Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Barack Obama Quote & Video of the Day

"These steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business. I know they're gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I."


A Concert of Moments

I remember the moment I heard that my Uncle Rodney was about to die. I'd just come home from watching Detroit drop the second game of the World series with my friend, Amit, and his brother-in-law, Amit. My wife looked grave when I entered. "Your mother called," she announced. "Your Uncle Rodney has lung cancer."

I'd oddly enough just been reading about lung cancer. I knew what that meant.

"So, he's going to die," I said, blankly. Then it hit me. "He's going to die," I croaked.

I cried the rest of that night. My wife held me.

Before then, I wasn't a terribly emotional guy. But I worked at home. Alone, all these memories would come knocking, and, out of nowhere, crying jags would come calling. All those memories. All those moments I shared with my uncle.

Uncle Rod doing crazy stunts on his motorcycle.

Him sitting five-year-old William on his lap and letting the boy "drive" home.

My mother and father divorced when I was five. My mom had to move in with my grandmother. Uncle Rod and Aunt Elaine still lived in the house. Uncle Rod occupied a lot of memories where my father should have been.

Me and my uncle playing football in the backyard.

Me riding on that motorcycle.

Me burning my leg on the bike's exhaust pipe when he let me down. Me screaming. I can still remember the look of horror on my mother's face. My entire family running to my side.

Uncle Rod filled a lot of voids in my life. A surrogate father, of sorts. An uncle. Only 17 years my senior, an older brother I'd never have. He was a kid when I was a kid. He was reckless, irreverent, fun and funny. And he loved me. The moment I realized all this was at the funeral parlor. There was this picture. Me, four, standing. Him, 21, crouched down, an arm around my tiny shoulders. And he's looking at the camera with such affection and love and pride. And it hit me. All that he meant to me. All that I meant to him.

He was reckless, irreverent, fun and funny. Me? I was an only child of divorce. I was an integration baby who never really felt like he fit into any world he stepped into. I read. I drew. I was debilitatingly shy. There were times when I was paralyzed by fear around other people. One time, at my cousin Lisa's party, I stayed in the kitchen, drawing, while she and her friends yukked it up outside. No amount of prompting could get me outside. That never would've happened to Uncle Rodney.

He was reckless, irreverent, fun and funny. He was someone to emulate.

My love of Reese's peanut butter cups is his.

My love of Prince.

My love of profanity?

And the next time I found myself surrounded by a bunch of strangers, I would never be shy and withdraw. I would be reckless, irreverent, fun and funny.

I drove onto the campus of Muhlenberg College, determined to be just that. And I was. It was my senior year of high school. The college was honoring "gifted, minority students." Basically, they were trying to add a bit of color to their alabaster student body. I was the only one from the Pittsburgh area to arrive. Kids were mostly from Philly, New York, and New Jersey. Bill would've never gone. Uncle Rodney would've had a blast.

That's who I became. I was reckless, irreverent, fun and funny. I helped my hosts sneak a beer keg onto the dry campus. I openly mocked the school for suckering us into going for that weekend and said there was no way I was going there. I actually hooked up with the girl I'd targetted and came home with numbers from a number of the girls in attendance (I'm still trying to figure that one out).

My natural tendency is still to be withdrawn in crowds. But, with the help of channeling my uncle's spirit, I can still be irreverent and funny (I gave up fun and reckless years ago). If you ever meet me, you'll know where it comes from.

My uncle was a diabetic. He contracted the disease while pretty young. I think of diabetes as a war of attrition that you can never quite win. Sooner or later, it drags you down, takes you over, and withers you to bone and dust.

My uncle ultimately gave up. He fought by succumbing. His diet was horrible. He continued to drink. He refused to stop smoking.

Just after my thirtieth birthday, I went to Cleveland for a music conference. I stopped by Pittsburgh to see the family before heading back down to Atlanta. I walked into a family skirmish. My Uncle Rodney had given up. The doctors were willing to give him new kidneys, virtually curing him, but he just wouldn't take care of himself. He wouldn't monitor his diet, wouldn't stop drinking, would not give up smoking. He was tearing the family apart.

He was going blind.

He wouldn't leave the house.

I took him for a walk. Only I could get him out of the house. He was no longer reckless, irreverent, fun, funny. He was old and broken. And I took him by the hand and took him out of the house.

We talked and we smoked and he cried. I just listened.

No more bike rides. No more playing football. Just a slow, withering creep towards death.

The news was always bad. Always given with a sigh of resignation.

Your Uncle's totally blind now.

Your uncle's on daily dialysis.

Your uncle's about to lose his foot.

His leg.

My uncle was there for my first ever book reading. My whole family was there. My friend from high school, Bob, dragged his mother and aunt and another friend from high school, Giac, along. There we all were, standing in this small, metaphysical bookstore in Sewickley while I talked about a science fiction protest novel and how it was inspired by my Uncle Bob, their brother, who'd died tragically a decade before. An inauspicious beginning to a literary career that still ain't about much. But it meant so much to have those people I love there. My Uncle Rod sat in the corner behind me, blind and small, but there. Getting my back. You can see his leg above.

"Your Uncle Rodney has lung cancer."

He wasn't the man I'd remembered. He used to be a coal miner. He and Uncle Richard used to work on cars. The Uncle Rodney I remembered did motorcycle stunts, took me to Prince concerts, threw a football, snuck me a Molson Golden for my graduation.

We sat in my old '74 Oldsmobile Omega. I'd graduated from high school and was going off to the college of my dreams and he was proud of me. That beer still tastes sweet.

This Uncle Rodney was an emaciated shell. A mere lump in the bedsheets with a stump where his right leg had been. There were all those tubes, all that beeping. He was in a drug-induced stupor, his hands cuffed to the railing to stop him from tearing out all the tubes that pocked that shell.

I was 36, but I was really that scared, five-year-old boy who moved into his grandmother's house. I sat up on the counter, cowering and terrified. I sat there staring at him, dumb. His partner, Carol, asked me to talk to him. I shook my head, mutely. I just couldn't do it.

We had that discussion no family wants to have. It was complicated. My uncle never married Carol, so she legally couldn't make that decision. My family didn't care. It was her decision. But we still had to talk about it. I didn't think I had a place in that discussion, but they asked. It killed me, but I said that life support is no life and that we had to let him go.

On my next visit, it hit me. My uncle's dying was not about me. It was about him. He couldn't talk. I really didn't know how there he really was. He writhed, but was he really there? When someone asked him a question, there would sometimes be a nod. But what was that? Was it him? A spontaneous, non-related muscular action? What was it?

What did it matter, really? This was about him. I had to do something for him. He had to know how much he meant to me.

Uncle Rodney loved Prince. Because of that, I loved Prince. Uncle Rod took me to my first concert--you guessed it, Prince. 1999. I pulled out my iPod, put on that album, sat on my knees next to his bed, put one ear bud in his ear, and put the other in mine. And we listened to that album while my Aunt Elaine sat at our sides.

I wish I could say that a miracle happened. That he sat up and thanked me and we sat there talking and laughing and telling each other how much we meant to each other. But those moments rarely happen. It didn't happen that day. Prince would have to do. I left the hospital with my aunt, bawling.

Outside the hospital, my aunt tried to hug me. I shrugged her off, saying, "I'm OK." Then I realized. My uncle's dying was not about me. It was about his partner, Carol. It was about his siblings. They used tobe eight, and now they were about to be five. And the one dying up there in that hospital room was the next to youngest. And he was about to die way before his 54th birthday. I hugged my aunt, and we cried. And I listened to her talk all the way back home. I got in my car on my way back to DC, promising to be back soon.

I never got to have that last talk with Uncle Rod. I couldn't make it back in time.

Life is nothing but a collection of moments. We drone on from day to day, living our live-a-day lives. But when it comes down to it, those moments--those moments of joy and pain, agony and bliss--those are the things that we cling to. Those are the things that we hold dear. And we share those moments with those we hold dearest. And we should hold onto those moments. Those are the dearest gifts are loved ones give us. Those moments are the very things that make life worth the journey. And we need to thank our loved ones every day for the gift of those moments. What better gift is there?

That was part of my eulogy for my Uncle Rodney.

"Will was just talking about moments," my Uncle Richard opened after my speech. "I just wanted him to know that Rod told us about you playing that Prince for him. ... I just thought you should know."

I lost it. My wife put her hand on my back, my cousin Danielle hugged me, and I cried like a baby.

Funerals are sad and tragic, of course. People cried and wailed and held onto each other. The preacher preached, solemnly, as we stood by the casket on that chilly, December afternoon. I looked around as everyone bowed their heads in prayer. I saw my family, the people who raised and love me. On one side was my wife; on the other, my mother; the two most important women in my life, the two women I love more than myself (and believe me, that's saying a lot). And then it happened. I smiled. I was ... happy?

At that moment, on that chilly, December afternoon, I realized my wife was right. It was time for us to have a child. The following October, Poohbutt was born.

My eulogy was about moments, the most precious gifts our loved ones can give us. And, during my eulogy, I told everyone about the most precious moment my Uncle Rod had given me.

It was on this day, 26 years ago. February 28, 1983. I was 12-years-old, and Prince was coming to town. Prince was my obsession. But I wasn't going. I'd never been to a concert before, and I just knew my mother would never let me go see that midget sex pervert (after all, he was the one who forced her to explain to her 10-year-old William what "Head" was--Uncle Rod laughed the whole time).

I did my morning paper route with Chopin's "Death March" playing the entire way. I was de-pressed. The most important event of my life was happening that night, and I was going to miss it.

I came home that morning, dragging my paper bag and bottom lip. For some reason, my mother and stepfather hadn't gone to work, yet. Mom ho-hummed, "Your Uncle Rodney has an extra ticket."


"Do you want to go see Prince tonight, William?" she smiled, coyly.

I think I screamed the whole day--to the bus stop to school back home all the way to the Civic Arena.

You know it was great. Vanity 6 was there. They sucked, but what other chance does a 12-year-old pubescent boy with raging hormones get to see grown women in their underwear? The Time, my second favorite musical act at the time, were great. My uncle was great. My cousin was there, and her best friend, Tina, who I had a huge crush on. I stood on the floor, but she stood on the chair behind me and kept her hands on my shoulders for balance. Sure, it was the most intimate we would ever become. But I was 12. I had a crush. It was great!

And the greatest of all! The greatest musician of all-time! Prince! Of course, he was great.

In fact, though I've been a music critic and have gone to more concerts than I would've thought humanly possible, that concert, 26 years ago today, on February 28, 1983, was the greatest concert I've ever been to.

Thanks, Uncle Rod.

I love you.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Jindaltalia Had the Balls to Lie

No, I'm not I'm surprised that our favorite Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, had the balls (said governor pictured above illustrating their size and scope) to lie to us on national TV. I'm also not all that surprised that his story about his and Sheriff Henry Lee's facing down inept government bureaucrats in order to save Hurrican Katrina victims is a total fabrication. It's just that that story was so easily proved false, you've really got to wonder what was going through his mind when he decided to tell it.

In an odd way, though, this made-up story did prove the two points Jindaltalia was trying to illustrate. One, it does illustrate his own personal courage--to tell such a bullshit story in front of the country with a straight face. And two, that (Republican) government indeed does not work--in constantly deceiving the American public. I think the man didn't realize just how illuminating his little tale was.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Protect Your Jindaltalia

Just a mere 48 hours ago, you were the Golden Child, the "rising star in the Republican Party," you, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, were the cock on the walk.

Then you gave that speech and immediately got your balls handed to you.

You left Rachel Maddow impotent:

But everyone else was ready, scalpel in hand.

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, inventor of the "crack baby," said you "didn't have a chance."

Juan Williams called you "childish" and "amateurish".

David Brooks declared your response a "disaster":

Andy Borowitz thanked you for "the gift of laughter."

Andrew Sullivan said you reminded him of Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock. There's this YouTube mash-up saying you are Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock.

Of course, now Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock wants a piece of you, going on Jimmy Fallon, saying you're nothing like him.

Me? I'm more in line with Karen Dalton-Beninato, who thinks you more closely resemble Tim Calhoun.

In the blogosphere, Busted Knuckles over at Ornery Bastard absolutely toasted you over your volcano monitoring dig. While Jon Swift had us laughing raucously over the stench of your burnt flesh.

Folks are clowning you for naming yourself after that lovable, youngest brother from The Brady Bunch. I mean, damn, he was lovable.

Demonizing you because you saved a dear friend with an exorcism. Hell, Sarah Palin had a witch doctor just pray over her. You were being pro-active!

I've even seen some people call you a "self-loathing Indian." Bobby, how can they say that about you? How, Bobby? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! How?!

But don't you listen to them, Bobby. Ignore those slings and arrows. Sure, they scored a direct hit, and now the family jewels are rolling around on the floor ready to be stomped to oblivion by that dastardly liberal media. Wait? What? Krauthammer, Brooks, and Sullivan are all Conservatives? What about Juan Williams? He's a liberal. Could've fooled me. And what was that? Even Laura Ingraham's aimed her stilettos at your stuff? She wasn't the one who said you "walked out like an earnest dork," was she? Or that "he seemed to have somehow figured out a way to speak too quickly and too slow at the same time." No? That was Jim Geraghty. Good, I was worried.

As I said, don't you worry about all those haters, Bobby. Don't you worry about that horrible speech, those flat jokes ("Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C."--you really should fire your speech writers), ignore those nads of yours skittering across the floor.

After all, the good Nurse Ratched, I mean, Michelle Malkin, is there for you, providing the succor she never would've given the interned Japanese. She'll scoop those bad boys up for you, put them on ice. All you have to do is take some of that stimulus money (we know you're keeping most of that "irresponsible" money, anyway), and go to Dr. "Feelgood" Limbaugh. He'll stitch you up real nice for 2012. And think of the drugs, Bobby! Think of the drugs.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Curious Case in Negroid Neuroscience

The Negro Brain

The Negro Brain on Crack

The Negro with No Brain at All



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Catch a Falling Star

Ever since McCain got whomped on by The Big Brother, we've been hearing Republicans tout Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, as a "rising star in the GOP." Read: "See we got us one, too!"

But Jindal's incessant, wooden movements and his mouthing the same, old, tired Republican line we've been hearing for decades now (BTW, how do tax cuts for the middle class create jobs? Who the fuck am I hiring?), I was half-expecting the camera to pan up so we could see Mitch McConnell marionetting the new GOP luminary.

Sorry, guys, you tried the "feminist" route with Palin, and that crashed and burned. Brother Bobby hit the ground so hard tonight, he could've caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. Of course, your party is looking a little Jurassic these days. Hopefully, one day, my grandchildren will be reading about you in their science books and Kansas Creationists will refuse to teach about you.

The Address to Congress (GOP) Video of the Day

While Brother Linc and his Mod Squad (pictured above) were holding forth before our nation, talking economic stimulus, bank reform, housing bailouts, and re-regulation, you know the Republicans in the House only heard this:


Great, Now I'll Never See Slumdog

I've always believed (since starting this post) that, when it comes to hype, you can split the world into two camps: bandwagoners and haters. All too often, I find myself in the latter camp, toasting marshmallows and gulping down s'mores. And I feel that my congenital hateration will stop me from seeing Slumdog Millionaire for years to come.

Now, this is in no way to belittle fans of the film. I'm sure it's a good movie, maybe even great. It's just that I've heard way too many people wax poetic about its greatness. I've seen countless features, heard numerous interviews, read tons of praise, and have even had friends and co-workers praise it to high heaven. And, in situations like this, I find myself reacting more to the praise than the movie, book, CD, TV show, itself. I can't trust my own reaction.

Ultimately, I can't even trust the praise. As a former music critic, music trade magazine publisher, and an unknown writer, I know all too well how the publicity juggernaut works. I know that those listening stations in Borders, etc., cost tens of thousands of dollars to populate. I know that table in the bookstore "randomly" place books there for the same amount of money (because people don't browse the aisle and basically buy off the table). That "Employee Picks," "Summer Reading," "Winter Reading," and "Recommendations" can also be bought.

I know that Hollywood pays for critics to go on "junkets" with the stars. That record labels get around payola laws by "sponsoring" special events for radio stations. That publishers can spend well over six figures in order to achieve a "word-of-mouth" hit (after all, how can that book you "just happened" to hear about "just happen" to be on that table in the front of the bookstore?). I also find it odd that, though advertising doesn't influence content, Top 10 lists at the end of the year look incredibly similar no matter what publication you're looking in.

Maybe it's sour grapes, but I feel that superlatives come cheap (or at a great price, depending on how you look at it). So, how can I trust it? Though so many things do deserve praise (and Slumdog may be one of them), so many things don't. And the same praise is used in both cases--if the price is right.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've been hooting and hollering on the bandwagon as well. I tattooed everybody with my love for City of God. I was actually scared and utterly creeped out by Blair Witch Project. Even though I hate everything James Cameron and was hell-bent and determined to hate it, even clowned the trailer, I actually liked Titanic. But, in all those cases, I saw those things as soon as they came out (in the last case, I was dragged). Who knows how I would've felt if I'd waited. After all, the mere mention of Forrest Gump throws me into paroxysms of rage. In fact, the very sight over the great, great, great Tom Hanks makes me wanna slug somebody. And the way we reverentially treat DeNiro, Pacino, and Nicholson as though they're still making Serpico, Raging Bull, and Chinatown makes me vomit up a testicle.

And that's my problem with Slumdog. I waited too damned long. I really wanted to see it--I love movies about slums (City of God), I've even worked in a couple, I loved Ghost Dog, the leftist in me hates millionaires but the American in me longs to be one, and I heard the opening scene with Elvis's "In the Ghetto" is quite touching (wait, I don't think that actually happens)--it's just with Poohbutt, I don't get to see many flicks.

I confess there were a couple things it had going against it in my mind. I hate the fact that the only way we coloreds can get a decent movie made about us is if white folks make it. And I hate Anil Kapoor, whose Mr. India features a heart-rending black face dance scene (I mean, if I want to see a bunch of colored in burnt cork, I'd turn on Fox News and wait for Juan Williams). But I was willing to overlook those things.

The Oscars, though, threw me over the edge. From the get-go I found myself pissed. The Great White Fathers brining the little brown babes to big, ole Hollywood. Their paternalistic, patronizing smiles. Their condescending, oh-so tearful talk about how they are all "one, big family." Really? I heard you barely paid your little brown sons and daughters. Am I wrong? Did you actually adopt the little buggers? Brought them back home with you? Sending them to Oxford? Marrying them off to your daughters?

And then that "exotic" best song medley. Hey, look. I like A.R. Rahman as much as the next guy. It was cool to see the Bollywood Randy Newman get Hollywood's top prize. But you could tell, by the glazed, self-important faces, that all those Hollywood honchos were looking at all those dhols and saris and were praising themselves for how "culturally diverse" they are. "Oh, daahhhling, we are soooo multicultural. Esperanza! Will you shut those kids up?!" Yeah, yall love Dev Patel now, but let's see how many scripts come his way. Don't let Kal Penn get all McLeod on your ass: "There can only be one!!!"

But then it did get all multiculti on us. I thought this was a South Asian spectacular. What were all those East Asians doing on the drums? Still reeling fromthat, I blinked and saw a whole bunch of black and white dancers in saris. Then, there was that weird, little step show in the middle, with fools flashing Omega Psi Phi "Q" signs.

And John Legend? I know Peter Gabriel protested and refused to perform. And why wouldn't he have? That song wasn't even in Slumdog, but yall acted as though it were. Why? Did David Byrne, Paul Simon, and Vampire Weekend refuse to show? Could you find no other white cultural appropriator to take Gabriel's place?

So, you decided to keep going with the Indian theme by going with John Legend? I mean, damn. Get your tokenism right! At least when yall had Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana mutilate "Al Otro Lado del Rio," you could nominally say it was all "Hispanic." So, why the brother? I know MIA's busy nursing, and Panjabi MC's star has come and gone. But what? Nora Jones was busy? Hell, you had Ben Kingsley backstage. Or were yall like, "Ah, fuck it. Close enough."

Breathe ... Breathe ...

Screw it. I'll just go put Slumdog on the queue, and, in two years, when it finally arrives in my mailbox, I will have forgotten all about this rant and enjoy what I've been told is a great movie.


You Know Where I'd Rather Be Today -- You Know, If I Were Single

That's Right -- Hipi-Hopi Hiu

I mean, they just broke the record for "world's skimpiest G-string." (I didn't even know there was a competition.)

And President Lula's out there throwing out the ultimate crowd pleasers, condoms!

Talk about a friggin' party!

Happy Mardi Gras, Yall!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The More Things "Change," The More They Stay the Same?

Yeah, I know, this "War on Terror" (you're next, ETA!) is just one in a series of apocalyptic clusterfucks Bush Babee has left for The Big Brother. And my ace Pat Boone scored bookoo kudos on his first day (well, from the Left, anyway) for signing the order to close Guantanamo.

And no matter what the Obama administration does, they're going to get heat for it. The Right's going after him, for, well, like the Giuliana NYPD, being black and breathing. But they're also chiming in about how closing Guantanamo will bring about the End of Days. The Left is now questioning, the honeymoon obviously over, if he's Bush Lite.

The Pentagon has just released a totally impartial, lacking any self-interest whatsoever effort report, trying to cover their own asses, I mean, stating that Guantanamo prison actually does meet Geneva Convention standards. They have also announced the sale of some prime, wetlands real estate in Florida, if anyone's interested.

And now my man has Uighur problems, of all things. After being cleared for release from Guantanamo five years ago, these Chinese Muslims have no place to go. We know they'll die if they go back to China, and China's pressuring every country on the planet to refuse these poor fools residence (and the Republicans say deficits don't matter--when was the last time we stood up to China on anything? Darfur, anyone?). Now, our Federal courts have gone all NIMBY and said, "Them Uighurs can't stay here!"

But before you start feeling too sympathetic for The Big Brother and start busting out the old Negro spirituals, read this from Reuters:

"The Obama administration on Friday told a federal judge it would not deviate from the Bush administration's position that detainees held at a U.S. air base in Afghanistan have no right to sue in U.S. courts."

There are roughly 600 prisoners at the Bagram base that no one knows what to do with. Obama's already set up a commission to study the issue, yadda yadda, that's supposed to get back to him in six months. The Federal courts once again blindsided him (what's up with this "checks and balances" crap, anyway? I thought Cheney was supposed to get rid of all that nonsense), telling the administration the fates of four of the inmates. The sentence above tells you what they've come up with so far (funny how all the bad news always comes out on Friday night). The courts will decide what to do from here on out.

Now, I know we just can't buy the world a Coke and keep it company. And I can't carry a tune, so you won't hear "Kumbaya" coming from these lips. But you gotta admit, this is kinda disappointing. When will this nightmare be over? I've clicked my heels 27 times and my black ass still ain't in Kansas. And neither is Obama's.


Friday, February 20, 2009

JFC!!! What More Do You Need to Know?!

TMZ has released the Rihanna photo and the LAPD released a statement.

Now, ever since the news of the "alleged" Chris Brown beating of Rihanna, I've been listening to people hem and haw, equivocate and masturbate about how "We don't know what happened." "We don't know all the facts." Well, here you go, people. Rihanna left a Grammy party in a Lambourghini with her boyfriend, Chris Brown, looking like this:

She entered an LAPD station a few hours later, looking like this:

Now, unless the woman found out the hard way that her arms are too short to box with a Lambourghini, we all know what happened that night. So, what do all you apologists need to know now? What do you have to say?

Now, I personally have absolutely ZERO tolerance for domestic violence. I've stepped in twice but will never do it again. The last time I did, the redneck prick threatened to shoot me. He'd just been released from jail for shooting two other fools. So, I took him at his word and left town. And believe me, his partner was not appreciative.

But now, faced with that picture, faced with all the contusions that Rihanna suffered, faced with that busted lip, what are you going to say?

How are you going to apologize for the bastard now? Are you going to talk about the stresses and strains of fame? Are you going to talk about how he saw his mother beaten by his step dad? Are you wax all sympathetic debating nature vs. fucking nurture?!

I don't care if the little asshole grew up running from His Lord's Army and the Ton Ton Macoutes combined. I don't care if his victim were Laila Ali with 26" pythons, you never ... ever ... FUCKING EVER!!! put your hands on a woman!

If you, in any way, shape, or form, apologize for the son of a bitch, then you can go to hell! If you start putting this whole mess on Rihanna herself, then fuck you!

And fuck Chris Brown! I don't care if you love his music, his hats, or his DoubleMint smile, that little cocksucker did it and now he needs to be doing Got Milk? ads in San Quentin!

Sorry. I had to get that off my chest. The only thing that makes me angrier is the tearful, live reunion duet these two are going to do at the BET Awards two years from now.

Here, my little brother (he hates it when I call him that) has a much more measured response over at The Failed Experiment. Check it out.


Follow for Now Follow-Up

After writing the post below, I got a little curious about Follow for Now and what they're up to now. I found this blog post from the late, great Chris Pryor (whom I eugologized back in August).

Personally, I never knew the lead singer, David Ryan Harris. I said "Hey" once in awhile to Chris Tinsley, the guitarist. I shared a few beers with the keyboardist, Billy Fields, a real cool cat. I was there at the original MJQ when he debuted with Seek (yo, Kevin, where you at?).

I knew Enrique (Bernard Coley) a lot better. He was good friends with some good friends, Chris and Andrian. The first time I met him, we spent the entire night griping about a woman we both had problems with (he in ATL, me at NU). We hung out a little and even got in a fight with a skinhead together. Actually, in a rare fit of humanity for me back then, I tried to stop the whole thing. Having just returned from Eastern Europe where I had more than a few "altercations" with skinheads, you could say I had a bit of a "Skinhead Complex" back in the day. It was amazing that I hadn't slugged the guy. Instead, I graciously, gently, escorted the fine, young Aryan out of the bar, imparting some friendly advice: "You don't want this."

Apparently, my skinhead friend disagreed. A few minutes later, I saw him outside "wanting it" quite vociferously with a group of African-American youth. Why he decided to spray the N-word like DDT around a bunch of black folk is still beyond me. I arrived late (yes, I was going to stop it yet again), somewhere between "nig" and "ger." As five brothers swiftly approached, our white supremacist realized his faux pas and tried to amend his previous statement. "No! No! I just meant him!" The five, angry brothers from Decatur disagreed with his argument and proceeded to give him the most vicious ass-kicking I'd ever seen live.

Of course, having not been involved and with the bloodied skinhead holding his eye, crying, "It wasn't him. It wasn't him," the po-lice wanted to arrest me.

Ahhh, the good old days.

Anyway, YouTube is God. I love posting videos (as you well know). So, here's an old Follow for Now video profile and their video, "Holy Moses." They were a bunch of great guys. But it wasn't enough (in case you missed it below, here's their story. The music industry is some evil shit. Record execs could make Attila blush.

I hope you enjoy.


Mother's Finest Was Wrong

In 1976, Atlanta funk/rock band Mother's Finest made one of the most racist, most ignored challenges known to music (only to be eclipsed by the careers of New Kids on the Block and Kenny G.). With "Nigizz Can't Sing Rock'n Roll," lead singer Glenn Murdock threw the industry into a tizzy.

"I still don't know what they're talking about," rapper/singer/actor Mos Def recently commented on the 30-year-old controversy, "rock-n-roll is niggi music."

The challenge was soon taken up by George Clinton and Funkadelic with the release of One Nation under a Groove and their song, "Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?!" However, the "blacklash" was monumental.

"It was an outrage," says noted black revolutionary and jazz activist, Gil Scott-Heron. "We already had Charley Pride singing country music."

"I told them nobody wants to hear black people singing rock music. It would never sell," music potentate, and then head of Arista Records, Clive Davis claims. "I made sure of that."

Through Davis' efforts, Saturday Night Fever was released and disco was born, forever closing the debate.

In the '80s, Davis' hegemony was challenged with the signings of Bad Brains, Fishbone, and Living Colour. However, he made a concerted effort to quash their careers. At one point, Davis even threatened Madonna with exile when her Maverick label signed the aforementioned Bad Brains. Maverick hardly supported their album, God of Love and soon dropped the group. He even succeeded to crush the fledgling career of funk/metal Atlanta band (and one-time friends of the author), Follow for Now. Because of their racial ambiguity, Rage against the Machine escaped Davis's wrath, but with the release of The Chronic the renascent debate was once again silenced.

However, with the signing of Executive Order 3865 (otherwise known as "O.E. Funk") in May 2007, President Bush has freed black musicians to once again explore their rock capabilities.

"Oh yeah, I'm proud of that one," Bush commented from his new refuge in Dallas. "I hope those bastards enjoy the Cuban sun. Guantanamo is where they belong."

When told what E.O. 3865 really was, the former president changed his tune.

"You know, I just signed those things. I never looked at them. Damn you, Condi."

The response has been small so far but very promising. There are the "Brooklyn boho weirdos", TV on the Radio, whose Dear Science was voted the Best Album of 2008 by Spin.

Philadelphia-born, former ska/punk rocker, Santigold (nee Santi White, musically nee Santogold) also made a huge splash in 2008 with her musically-nee eponymous debut.

Somehow circumventing the "Buy American" clause in E.O. 3865, the U.K. has also contributed the hard-driving funk/rock of The Heavy, who some have compared to "Tom Waits backed by the Stooges" (though this author thinks they've never imagined Curtis Mayfield backed by early Earth, Wind, and Fire or Sly and the Family Stone).

"Oh yeah, the future of blacks in rock is limitless," comments Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of TV on the Radio. "With The Big Brother in the White House, anything's possible."

Fellow band member, Kyp Morgan (who many have confused for Cornel West), raised a beer. "I heard that!"


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama: Head Chimp in Charge?

OK, it's going to take me a minute to digest this one. But along with Drunken Negro Heads you can see why New York City is considered the bastion of liberalism. I guess there, too, the only good chimp is a dead chimp.

I don't know. Judge for yourself:

NY cartoon appears to link Obama to dead chimp

By KAREN MATTHEWS | Associated Press Writer
February 18, 2009
NEW YORK - A New York Post cartoon that appears to link President Obama to a violent chimpanzee drew criticism Wednesday on media Web sites and from civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton.

The cartoon in Wednesday's Post by Sean Delonas shows a dead chimp and two police officers, one with a smoking gun. The caption reads, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

The cartoon refers to Travis the chimp, who was shot to death by police in Stamford, Conn. on Monday after it mauled a friend of its owner.

It links the chimp to Obama, who signed his administration's economic stimulus plan on Tuesday.
"At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it," columnist Sam Stein wrote in the liberal-leaning Huffington Post. "Most provocatively, it compares the president to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial."

Stein's article drew hundreds of comments on the Huffington Post Web site, with many calling the cartoon racist and insensitive. Some urged a boycott of the Post and the companies that advertise with it while others denounced what they called the Republican slant of the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid.

Col Allan, editor-in-chief of the New York Post, released a statement defending the work.

"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

Sharpton called the cartoon "troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys." He said the Post should clarify what point the cartoon was making.

Delonas, the longtime cartoonist for the Post's Page Six, is known for heavy-handed caricatures. In a cartoon from last month, an enormous Jessica Simpson dumps boyfriend Tony Romo for Ronald McDonald.


For the Love of Jesus

To say I'm a lapsed Catholic would be a gross understatement. I went to Catholic elementary school, and, because of motherly pressure, I became a converso at 14. However, since confirmation, I haven't really been to mass and don't miss it much. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 25 years since my last confession. In fact, the last time I went, a wedding a few years back, I drank so much communal wine (I know, I shouldn't have been up there in the first place) the deacon thanked me for bogarting the blood of Christ.

But, no matter how hard you try, you can never quite deny what you grew up being. I'll always be a Catholic. And, as such, I can't stop being pissed over my church and the man they'd chosen to lead it, that RatZinger, Benedict XVI.

I confess, I wasn't a big fan of John Paul II. I'll always feel his open hostility towards liberation theology got a lot of priests, nuns, and lay people killed in Latin America, which is probably why evangelicals are taking over there today.

Of course, Latin America's not alone in shedding its Catholic identity. Africa and Asia see its paltry numbers growing, but in North America and Europe, folks have fled the Church like it's a rampaging Cossack. When JPII died in April 2005, Rome found itself at a crossroads. They could have addressed the problem of their fleeing flock, opened up, liberalized, become more inclusive like they had with Vatican II. Instead, the beleaguered Cardinal College circled their wagons and retrenched, electing someone so reactionary, so venomous, I wouldn't be surprised if he jumped up, screamed, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" and start burning witches in St. Peter's Square.

In 2004, under the ancien regime, American cardinals threatened to deny John Kerry communion for his pro-choice stance. In 2007, RatZinger upped the ante by threatening pro-choice candidates with excommunication. No doubt he emboldened the American clergy to bully from their pulpits last year and exhort/-tort parishioners that they "risked their immortal soul" by voting pro-choice. South Carolinian Reverend Jay Scott Norman even told his flock they shouldn't take the Host if they voted for Barack "the most radical pro-abortion politician ever" Obama.


While I definitely don't agree, I can respect the Church's official pro-life position. Every life is sacred and should not be destroyed. Therefore, they have always been against abortion and capital punishment.


They've been quite vocal, have campaigned vigorously against the former. No one doubts the Church's views on fetal life. But what about penal death? Dead Man Walking aside, where are they when a convict has her/his life flushed away by lethal injection? Why don't I see them protesting outside prisons?

More importantly, why don't I see them protesting Republican candidates or any and all candidates who advocate for the death penalty? Wouldn't that consistency be truer to Church doctrine? Since there are probably few if any politicians who espouses the Church's particular pro-life stance, shouldn't priests deny every American voter the Eucharist? Shouldn't RatZinger excommunicate every Catholic politiician in these here United States?

So, either you excoriate all American Catholics for our political beliefs, or shut the hell up. You tell the liberation theologists to stop focusing so much on their politics and focus more on Jesus' being the Son of God. Hmmm, maybe someone should practice what they preach. And, if you're looking for a sermon, why not start with Isaiah? "My house shall be known as a house of prayer for all peoples."


This November, 54 percent of American Catholics told their clergy they'd gladly risk their "immortal souls" to save their temporal asses and voted for Obama, anyway. But it's not as though this Pope will listen to those results or the pleas to expand women's role within the Church or end priestly celibacy or stop their homophobic blame game with the child molestation scandals. And they definitely won't stop hiding the crimes' main facilitator, Cardinal Law, in Vatican City and bring him to justice. Nope, they are obstinately deaf, dumb, and blind to our modern age. They are hightailin' it outta Damascus and breaking the sound barrier down the road to perdition.

And RatZinger is proudly leading the charge. The man isn't satisfied with just enraging Catholics. He is hellbent and determined to piss everybody off (remember how he attacked Harry Potter?). This Pope finds the ideas of Christian brotherhood, love, and charity anathema to his very being. He doesn't want to bring the world together in understanding and respect but would rather fling us all in a steel cage and have us fight it out in a no-holds-barred conflagration of religious fury. To make John's Revelation flesh.

Of course, RatZinger didn't get where he is by not being clever. He uses Bush Babee obfuscation to somehow cloud his true intentions.

He often praises women for their early roles in the Church; he thinks their contribution "always has been a determining factor without which the church could not live"; Catholic mothers have "given life" and introduce that life to a "friendship with Jesus"; he even calls Mary Magdalene "the apostle of the apostles." Should women become priests? Hell no! Didn't you see that? "The apostle of the apostles." And, if you don't get that, here: "Jesus chose 12 men as fathers of the new Israel, 'to be with Him and to be sent out to proclaim the message.'" Stick to birthing, ladies--or at least the rhythm method.

There was his 2006 speech where he took on Islam: "The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war. He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman...'"

When furor naturally erupted, he did his best Lucille Ball mischievous blush to the world's outraged Ricky Ricardo. "Who me?!" He tried to hide behind quotes, but only the MSM was fooled. After all, this is the same RatZinger who in 2000 claimed that Muslims and other religions are "gravely deficient" and "depend on superstitions or other erros ... [and] constitute an obstacle to salvation."

He hid behind this newfangled field of "gender theories" this past Christmas after he infuriated gays, transsexuals, feminists, and (who knows) orthodox environmentalists when he admonished us all to preserve God's "natural" order of man and woman, calling for an "ecology of man." "The tropical forests do deserve our protection; but man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi hearkened to said gender theory and said that the Pope did not specifically attack homosexuality. But RatZinger has spent a lot of his time attacking gays. Within months of ascending to the papacy, he effectively banned gays from the priesthood. Before that he authored the Church's 2003 battle plan to oppose gay marriage and adoption and has also written that gay discrimination is "not unjust discrimination" and that homosexuality represents "an intrinsic moral evil."

The Vatican and MSM like to treat every new RatZinger controversy as a mere slip of the tongue, a clerical Spoonerism that the Pope (no matter how consistent these "slips" are with his past views) somehow didn't mean. But one does not become Pope without being a political being. As Prof. Chester Gillis, chair of the theology department at Georgetown University has claimed, "He knows very well the kind of claims he makes have political implications. He wants to influence public policy in numerous places in the world and hopefully sway the powers that be to his side, especially on so-called social issues."

But it's RatZinger's actions last month that should've really told the world exactly where this Pope stands. As you've no doubt heard by now, the Pontiff rescinded the excommunication of four Society of St. Pius X bishops, a breakaway order started by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre that basically wanted to repeal Vatican II. Among the group of four was Bishop Richard Williamson, a known Holocaust denier.

Outrage immediately ensued. Germany's Central Council of Jews, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Yad Vashem, and Elie Wiesel condemned the action. Angela Merkel called on RatZinger to issue a "very clear" rejection of Holocaust denial, and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel cut ties with the Vatican.

In response, Rome came out ringing a false note. Lombardi stated, "The condemnation of statements that deny the Holocaust could not have been clearer, and from the context it is apparent that it referred to the positions of Bishop Williamson and to all similar positions." They even told Williamson to "distance himself" from his Holocaust fantasies--though he's yet to do it (watch the video below about the "quote-unquote Holocaust"). That doesn't really matter, though. As Monsignor Robert Wister pointed out, "To deny the Holocaust is not a heresy even though it is a lie. ... The excommunication can be lifted because he, Williamson, is not a heretic, but he remains a liar."

But Williamson is a heretic. He wasn't excommunicated for his anti-Semitism 20 years ago. He was booted because his unauthorized consecration was deemed "an unlawful and schismatic act" by JPII himself. RatZinger, who's always been sympathetic to the Society, reinstated the bishops as a thumb in the eye to his predecessor. The fact that Williamson's a Holocaust denier's only an added plum (maybe his time as a Nazi Youth and German soldier affected him more deeply than he claims?). It may even be more to the point.

The American press has been flummoxed by the move. They claim that Benedict has expended great effort in reaching out to Jews. Oh, he's made some cursory gestures, but he's exerted much more effort doing just the opposite. He's worked vigorously to accelerate the canonization of Pope Pius XII, who's believed to have turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. He's reinstated the Tridentine Mass, which includes a prayer for the conversion of Jews "from darkness to Catholicism." And now this.

I've heard a couple pundits claim that RatZinger's just attempting to "reach out" to unite the Church's disparate groups. I say he's reaching back to Catholicism's dark past. As Gillis noted, this man "knows very well" what he's doing, and what he's doing is courting reaction and disaster. All his little "malaprops" and "missteps" are designed to divide and drive the Church even further to the Right. He may occasionally pay lip service to this PC, multiculti modernity he finds himself in, and Lombardi will equivocate and parse and search for "context" when his Bossman makes a "boo boo"; but these mistakes are the point. He is hacking away at the modern age, attacking all he finds an affront to God, and his sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Potterite agenda is designed to destroy these "abominations" in order to restore the Church to its proper place--the primacy of Christendom.

Unfortunately for Catholicism, RatZinger's efforts will only fling the Church headlong into obscurity. His atavistic brand of hate has no place in our world (well, maybe YouTube). Benedict knows this, but he doesn't care. Like Bush Babee, this Pope is certain that history and God will bear him out. We Americans couldn't bring ourselves to impeach Bush, and we had o wait him out for eight, long years. Look where that's gotten us! RatZinger won't be excommunicated. He's Pope for life, baby. There's no telling how long his reign of horrors will continue. For the love of Jesus, I hope it's not much longer. However, until Benedict goes to that Great Auto da fé in the Sky, he will continue to outrage, he won't stop spewing his vitriol, he will continue to cover gays, women, Arabs, Jews, all he finds blasphemous with his vile. And, while he does it, more and more will join me in a decidedly un-Catholic flock.


The "Big Three" Automakers Video of the Day


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

R.I.P. Louie Bellson

Here's a fitting bio from Marc Myers at All About Jazz:

Louie Bellson, one of the last headline drummers of the big band era whose twin bass drums and high-energy beat-keeping thrilled audiences and powered orchestras ranging from Benny Goodman to Duke Ellington, died on February 14. He was 84 and had been recovering at home from a broken hip.
Considered a swing drummer, Louie's style was less pronounced than Gene Krupa's and Buddy Rich's but could be equally bombastic and showy. Louie had a different sort of vigor than other drummers of the period, built largely on endurance and a near-hypnotic passion for hard-snap rhythms and subtle strokes. It was not unusual on a Louie Bellson solo for the drummer to punish the heads and skins while at the same time mixing in soft subtle figures that grew to a roaring crescendo.

Born in Rock Falls, Illinois, Louie told me in a series of interviews in 2007 that he spent much of his early youth at his father's music store, where he learned to play nearly all of the instruments sold there. But it was a passing parade that inspired Louie most, particularly the drummer. From that day on, Louie focused his energy on the drums. In high school, Louie developed what would become his signature technique of playing two bass drums at once, one for his left foot and one for his right.

Louie's teen-age passion for showmanship and the music of the big bands was impossible to extinguish. In 1941, at age 17, he entered the Slingerland National Gene Krupa Drum Contest along with 40,000 other young drummers. After several rounds in New York, Krupa picked Louie as the winner.

“I was knocked out," Louie told me. “When Gene gave me the award, he said, 'You have a brilliant career ahead of you.' Later, whenever I'd run into him, Gene would say, 'See, I told you that you had a big career ahead of you.' He was a funny guy."

Louie's first professional break came when the Ted Fio Rito band passed through his home town in 1942. With large numbers of musicians entering the military during World War II, Louie was hired by Fio Rito straight out of high school. His first job was at the Florentine Gardens club in Los Angeles. On the same bill were the Mills Brothers. “I heard them every night, and they sounded even better live than on record," Louie said.

Later in 1942, Louie joined Benny Goodman's band. “Benny wanted the sections playing in tempo on their own," Louie said. “He needed them to keep time without relying on the rhythm section. We'd have to sit through the entire rehearsal until Benny would finally add the bass, drums and piano. When he'd rehearse the other sections, he'd look over at us and say, 'Now don't pull a magazine out on me. Listen to what's going on.' “

In the late 1940s, as Goodman band engagements slowed, Louie joined Tommy Dorsey, whose highly proficient orchestra at the time established the blueprint for many concert and studio bands of the 1950s and set new instrumental standards. “Now that band was one tough group," Louie said. “Most of the charts were by Bill Finegan and were written tight. Sections came in and out, and the beats had to be there and sharp."

Louie's first extended solo appeared on the band's recording of Drumology, which Louie wrote and arranged with the help of Sid Cooper, one of the band's alto saxophonists. The song had a big Kenton-like fanfare introduction, followed by a breakneck beat that ultimately wound up featuring Louie in a jaw-dropping solo. “There was a whole crowd of top session guys in that band who could really read," Louie said.

Louie remained with Dorsey for three years, a period of grueling road trips that leapfrogged from one theater to the next. “We played all the RKO theaters, which meant I played for tap dancers and jugglers who warmed up audiences and needed the beat to be dead on," Louie said.

In 1950, as work for Dorsey's band slowed, Louie joined Harry James briefly, a ferocious band that played mostly live and was captured by radio transcriptions. Two airshots feature Louie on drums--Bluebeard's Blues by Neal Hefti and Jimmy Mundy's Rank Frank. “Man, what a band," Louie said. “Willie Smith [alto sax] was in there. So was Juan Tizol [trombone], and Neal Hefti [trumpet] wrote many of the arrangements."

Louie was close friends with Tizol, and whenever the band was in New York, he would stay at Tizol's apartment. A frequent caller on Tizol's phone was Duke Ellington. “In 1951, Duke called and asked Juan to join his band and to bring Willie Smith and me with him," Louie said.

When Louie joined Duke Ellington's band, there was no music to read, nor was there a drum book. Everyone in the band knew the parts by heart. “Duke took a big risk hiring me," Louie recalled. “I was the only white musician in his band. During our first 1951 tour, just before we headed south for Birmingham, Alabama, he said 'We're going down South so we're going to make you a Haitian.' That's how they described me so we wouldn't wind up in trouble."

In the mid-1950s, Louie formed his own small groups and bands, playing and recording constantly throughout the decade. In 1962, he joined Count Basie for a tour abroad. In the decades that followed, Louie's ability to swing and fire up small groups and bands made him a favored drummer of virtually every jazz legend. As a drummer, Louie was both an innovator and old school, a combination that both inspired and reminded musicians on his dates of a long-gone glorious era. Louie's last album, Louie & Clark Expedition 2, was recorded in 2007 with Clark Terry.

Over the past two years, whenever I would call Louie to chat, he was always eager to reflect on his band years, and he generously shared his memories and stories. His voice also was from another era. It was gravelly, but there was a Midwestern tone mashed together with a hipness from years of exchanging one-liners with musicians and swinging the beat. He had a strong, confident street sound you no longer hear in the voices of jazz musicians or anyone else these days.

My deepest sympathies go out to Louie's family, especially his wife Francine, a woman of tireless energy, unrelenting optimism and a wonderful warm laugh. She also was Louie's biggest fan.

And here's a cool drum battle between Bellson and Buddy Rich:


Sunday, February 15, 2009

15 Albums That Changed My Life

All right, I got this from Gail over there at The Worley Gig, who got it from one of those lists floating around on Facebook. I was unaware of that one, but Skunk Gal has a hysterical response to the 25 Things You Don't Know About Me, which is so popular it was even featured on The Today Show this morning.

I've yet felt compelled to fill that one out, but the 15 Albums seemed like fun. Gail contends that her list doesn't contain anything from beyond 1987 because of a dearth of kick-ass music. I'd argue that it's not the music's fault. We just generally feel things more strongly in our youth. For example, close your eyes, think back to that crush you had back in eighth grade, how you would just die! if you weren't together forever. Now, open your eyes, turn around ... Where are they?

So, I won't claim that my 15 Albums are the greatest of all-time, or even the ones I think are the greatest. However, these albums all represent something important to me--even if I don't listen to them now. I hope you enjoy and feel free to add your two cents.

1. Prince -- 1999

My Uncle Rodney got me hooked on Prince at a very early age. My Uncle Rodney surprised me with a surprise ticket to my first concert, 1999, and I got to go with him, my cousin, and my cousin's best friend, who I had a huge crush on. A few years ago, when my uncle lay dying in a drug-induced semi-coma in the ICU, I put one bud in my ear and another in his ear and played 1999 for him. That was the last time I saw my Uncle Rodney alive.

2. Prince -- Purple Rain

While Prince is my favorite artist and "When Doves Cry" is my favorite Prince song, Purple Rain isn't even my second favorite Prince album. Despite that, at one time, I took the success of this album so personally, you'd have thought I was getting royalties. You can read this old post, Prince and Eye to find out why.

3. X-Clan -- To the East Blackwards

Yes, I, too, loved Brother J Funkin' Lesson and Professor X, The Overseer, sisssssyyyyyyy!!! While I don't think X-Clan was the most innovative group of the period (though the one with the best mythology), I credit them for getting my young, angry ass to look into vodou, santeria, obeah, and other Africanist religions, which really influenced my first novel. I gotta give credit where credit's due.

4. Various Artists (but mostly the Bee Gees) -- Saturday Night Fever [OST]

Steve Miller's "The Joker," "The Theme from S.W.A.T." and "Welcome Back" (from Welcome Back, Kotter) were my first 45s, and this soundtrack, bought when I was a mere 7-years-old, started my music addiction that has not been slaked to this day.

5. LL Cool J -- Radio

Most people forget the early days of hip-hop when even black radio wouldn't play rap music. In a lot of cities at the time, they were violently opposed to the music. And I, being young and bougie, fell into their classtrap. LL brought me out of my delusion. I've been a hip-hop head ever since. I still blame him for the horrendous concept of the "rap ballad" (after all, who remembers MC Shan's "Left Me Lonely"?), but LL was the man.

6. John Coltrane -- Giant Steps

Back in high school when I wanted to hear more jazz, I bought this album, My Favorite Things, and Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners. But this is the album I kept coming back to. This is the one that gave me my life-long love of jazz.

7. Public Enemy -- It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

I think before this album came out, I was just a peeved, young black man.

8. Fela -- Original Sufferhead

It's hard to believe with all my pro-black, pan-Africanist militancy back in the day, it took me until I was 25 before I discovered Fela Anikulapo (Ransome) Kuti. Of course, it's totally believable that it was an older white guy from Alabama who made the introduction. Supremely funky, militantly outspoken, Wole Soyinka's cousin, Fela's everything I love in an artist--no matter the medium.

9. Ice Cube -- Death Certificate

Face it, nothing beats Cube's children's movies, but, not only was O'Shea at the top of his game and on top of the world, Death Certificate perfectly encapsulated the rage we were feeling after the Rodney King beating.

10. R.E.M. -- Document

All right, this is a weird one because Document marks more of a negation than any of my other picks. Because of MTV's racial policies of the time, I was more into rock than I'd ever been before or since. So, in the mid-80s, I was really into R.E.M., U2, The Police, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Tears for Fear. But in '87 I got BET, and it was pretty much over for rock. Document's the last rock album I'd buy for almost 20 years.

11. Billy Eckstine -- Everything I Have Is Yours: The Best of the M-G-M Years

Being from Pittsburgh, I'd heard homeboy Eckstine's name all the time. So, in college while I was a jazz DJ for the radio station, I dubbed this album and became addicted to him and "corny" jazz vocals. So, by day, I'd pump Digital Underground, but at night, I'd while away the time with Billy and Sarah.

12. Wu-Tang Clan -- Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

After spending almost a year in the Czech Republic, I was pretty much out of sorts. I'd missed African-Americans, our culture, our music, everything, and I missed all the food options America can offer. Of course, with all that stuff now available, I was suffering culture shock like you wouldn't believe and didn't know exactly where I belonged in this world. Then I heard one little word spelled out, and I knew I was, indeed, where I belonged. "M-E-T-H-O-D."

13. D'Angelo -- Voodoo

This album made it OK to love (R&B) again. I thought D'Angelo had firmly established himself as the ruler of R&B and that he'd ushered in a new day for the stale genre. Boy, I was wrong on both counts. But that's all right, this was a great album.

14. Jazzanova -- The Remixes 1997-2000

I hadn't really been into electronic music since I'd left Chicago's House-plagued land after college. Then I got a hold of this two-disc set, and I really went ape-shit. I ended up being an electronica critic for BPM and for years and did something I was always loathe to do: go to clubs (generally to review and/or interview DJs--but still).

15. The Slits -- Cut

A few years back, I was contemplating writing a coming-of-age book set in the '80s. It was to concentrate mostly on hip-hop, but, for background, I picked up the great Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds. Because I liked their names, I first checked out The Slits. God, I love these women. I totally got into Post-Punk (Devo, Gang of Four, ESG, A Certain Ratio, Pere Ubu, James Chance, Young Marble Giants, the list goes on and on). Soon thereafter, I got into the White Stripes, Coheed and Cambria, and a whole bunch of other rock. After some 20 years, I like rock, and it all starts with the Slits.


The Cyborgs Are Coming

All right, those of you who have read my first novel, Sunshine Patriots, know that it's a science-fiction anti-war novel. I'd written it way back in '98, but it didn't come out until '04. So, a lot of things that I thought would never be relevant suddenly became relevant with the invasion of Iraq. It was almost a 30-year US policy to not conduct a war of occupation, so I thought it was safe to write about a war of occupation. Silly me. And that book tour was highly uncomfortable. How do you sit in ultra-conservative bookstores in Bombingham, Alabama, while Americans are being beheaded on the evening news and talk about how your book's against the war?

The novel's cyborg soldiers, who are constantly blown to bits, stitched back together with mechanized parts, and thrown right back on the battlefield, are also becoming more and more relevant by the minute. I originally set SP in the 2200s, but it looks like I should've set it in the 2020s.

First, amputee soldiers started returning to active duty back in '07.

And now, through targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR), scientists are able to move nerves to alternate muscles in the bodies, allowing amputees to think in order to command their prosthetic limbs. (Read more.)

A friend of mine, almost 10 years ago, said that we are living science fiction today. I think he had something there. I'd originally set Sunshine Patriots in the farflung, exotic future of the 2200s. While a lot of the novel seemed to play out over the past couple years, it's looking like the cyborg will be here in the 2020s--if not sooner.