite what many revisionists like to state, the Civil War was fought strictly over slavery), Reconstruction, the demise of Andrew Johnson, and women's suffrage.

Though this fervor eventually died out with the rise of Jim Crow and America's own colonial aspirations, it did reappear in the 1960s Civil Rights movement, with whites volunteering in the South to combat desegregation (some, like Viola Liuzzo, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who actually sacrificed their lives for the cause). That, too, eventually petered out, but the notion of black salvation/white redemption still holds today in, what I like to call, the "White Messiah" film.

You know the plot: well-meaning white person finds some oppressed, dark masses, and, through their own self-actualization, delivers the darkies from their own oppression, ignorance, etc., to the promised land, thereby, you guessed it, finding their own redemption.

This deliverer can be a teacher (like Jon Voigt in Conrack or the Dylan-spewing Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds). S/he can go native like in Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai. Or the savior can simply feel guilty and temporarily "risk everything" like in The Long Walk Home. The White Messiah rarely dies, but when he does, he gives reaalllly long soliloquys like Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamonds. He can actually be two people simultaneously--as the ahistorical mindfuck Mississippi Burning (the FBI as the hero of the Civil Rights movement?!) proved with Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman. And Bruce Willis has proven that the White Messiah can, time and time again, resurrect a career (Pulp Fiction, Die Hard 3, and Tears of the Sun.

Now, all things being ... whatever they are in our "post-racial" world, the black man has emerged to save the white man's day in the form of the "magical Negro." You may have heard of him or at least have seen him. Hell, you may have one of your own (Will Smith played one in The Legend of Bagger Vance, but I hear he can be a bit pricey). This supernatural African generally "appears out of nowhere" and, with his "Oh, Lawdy" folksy wisdom and his undying, self-sacrificing love of all things Caucazoid, will often sacrifice himself to rescue the white man from imminent disaster like our good friend, Gunga Din.

This past year many have speculated in the press and blogosphere whether Barack Obama could indeed be said Negro. I'd have to say no. It's mostly a class thing. The magical Negro is most definitely a social inferior. His help is seldom wanted, and he is mostly condescended to throughout his existence. It is only out of his love and sacrifice for the white man that he gains begrudging respect. He is never (even in death) looked upon as an equal and most definitely not a superior. At best, he's a curious oddity and will never be looked upon as more than the belittled exception to the rule. Even if the magical Negro saves the day, he will never be invited to sit at the big table, won't be dating your daughter, and most definitely would never be elected to the White House.

Obama's not viewed as Gunga, Will Smith, or Morgan Freeman. He is more in line with Prester John--the African Christian king who was supposed to save all of Christendom. This bi-racial brother is neither a "magical Negro" nor a "White Messiah." He is more, to borrow from the late, great Isaac Hayes, a "Black Moses." He is not supposed to rescue our asses. He is supposed to deliver America and the world from the hell we have wrought these past eight years. He is supposed to redeem us.

You could see this hope all throughout the 2008 campaign (in the talk surrounding his candidacy and even videos). Obama became an empty vessel of hope into which we poured all our despair, all our dreams. A lot of these expectations were definitely because of Obama's apparent talents. But his race was also a major factor. We wanted a major break from the past, and electing a black man president would definitely be that.

Blacks and whites alike found hope in his black flesh. Muslims found hope in his very name. Some Asian-Americans speculated on whether or not he could be America's first Asian president. Some pro-life, fundamentalist Christians supported him. Even white supremacists celebrated his possible presidency.

If elected, Obama would get us out of both wars, fix the economy and the environment and our disastrous medical industry; he would grant gay rights, provide government transparency, erase 400 years of racial oppression, restore America's primacy in the world, bring peace to the Middle East, fix our nation's school system, end the partisan bickering in Washington, end political corruption. I could go on for days. Basically, as Monica Crowley put it, Obama was going to be "Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and Jesus combined." As the abolitionists believed that ending slavery would redeem our country, so today many believe that electing Barack Obama would ultimately do the same.

Oddly enough, in some ways, it already has. With his election, nobody will look at America quite the same again. After all, while India has a Sikh prime minister, what other country would elect a minority as despised as we African-Americans have been to its prime leadership position? Ayman Zawahiri tried to castigate Obama as an Uncle Tom, Limbaugh and Hannity and the like try to paint him as the anti-Christ commissar who'll install Communism across the land, Fred Armisen tries to spoof him, Don Rickles bombed trying to lampoon him; but all these things fall on deaf ears. There is so much hope wrapped up in Obama's epidermis that we've become humorless and way too protective of the man. Who has the right to criticize or even poke fun at our last, greatest hope?

That hope was expressed on election night in Chicago's Grant Park, with people dancing in the streets of DC, Baltimore, all across America's cities, in Kenyan villages, all across the globe. Allies who've been icy during the Bush years have suddenly warmed up to us. Even belligerents like Russia and Iran have congratulated Obama on his victory. It's as though the entire world is once again viewing America with hope.

Ultimately, though, Barack Obama is not a magical, messianic Moses. He's simply a human being--and a Democrat to boot. He cannot possibly do all the things we want him to accomplish. That would require a revolution--not an election. He is going to disappoint. You can see some of that disappointment already in some of the criticism. So many can't stand all the Clintonians he's selected (though they were the last Dems to run anything and are, unfortunately, logical choices). There was the hubbub over Rick Warren (though, what did people think "reach across the aisle" actually meant?). However, W. has not simply lowered the bar. He's utterly obliterated it. Any sign of progress will be greeted with cheering and flowers in the street (you know, like the Iraqis greeted us when we invaded). It seems that, no matter what Obama does, he will ultimately be seen as a deliverer. Let's hope that his presidency is so spectacular that we rid ourselves of the White Messiah and the magical Negro and become the post-racial world all these liberals, with not just a little self-congratulation, say we're already in. Perhaps, we can finally say goodbye to at least those racial stereotypes and create a whole new one.