Friday, July 31, 2009

Health Care Stories: International

You may have heard, we Americans are currently debating our health care system and there's a serious fight to have some sort of universal health care. Currently, the opponents of reform are filling people's heads with "horror" stories from France, Canada, the UK, etc., about how your system basically lets people die in the streets while they wait for care. I don't buy it, but a lot of people are.

So, I'm looking for stories from countries with some form of universal health care:

The UK, Canada, France, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Israel, etc.

So, I want stories. And honesty! I want to know what your experiences have been with your health care system. I'm not looking for strictly good nor strictly bad stories. I just want honest stories. Tell us what's been going on with you. Tell us the good, the bad, the beautiful, and/or the ugly.

Please DO NOT POST your story in this post's comment section. Just email me your tale and your photo (if you want) with your name (real or alias), city, and country at

wmrcampbell at

And I'll post the story. That's all. I want to give us Americans a chance to hear what it is actually like in other countries with health care industry. So please submit and spread the word. We need all the help we can get.

Health Care Stories: America

As we all know, the health care debate has gone into overdrive and, as Congress is on its August recess, various interest groups are going to scream at us with such speed and ferocity, possible health care reform may just be obliterated into dust. So, what I want to do with Tome this month is provide a forum for folks to tell us what's going on with their own health care.

So, I want stories. And honesty! I want to know what your experiences have been with our American health care industry. I'm not looking for strictly good nor strictly bad stories. I just want honest stories. Tell us what's been going on with you. Tell us the good, the bad, the beautiful, and/or the ugly. And tell us what you want for the future of our health care system.

Please DO NOT POST your story in this post's comment section. Just email me your tale and your photo (if you want) with your name (real or alias), city, and state at

wmrcampbell at

And I'll post the story. That's all. I want to provide a forum for us normal folks to tell people what's going on. Too many of the horror stories the media are providing us right now are coming from the health care industry itself and pundits who DO NOT WANT reform. And our health future is being decided by politicians who DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY about health care at all and pretty much have no clue what's going on.

Hopefully, we here at Tome can help fill this gap and provide a little reality to the debate.

So, please submit and tell others to submit, read and spread these stories. We Gen Xers are entering our 40s and that huge Baby Boom generation is already in its 60s. We have a huge demographic crunch coming way too soon. I fear that this health care debate is probably THE MOST important question our country has faced in years. We need to stop having these politicians (I mean, have you seen how much Max Baucus is getting in "donations" from the health care industry?), Big PHRMA, and insurance companies telling us what we want.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

You're Next, Albert

You gotta figure, with the New York Times reporting that Manny Ramirez (quel surprise!) and David "Big Papi" Ortiz tested positive for steroids back in '03, that it's only a matter of time before someone outs Albert Pujols for his obvious abuse. And don't be surprised if Ryan Howard's time is short, too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Happy 100th, Chester Himes!

One of the hardest motherfuckers of twentieth century lit, Chester Himes would've turned 100 today. He oftentimes gets short shrift because he bucked the Negro trend and abandoned the "protest novel" to write noir (hey! that's black, too--what gave?!). Personally, his protest If He Hollers Let Him Go was a real inspiration for me when I first started trying to write seriously. You should definitely check it out if you get a chance.

Also, you've gotta check out his hard-boiled Cotton Comes to Harlem and A Rage in Harlem. The man was more than a little twisted and totally unforgiving. His autobiographies, The Quality of Hurt and My Life of Absurdity are a delight--though, to call him a misogynist is an understatement.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gone Writin'

Last Tuesday night, I suffered a seriously horrific nightmare so horrific, so gory that it immediately shocked me awake. What really woke me up was when a sometime co-worker (whom I hadn't seen in almost a year) set himself on fire with such a beatific smile I nearly had the shakes. I couldn't go back to sleep, and, in the darkness, my head became filled with all these different characters and their voices telling me their story. I finally did drift off to sleep, and, later that morning, I woke up with one helluva migraine and the seeds of a novel pounding my cranium. Two days later, that same sometime co-worker (whom I hadn't seen in almost a year) appeared at work. I decided to take that as an omen.

So, I'll be off for a little while to see if I actually do have a novel in my head. I'll post occasionally, but, for now, I'm taking a little break from Tome. Feel free to drop me a line.

Cheers, yall!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Soul Sista Saturday: Donna Summer

I was just telling Mrs. Unknown about once reading how this song changed the face of music, and, having not really been there at the time, being incredulous. So, while this Donna Summer/Georgio Moroder classic is not my favorite, I decided to give it its propers this morning. After all, I guess without "I Feel Love," you don't get that electro Italian disco in the '80s, which all those DJs in Chicago loved, who turned around and gave us house music all night long.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

That's President Witch Doctor to You

The great thing about living in a Post-Racial World!!! is that we can all sit back and look at pictures like these and knowingly chuckle at those silly racists from years gone by while we calmly sip on our shiraz.

Uh, Bill, this picture was actually being circulated this past Friday.

No kidding?

Yeah, by some fine, upstanding Florida neurosurgeon named David McKalip.

Naw, really?

Sure thing. According to TPM, Herr Doktor is also a member of the Tea Party movement--

Those Tea Baggers are a hoot.

And the founder of Doctors for Patient Freedom.

Ooh, he must be impo'tent. What's he got against witchdoctor medicine?

I think he thinks it's socialist.

Oh. Hey, could you please pass the shiraz?


Prominent African-American Scholar Discovers Negritude


The recent arrest of prominent African-American scholar, Yale professor, and author of such classics in African-American study, Who You Callin' "Boy," Cracker?!, The Skin I's In, and Pork and White Women: How Things That Taste So Good Are So Bad for Black Men, Austin S. Simpleton, IV, has caused a national scandal and yet another abortive attempt in discussing race relations in America. Last Wednesday evening, Dr. Simpleton was in his backyard when the New Haven, CT, SWAT team rushed into his back yard and arrested the professor.

"I was eating a very refreshing arugula salad and grilling my shitake kabobs when they rushed in," Simpleton told Tome earlier. "I thought they'd made a mistake. I mean, some pret-ty sketch-y characters down the street since they stopped red-lining the neighborhood. But the police know me.

"I tried to explain it to them," he explained, sniffling. "And then they shot Candide."

Dr. Simpleton's Dead Saluki, Candide

With the doctor's eight-year-old Saluki, Candide, lying in the grass, bleeding to death, the SWAT team grabbed the 56-year-old professor and slammed him down on his concrete patio.

"I kept screaming, 'You know me! You know me!' But they would have none of it. They said that there had been some recent burglaries and that I fit the description. I asked them what exactly that was, and I could not believe what I was hearing."

The description that the police offered was that of a 5'3" to 6'7" African-American male of light to dark complexion with bald head, short-cropped afro, and ass-length dreadlocks. Dr. Simpleton confessed that he, indeed, fit that description.

"But I contended so did every African-American in the country," Simpleton continued.

"No," the officer in charge disagreed. "We could also be looking for a Jamaican, Cuban, Maori. Hell, we could be looking for some African from Timbuktu with a bone in his nose."

"Where's the bone?! Where's the bone?!" one officer was reported to scream, ramming his pistol into the doctor's face.

"Hey, have you seen 2001?" police Sgt. Paddy Kennedy asked. "Bones can be used as weapons, people. We were dealing with a known suspect. Don't you forget that?"

Dr. Simpleton, now convalescing in a local hospital, continued his tale through the tears.

"I just didn't understand it. I passed the paper bag test. I was a member of Jack and Jill. I went to Exeter and Harvard and the Sorbonne! I've taught at Emory and Cambridge and Yale! And the more I kept explaining my CV, the more they kept kickin' my black ass!"

I handed him a tissue.

"It's like I was no longer Dr. Austin S. Simpleton, IV, author of Pork and White Women! It's like I was that fool D'Angelo Washington down the street with his nine triflin' kids!"

"Red-lining," I shrugged.

"You know what I'm sayin'," Simpleton twanged. "Now they let any ol' mo'fucka live in the neighborhood. Like they ain't no difference no mo'!"

I was speechless.

"And there is a difference," the professor continued. "Did you see my groundbreaking PBS documentary, Where You From, Negro?"

"I ... I put on my queue."

"Well, when you watch it, you will see that there ... is ... a ... difference. I traced my genealogy. I am not like that D'Angelo Washington. I am half-Swedish, half-French, 35 percent Japanese..."

"And black," I proferred.

"Sure, sure, sure. Just ask my cousins, Tiger Woods and Rae Dawn Chong."

Neither were available for comment.

Dr. Simpleton continued to cry.

"I just don't understand what those police officers were thinking," he whimpered. "I speak French!"


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Ben

Well, it looks like Big Ben is being accused of pulling a Kobe, in sexually assaulting a hotel employee. According to reports, back in July of last year, Roethlisberger asked the woman to come to his room to fix his TV and later sexually assaulted her. There was no criminal complaint nor investigation. This is a civil lawsuit. I will definitely be withholding judgment (too many women who've accused celebrities in the past have been crucified by jackholes like yours truly), but, as Mrs. Unknown wrote to me, "Shouldn't it be a rule in the players employee handbook not to have sex with hotel employees?"

I'm a Wreck

I'm a wreck. Sick yet again. Sick and tired of being sick and tired. I've got a lot of possibly life-altering decisions to make, actions to take, and my body spites me at every turn. Truth be told, I've been battling bouts of depression since sending Pooh to daycare, and right now the Big D's got me twisted up in a figure-four leg-lock. No wonder I'm sick.

I'm a wreck. I admit it. And part of my wreck-titude finds it really funny that Henry Louis Gates was so "shocked" and "outraged" that he got arrested for breaking into his own house. Apparently, Skippy had actually never been arrested before--let alone arrested for a crime he didn't commit. And he calls himself a "spokesman" for the black experience. Hm.

I'm a wreck. I've told you already. And I'm sick and tired. I mean, I just don't understand why the white MSM doesn't understand that Jesse Jackson does not speak for any black community--let alone ours. Why do I have to see his ugly mug on CNN talking about his "unfinished business" with Obama? Jackson's been finished for years! Please get this through your head, White Media, Jesse Jackson is nothing but a syphilitic, self-aggrandizing prick who's done nothing but spew his self-serving pus over his people just to make a buck for decades now. Please treat him, Brother Al, and whoever else pretends to speak for us as the pickaninny pimps they are and banish them to the woodpile. Thank you.

Well, I already told you what I am and that I've been under the weather for awhile. Both have contributed to stopping me for ranting against John Krasinski for some time now. Not because I hate Krasinski's work, his acting, or his mediated persona. I actually kinda like all of them. I just hate the fact that he's always paired opposite of women I adore. I mean, he gets to play Rashida Jones's boyfriend for months on The Office, and now he's playing Maya Rudolph's hubby in Away We Go. No, this ain't some pseudo-racial pride rant about how only a black man should be shown lovin' a mixed-race woman (I wonder how you'd make that argument--I should ask Nick Cannon). Naw, I'm just jealous. I love those two, mixed-race women. It should've been me! Damnit! Meeeee!!!!


Prince Buster's "Wreck a Pum Pum"

I'm a wreck. But have you seen this economy? I should be more thankful that I've got a job.

Have you seen the new 2010 Camaro? Bitchin'!

Yet again, you know what I am. And, I must confess, six months into The Big Brother's administration, I often find myself also being a raving lunatic. I'm still diggin' him like an old soul record; and he's had to deal with more shit than an NYC sewage treatment plant; but ... sometimes ...

Look, those bastards over at Goldman Sachs and all those other banks reporting a profit are lying. They know they're lying. We know they're lying. Our politicians know they're lying. We know that they're still not loaning money out and making money on the interest. We know that they still have all that "toxic debt" on the books that's killing them from the inside out. We know they did it just to boost their stock prices and give themselves fat, delusional bonuses yet again.

And yet, Obama and the Gang are letting these bastards lie to our faces. It's cool that they've started paying back some of our money, but they're only doing it to enrich their own bank accounts. I don't know when--a month, a year, two years from now--all these assholes are going to be coming back to us, crying poor, and will be begging us to bail them out again.

Instead of getting tough with these nut Sachs, making them right their own ships and get us out of the cess pool we're drowning in, Obama's decided to join their Greek chorus of lies in order to say, "Hey, look, the economy's stabilizing." What the hell? Are we tax payers the only people on the planet who realize that sooner or later, you have to pay the piper?

Oh yeah, and what the hell happened to all that regulation you were almost talking about, Eraserhead?

I may be a wreck, but at least I'm not a sociopathic cocksucker like South Carolina's Jim DeMint.

I mean, I understand playing politics and how brutal that game can be. But damn, DeMented, how can you possibly be hoping that Obama fails on this health care thing? Hope that hundreds of thousands of more people go bankrupt because of their health care costs? Pray that folks get sicker and die because they fear they can't afford medical treatment? You hope people go bankrupt, states, and the country, all so you can score political points against Obama? I may have a little chest cold right now, but I ain't never been that sick!

But what makes me sickest of all is that so many Americans want a single-payer health care system and something like 75 percent of us want a public health insurance option, yet we're watching our "leaders" vacillate, obfuscate, and potentially detonate this debate into oblivion.

I haven't heard a satisfying summary of the House's bill passed last week, but what I have heard so far sounds a little too much like Massachusett's plan for my comfort. That supposed public plan forced everybody to buy health insurance, ballooned that state's budget paying for people who couldn't afford it, penalized people over $900 a year for not buying it if the state deemed they could afford it, and now Mass. is planning to kick some 130,000 off their own health care rolls. All because, while forcing us to buy health care insurance, they didn't put any frigging caps on what insurance companies could charge or any regulations on their conduct. Now, the President and Congresspeople want to go down that same path?!

Look, we know that these insurance companies are powerful. We understand that they are spending millions of dollars right now lobbying against anything that would resemble real reform. Hell, they would absolutely love yall to give them the Massachusetts plan writ large. God, 300 million enslaved customers at their mercy. Imagine the money they would be making if yall were stupid enough to pass that bill.

There's a very good reason why the vast majority of Americans want a public, health care option. There's a reason why we're not being scared off this time by Republicans screaming "Socialized medicine!" and "Rationed care!"

The reason's simply because we've lived under the tyranny of HMOs and PPOs and insurers for far too long. We're tired of watching people become sicker and are bankrupted and die under their rule. We're absolutely sick and tired of being horrified that we could suffer the same fate. We are all one sickness, one accident away from no longer being grateful that we survived the horror but wish we would've died instead. We no longer want to live with that fear. No, we don't like the idea of some bureaucrat deciding what care we receive. But we absolutely refuse to continue to be refused health care so some fat-assed CEO can expand his profit margin, raise his stock price, and buy a bigger, fucking yacht so he can cruise on over to Aruba!

But you scum-sucking politicians love Aruba, too. You want to be invited on that yacht. Better yet, you hope to retire from your seat and get hired by that CEO so you can buy your own yacht. It simply does not matter how many folks have to suffer and die in order for you to get it.

So yeah, I'm a wreck. And part of the reason I am is because I fear that I am watching one of the biggest disasters to ever hit our country. And I'm afraid we simply won't survive it.

Yeah, DeMint, the failure to pass effective, public health care legislation will be Obama's "Waterloo," as you put it. But it will also be this nation's Hiroshima. I better not see your punk ass toasting marshmallows.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Rocket Experience: Buzz Aldrin, Snoop, & Talib Kweli

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, Buzz Aldrin has teamed up with Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli to make this funny video:

And "The Making of..." is just plain funny:


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Soul Sista Saturday: Nega Gizza

Recently, I was informed by someone who shall remain nameless (though not Nameless--that is someone else) that Soul Sista Saturday may just be boring, that people don't come to Tome to watch videos but to read what I have to write. Well, the majority of people don't come for that either (more on that later), but, since I love this concept so much, I've decided to give it a little context--in the hopes that you will come to love it, too.

For those of you who haven't figured it out or haven't bothered to, Soul Sista Saturday is my little tribute to women of African descent and the music they create--without regard to genre or country of origin. You all are Soul Sistas in my eyes!

This week's artist is Nega Gizza.

Back in 2005, when my wife and I spent a week in Sao Paolo and Rio ("Hipi-Hopi Hiu" to the Brazilian heads), Nega Gizza was the only female rapper with a recording contract. Hopefully, that has changed. As an African-American, I hated the name, but I was constantly reassured that "nega" is an affectionate term for black women down in Brazil. I figured, What the hey? We have "niglette," right? But, while chilling in a sidewalk pub down in Rio, I saw a white woman get her gold chain snatched. She pointed, and screamed, "The nega did it!" I almost ran for my life--watch Bus 184--Brazilian prisons are no joke! Then I saw a sister run past me and gave a sigh of relief. They arrested her promptly. Poor nega.

Though I don't understand more than 10 words of what she's saying, this video's pretty disturbing. I hope you enjoy it.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Ack! Another Hip-Hop Geezer Moment

After yesterday's post, I asked three of the four fledgling hip-hop producers I work with, 3T, Beatmeiser, and Hater, who their five favorite MCs are. For the next 30 minutes, they all merged into Hater, saying there was no one out there rocking the mic to their satisfaction. Then they started bemoaning the state of hip-hop. Beatmeiser's 30. So, that's understandable. He's verging on "grumpy, old hip-hop head" territory. But Hater's only 23, and 3T's only 21. So, I was a little shocked and more than a little annoyed that these younguns were sounding like folks twice their age.

Anyway, 3T, being the babe in the woods that she is, finally came up with an answer: Eric B. and Rakim ... together.

"'Eric B. is President' was the shit."

"Yeah," I countered, "but that was like 22 years a..." It suddenly hit me. I was talking to a grown adult who could legally walk into a bar who wasn't even born when "Eric B. is President" and Paid in Full were released, my junior, friggin' year in high school!

"Git! Git outta here!" I yelled at 3T. "You make me feel old!!!"

Well, that, and a few other things--truth be told. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Favorite MCs

With The Ecstatic, Mos Def has once again catapulted himself to the top of my Favorite MCs list (I'll just have to act as though True Magic never existed). And, though four years behind the curve, having just become addicted to Beauty and the Beat, I have catapulted Edan into said list as well. So, with this monumental reshuffling, I present to you My Favorite Current MCs list:

1. Mos Def

2. Doom (né MF Doom)

3. Immortal Technique

4. Black Milk

5. Edan


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sotomayor the Terrorist Update

Remember way back in May, when I told you the Right would peg Judge Sotomayor as a terrorist? Well, it's taken a bit longer than I'd originally thought, but "The Committee for Justice" has finally gone and did it:

Told ya so!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Purple Rain--Deconstructed (Happy 25th!)

As I've stated before, Purple Rain isn't my favorite Prince album. In fact, off the top of my head, I think I'd rank it, perhaps, fourth behind 1999, Parade, and Sign o the Times. However, last month, this landmark album turned 25, and I haven't heard that much about it. So, I figured I'd jot down some thoughts about the album that made Prince the legend he is today.

Upon reflection, Purple Rain has got to be one of the weirdest, most idiosyncratic albums to ever reach Billboard's No. 1 slot. The fact that it spent 24 weeks there still baffles me. I realize now that he made some serious concessions to popdome in order to make it so (I'll be getting to that), but it doesn't take away from the weirdness and utter Prince-ness of the album.

Purple Rain was Prince's sixth album (could you imagine today's major labels sticking with an artist for six albums before they become a star?), and I think it signifies the third phase of his early career.

For Prince's first three albums, For You, Prince, and Dirty Mind, he was basically a curious disco act. He scored a minor hit with "Wanna Be Your Lover," but if he would've stayed on the same tract, he probably just would've ended up being a minor, musical footnote or someone hipster DJs would play at the end of their sets. Fortunately, with Dirty Mind he got his first hint of crossover appeal for, basically, being a pervert in high heels and bikini briefs. But enough white folks took notice that, while still relegated to only black radio and getting booed off the stage when he opened for the Stones in LA, his music started branching out.

You can hear the experimentation in Controversy (and remember Dana Plato aerobicizing to the title track on Diff'rent Strokes?). He gets more than a little weird with "Annie Christian" and goes New Wave with "Ronnie Talk to Russia." He gets utterly sick with it with 1999. A rare double album, you can see Prince going in all kinds of different directions, and he was rewarded with a few crossover hits ("DMSR" even appears in Risky Business).

All of this leads to the beginning of his third stage, Grade A Certified Pop Star! and the album and movie, Purple Rain.

Before then, Prince pretty much just funked up the ghetto. Now, he was to rock the world. Aside from the called shot, "Baby I'm a Star," you can tell he produced the album with mega-stardom in mind. First, with black radio, Prince was known to produce some serious funk jams ("Soft and Wet," "Head," "Let's Work," "DMSR"). There are absolutely none on this album. He still gives us the ballad that would have all the black girls crying, "The Beautiful Ones," but no jam. The other thing you'll notice is that Purple Rain is absolutely guitar-laden, which his previous efforts were most definitely not. He wasn't turning his back on his people, but he was definitely trying to appeal to a broader, whiter audience. After all, back in the '80s, if a track didn't have a guitar solo, what did it have? (Oh yeah, a cheesy sax solo--I almost forgot). But hey, I ain't hatin'. This is Prince, after all. I will love him till my last breath.

Let's Go Crazy

From the very beginning, Prince let's you know this is not going to be your average, everyday pop album. Church organ, wedding ceremony. Except we are not wedding each other, we are vowing to join in Prince's peculiar pop madness. I mean, outside of this weird cartoon porn I once saw with Magilla Gorilla and Grape Ape, I've never seen a purple banana. What the hell was that all about?

I actually like the 12-inch, movie version of this song better (oh, remember those Prince 12 inches?) with his insanely banging away at the piano, but it definitely makes you dance and scream, "Oh no! Let's Go!" And the Hendrix-y solo at the end. Who knew Prince could play like that?

"Take Me with You"

Union Paul can tell you the hold Appolonia had on me. The first time he drove me around Minneapolis, any time I'd see a body of water--lake, stream, glass of water--I'd slyly go, "That's not Lake Minnetonka," until he said, "Actually, Bill, that is Lake Minnetonka." "Oh."

Appolonia definitely had a pretty weak voice, and this song was too cheesy for me back in the day. But I'm getting older and I'm weeding myself from listening to rap in Poohbutt's presence (I really don't want her going to day care screaming, "Fuck you, niggaz"); the song's definitely growing on me. Besides, the wife and I need a vacation. I wanna play this song before we embark. Wouldn't that be cute?

"The Beautiful Ones"

Good Memory: One night in college, we of Beta Lambda (the lounge my friends and I used to hang out in) suddenly started singing this song for no apparent reason. I still love those fools!

Anyway, I think that when hip-hop, with its monotonous beat and lack of tempo changes, took over R&B, a lot of "soul" vocalists lost the ability to tell a story through their music. They forgot that the music and the way they sing can tell a story probably even better than the lyrics themselves (just think of the resigned melancholia of Otis Redding's "(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay" and how Michael Bolton utterly fucked! that song up).

"The Beautiful Ones," to me, perfectly embodies the frustration and hurt of unrequited love (something pubescent Bill could totally sympathize with). He starts off with that fragile falsetto--like he's just sort of trying to mention to his woman that it, well, you know, irks him that she's not totally his. She ain't feelin' His Royal Badness. He gets more and more frustrated. He ends up SCREAMING why she should be with him, saying he may be a loser but she can make him a winner, that no one can love her like he could--but somewhere in mid-scream, he realizes that it's utterly useless, and the song just peters out. Now, that's just some good drama right there. You can even see the film credits rolling at the end of the song.

"Computer Blue"

Yes, the androgynous, lesbian sex slave fantasy droned by Wendy (replacing "1999"'s Jill Jones) and Lisa kick the song off. I often prefer to imagine Sheila E. and Vanity singing this part. Other than that, who the hell knows what this song is about. But what a cool jam! Oh yeah, and the guitar playing. Prince proved that he could rock--with just a touch of jazz.

"Darling Nikki"

The song that brought about the end of Western civilization. Yep, Nikki and her magazine-masturbating, stank ass sicced Tipper Gore and her PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) hounds down on the music industry. That gave us that stupid "Parental Advisory" sticker and freed up artists to now curse to high heaven and be as nasty as they wanted to be on their albums. Ironic, ain't it?

Of course, at 14, I loved this song because it was sooooo nasty. Now, I love it because it's such a great jam. I mean, you don't get to hear musicians cut loose on an album that often anymore. And here, they just ... went ... off!

It also reminds me of that horrible menace that was going to turn all us kids into Satan-worshiping mass murderers ... backward masking!

Run for the hills, people!

Side Two
Yes, Albums Used to Have Sides

"When Doves Cry"

Yes, Modik, this is still my favorite Prince song. I still remember where I was when I first heard this song. I was taking a shower getting ready for my high school picnic at the local amusement park, Kennywood. I used to bring my (nowhere near a) boom box into the bathroom with me and listen to the radio. I was washing my hair when "Doves" came on, and I screamed, "Oh my God! That's Prince!" so loud and in such a high pitch, my shower's sliding glass doors cracked.

Now, when I say Purple Rain has got to be the weirdest pop album ever, this is by far the weirdest No. 1 song ever. I mean, how the hell did this song ever chart?

OK, you're immediately drawn in my the opening guitar lick. There's probably not a person under 35 who doesn't recognize it. It's so great, it tempts one to ask, "Eddie Van Wholen?" And then the synth hook latches onto your brain.

But then, it's just bizarre.

First, there's no bass line. That's not so strange today because of hip-hop. But American music was always supposed to have a bass. That must've been a first (I'm sure someone out there will correct me).

For much of the song, all you've got is that drum, with an utterly undanceable 7/4 time signature (had to look that one up) that made it look as though an epileptic epidemic had hit America's dance floors.

The synths are utterly haunting and Prince sounds like an exsanguinating David Bowie through most of the song. And what's with all the Oedipal overtones? Maybe you're just like my mother? "Hey, Art, wasn't this the sick fuck who had that song about screwin' his sister?!"

None of this screams, "Hit song." But what makes the song's popularity utterly mind-boggling is that the last two minutes of this five-minute song are filled with Prince's panting, moaning, and screaming incomprehensibly in his trademark three-part harmony (oh yeah, and another guitar solo). You can just imagine radio programmers holding that little purple 45, going, "What the fuck is this?"

I think all of these reasons are why this is my favorite Prince song. This simply is not a pop song, yet it was his most popular song, which launched his career and the movie into the stratosphere. What are either without this song?

Pure, fucking genius.

"I Would Die 4 U"

I think the movie and that weird hand gesture made this song. It gave us teeny-boppers something to latch onto. And wasn't this the part where he's scuttling across the stage licking and feeling himself up? Always good for a nostalgic chuckle at a party.

"Baby, I'm a Star"

I love this song because of the utter hubris of it. "You might not know it now, but, baby, I'm a star." I wish I had the temerity to declare something like that--and the great fortune to be right! It's also the funkiest cut on the album. And, lo and behold, no guitar solo.

"Purple Rain"

Of course I love the song and the fabulous guitar work. Just, in the context of the movie, what a weird song.

"Yeah, look, Appalonia, sorry I beat the shit out of you. My Dad's a wife beater, and, well, you know ... the apple, the tree, and all that. But, look, 'it's such a shame our friendship had to end. I only wanna see you in the purple rain (no, I have no clue what that is either, but stick with me here).' So, hey, why don't we get back together? Obviously, I got enough talent to get you an album deal, and don't I play like Hendrix?"

But hell, who didn't tear up when he sang this song? Who didn't cheer when the Kid was vindicated? Who didn't say, "Yeah, suck it," when even Morris Day and the Time had to admit that he was superior? And whose heart didn't melt when Appalonia planted a big wet one on our boy?

Two better questions:

Who didn't buy this album?

and ...

Isn't it amazing that it still holds up after all this time?


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hey, Music Fiends! Who Exactly Is iPodable?

This afternoon I am facing a horrific dilemma that is literally tearing at the very fabric of my being:

Is Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down iPodable?

First, I must explain a few things.

1. I think the 10,000 years of human civilization--all the wars and plagues, rapine and repression--were suffered all in the name of giving us the iPod. In fact, if technology and civilization just stopped right here, I would be more than happy. Any device that can put tens of thousands of songs on a little, portable device is well worth it. And I thank all my forebears for the sacrifices they've made in order to make the iPod possible.

2. As you may or may not know, I used to be a music critic--and before that, I was most definitely a music fiend. I had more music than you could shake a stick at before my wife solidified our marriage by buying me an iPod for Christmas a few years back. And it has only gotten worse since.

There were already some painful decisions I had to make with what would be included and excluded from my little godsend. But now, I get migraines just thinking about it. Yes, someone may or may not have discovered Bit Torrent. Also, I work with four fledgling hip-hop producers, and, whenever I ask, "What are you listening to?" they have their thumb drives at the ready--plopping gigs of music at a time at my adoring feet. My little brother's also a fledgling music fiend and is ready to provide the tunes. And one of my biggest music f(r)iends finally gave into the Digital Revolution, got his iPod, and appears with his own thumb drive.

It's gotten to the point where I might need folks to slow down a bit. I need time to digest all this musical loving. I need time to digest. Time for it all to mean something. But before I do that and take the time out to judge what I like and what I don't, it all has to go onto iTunes and then the iPod itself.

(Digression!!! I know this confession may stretch the bounds of "fair use." However, before all you songwriters get all in a twist about it, I want you to know that I do sympathize and do try to buy the CDs--yes, I still buy those--of stuff I do like and discard the rest. And, to be honest, if it weren't for these music swaps, I wouldn't have heard of most of your stuff and would never have gone out of my way to buy it. When was the last time you were at a CD store? Face it, this is one of the only ways people are getting exposed to music anymore. After all, commercial radio's a friggin' joke. Sorry. You've just got to pray that people have the decency to buy the stuff they like.)

3. While I used to be a music critic, I gotta tell ya, I was never much of a rock fan until recently. (Oh yeah, I went over that in my 15 Albums That Changed My Life.) I'm still a hip-hop fan but much less so than before. I still think there's a lot of good rap out there--you've gotta search way too hard, but it's there. However, with Poohbutt starting to repeat way too many words, I've been cutting down on my "bitches" and "hos", of late. Rock has done an admirable job in (not quite) filling the gap, but I'm finding I like a lot of it.

This is where Thao comes in. I've been listening to We Brave Bee Stings and All since it became last spring's sensation. And I've been liking it. Ever since Kate Bush, I've had a soft spot in my heart for the quirky, female singer. She fits nicely into that mode. However, she does not quite fit into what I like in my iPod.

See, I pretty much only listen to God's Gift to Humanity when I'm traveling. It basically saved my life during the My Booty Novel tour. But it also makes the commute a whole heck of a lot less painful. And I love it when I can just pop in those ear buds and gracefully ignore the person next to me on the train or airplane who has made it their mission to ruin my life by endlessly prattling about their lives to me. Remember when a book used to do the trick?

And, as my traveling companion, I usually like to listen to "up" music that I can bop, dance, or sing to. Sure, Luther will always have a few hundred megabytes reserved for him, but I usually just like to act a fool, stay awake, and/or sing my heart out (in private, of course) when listening to my iPod.

So, you'll find a lot of hip-hop and funk on my Pod. There has been a bit of rock added. I used to like house, but you can't really sing along to a lot of that. There are a lot of funk/world hybrid acts on it. And, when I come across some rock that I like, it'll go on--with a strictly-enforced ban on hair bands.

Thao is cool. I really like her. Her voice is weird enough to keep me interested, but I can't quite figure out if she's too mellow or not. Maybe I just need another iPod. Or better yet, one for every occasion. A Chill iPod. A Lose-Your-Fucking-Mind iPod when I need to do a therapeutic, Munchian scream. A Poohbutt-Friendly iPod. Then a Poohbutt-Only iPod.

Yeah, I like that.

But, in the meantime, any help from any other music fiends would be greatly appreciated.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Damn You, Lindsay Graham!!!

Oh, how I have often longed to spend the evening at a romantic, candlelit dinner with David Brooks: feeding him both oysters and clams, staring into his hungry eyes, caressing that flaccid chin, stroking his meaty, meaty thigh. But, wouldn't you know, that damned Lindsay Graham has already beaten me to the punch!

Oh well, maybe John Boehner is still available.

Lindsay Graham Gets All the Honeys


Soul Sista Saturday: Minnie Riperton

Well, it was supposed to be Goapele today, since it's her birthday, and shit. But, apparently, someone died and made her Prince and you can't embed any of her videos. Oh, well. I know you're gonna dig this.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Go 'Head, Mr. President!

While the neocons and idiots over at Fux News constantly scream "Impotence!," I'm glad to see our President has a somewhat, shall we say, virile foreign policy.

Of course, if Bill Clinton and Silvio Berlusconi had also been in the picture, one would hope that the Secret Service would've thrown a little saltpeter onto the scene.

Personally, I must confess that I'm much more sympathetic to a President who is an ass man as opposed to simply an ass.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Ode to Mountain Dew Throwback

Our time together was all too brief, my dear
It was like a beautiful spring morn
In a more innocent time
You were so clear, so crisp
So ... effervescent
And oh ... so ... sweet
I could hold you without fear
And devour your purity
No deception, no guile
No high fructose corn syrup
No erythorbic acid
(To preserve freshness)
I miss your sugar on my tongue

But now you are gone
And I can find no other to replace you
Your syrupy sister leaves me lukewarm
Thick and sluggish

When will you come back to me, my sweet?

The Steve McNair Video of the Day

Don't get me wrong, I loved me some Steve McNair--even when he was beating up on my Stillers. Out of respect, I've been avoiding posting this song for days. But every time I hear or think about Air's being on the wrong side of a murder/suicide with his little mistress (oh, wait, I guess there is no right side in a murder/suicide--I'll have to think about that one) ... Anyway, anytime it comes up, I can't get this song out of my head.



Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Note to Philly: Obama Won the Election--Not George Wallace

I think James Carville once said about Pennsylvania that there's Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and then in between is Alabama. Well, apparently, the good people at The Valley Swim Club outside of Philly have decided to change zip codes and time periods.

Apparently, they feared the nigra invasion that happened after they took the money and gave swim passes to the children of The Creative Steps Day Camp and saw all those dusky children from Northeast Philly jump into their pristine waters.

"When the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool," Horace Gibson, parent of a day camp child, wrote in an email. "The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

Who can blame them? That shit does come off, right? You don't want your precious children swimming in ink, do you?

Well the president of the swim club, John Doucheler--oh, sorry, John Duesler apparently thinks so.

"there was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club."

Apparently, Mr. Duesler hasn't heard that this is the Age of Obama, and that our great nation has reached POST-RACIAL UTOPIA!!!

But, as you can probably guess, this segregationist ain't standing guard alone protecting the gates of Racial Purity. Hell naw, Mistah Chahlie! There are apparently tons of private clubs across this color-blind land of ours who are still whites-only. And, of course, it is perfectly legal.

Come on, people! Your fight is over! You lost! Get over it!

Shit, George "Segregation Now, Segregation Forever" Wallace is dead! And he even changed his racist views before he died! Sure, it took a couple shots to the dome and his being paralyzed for the rest of his life, but he got over his white supremacy. Let's hope it doesn't take such drastic measures for yall to change yern ... assholes.

Now, everybody sing along with me:

Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya!
Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya!
Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya!
Oh lord, kumbaya!


I Think I'm Wired Wrong

OK, I didn't get to see all of the MJ Memorial Service yesterday. I got it probably from the halfway point on. My tear ducts are clogged (God, I wish I were joking) so I didn't cry through any of it, but I found it touching and in good taste until the end.

Now, this is why I'm wondering if I'm just a right bastard or way too cynical or I like stabbing little kittens in my sleep, or something. Because, while everyone else thought that Paris Jackson's tearful speech at the end was touching and sent the crowd weeping, I was thinking something completely different.

Not that it wasn't touching and not that I don't feel bad for the girl and her brothers in losing their sociological father. It's just that they're the keys to the billion-dollar kingdom and we all know how trifling the Jackson family has been in leeching off their Michael.

It's just that here was this emotionally wracked girl, crying her heart out, and the entire family's in the background prompting, "Speak louder. Speak into the microphone."

Call me a cynic, but I viewed the family's handling of that girl as their opening salvo in the bloody custody battle to come. What makes me really suspicious is the fact that Brother Al was on CNN last night talking about "And I think you couldn't script that. She's not reading a prompter."

Uh ... huh.

Well, I hope I'm wrong -- for the sake of Paris and her sibs and for MJ's legacy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Remembering Michael

Not even close to 9/11, I'll still remember where I was on June 25, 2009, when the news of Michael Jackson's demise hit my ears. I was driving Poohbutt home from day care when NPR announced that MJ had been hospitalized. "What? Who? How?" But before anyone could answer my questions or I could park in our lot, the same radio announcers stated, a bit shocked themselves, "Michael Jackson has died."

Like most of you, the news absolutely shocked me. I didn't even have a clue the man was sick. And much to my surprise, I was a bit bummed about the King of Pop's death for a few days. I'm pretty much over it now and have been trying to organize my thoughts for the past week or so. I figure since Jackson's memorial service is today, now is the appropriate time to paste together a few of my impressions of the legend's life and death.


I remember once reading that music is central to the African-American experience and nodding my head vigorously in agreement. Now, I'm not so sure. I'm thinking that music's influence captivates us all. We African-Americans just have cooler music. Ha!

However, having been a young, black boy growing up in the '70s and '80s, in retrospect, it seems that the Jacksons have provided a soundtrack to a lot of my childhood memories.

I remember adults doing the Bump to their music. Trying to do the Robot after watching them perform "Dancing Machine." Back in '77, I spent the summer in LA. Our babysitter taught us a dance routine to "Rockin' Robin," and I remember performing our laughable Jackson imitation for my Aunt Erni and Uncle Bob. My grandmother loved that family. When she died, I got her sole Jacksons album. Dragging my Mom to go see The Wiz. And how much I wanted to be like Michael--'cause that's who all the little girlies loved.

When I think of my early childhood, I think of the Jackson 5--their music, their TV show, their little sister Janet, and their cartoon--and I smile. How couldn't I?

But, despite that ever-present winning smile on Little Michael's face, we now realize that he never had the same fond reminiscences of childhood. He never had a childhood. We realize now how sad Michael Jackson's childhood must have been. I guess "Ben," that creepily touching ballad to a boy's pet rat, was probably his first cry for help.

"Dancing Machine"

This past weekend, we were listening to DJ Sixth Sense's Michael Jackson Tribute Mix (download it now!). I've never seen Poohbutt dance so vigorously and for so long, giggling and smiling the entire time.


Somewhere within the Thriller maelstrom, Michael Jackson lost me. But, damn, when that album first came out ...

I marveled at the glowing sidewalk in "Billie Jean." I crooned along with "The Girl Is Mine." I think I went to school moonwalking after that Motown 25th Anniversary special. I even remember getting clowned at a school dance, trying to pull that move off. I also remember wanting to strangle my boy, T, because his cable package carried MTV and he got to see the world premier of the "Thriller" video--while I had to wait 27 years until Friday Night Videos got to play it. I remember clinging desperately on the phone with him, screaming, "What's happening? What's happening?" as he watched the video, telling me what was going on. And damn, Ola Ray was fine!

But somewhere within the whirlwind, 1999 happened. A 12-year-old is looking for rebellion as his body changes, and Michael was just too squeaky clean. Prince was a friggin' freak (now who looks "normal"?). I fell behind His Royal Badness's line when it came to the Michael/Prince divide. I started to feel that Michael was simply too corny.

Then hip-hop came along, and we were through. After all, a growing black boy in the white suburbs trying to figure out what black manhood meant would naturally turn to LL's "I'm Bad" as opposed to a leathered-up Michael, dancing with faux-gangsters, jazz-handing "Really, really baaaaad!" every time. Besides, wouldn't Wesley Snipes have kicked ... his ... ass?

It wasn't until 1993, 11 years later, when I was in the Czech Republic, listening to my Czech girlfriend's well-worn copy of Thriller that somehow jumped over the Iron Curtain, that I realized just how perfect that album was. That was when Michael Jackson regained my respect. I still wouldn't listen to his music, but I did respect the man.

"Somebody's Watching Me"

While living in the Czech Republic, I experienced a scrutiny I hadn't suffered before--or since. Being the only African-American they'd ever seen (and some refused to believe we even existed), I attracted a lot of attention. Some people wanted to befriend me, some women wanted to more than befriend me, and a lot of people wanted to just kick my ass. I jokingly referred to it as the "Fight-or-Fuck Response." But my presence more times than not provoked some sort of response. It pretty much drove me mad. Outside of my girlfriend's clique, my fellow expats, a few Africans, Roma, and my boy, Ayman, it felt like very few people wanted to actually know me as a person. And any time someone approached, I was wary and oftentimes hostile, wondering what the hell this person wanted from me.

The absolute maddening thing was everybody knew my every movement. I couldn't hide. One time I thought I'd found a cute, little pub on the outskirts of town where nobody knew who I was. My friend and I would play backgammon there in the afternoons. One time, my landlady wanted to pass me a note, and that note found me at my little hideout. The waiter simply passed it to me. I had to find a new pub.

Another time, at one in the morning, I was leaving the pub, and some strange guy I'd never met before walked up to me, and said, "There's a package waiting for you at the post office. It's from your father in Atlanta."

Suddenly, I found myself singing that popular, MJ refrain, "I always feel like somebody's watching me."

Unfortunately, I was right. It was the remains of Czechoslovakia's StB, their KGB equivalent. The day before my announced departure, some guy emerged out of the crowd and flashed a badge. When I turned to run, his partner was right behind me, flashing his badge. They escorted me to what I'd thought was a furniture store, took me in the back, and opened my file. It was filled with all sorts of stuff I'd done and not done ever since I'd entered their town. They grilled me for a couple of hours, deported me, and stamped on my passport that I was not allowed to re-enter the Czech Republic for the next seven years.

That aside, I came to realize, in a very miniscule way, that this intense scrutiny must be what fame was like. I knew that I never wanted to experience anything like that again. Fortunately, with the way I write, I don't have to worry about that.

"State of Shock"

Fame is just an unnatural state in which to reside. We humans are indeed a communal species. We need each other, and we need those bonds. We need to be connected. Fame distorts all of that. All of the sudden, a person is launched outside of that tight-knit network of friends, neighbors, family, and associates, and is launched on a stage far bigger than any single human can inhabit. People you'll never know feel that they know you. They hunger for your presence. They feel the need to feed off your aura, your presence, and your very presence. The private becomes public, and it's hard to trust any moment or any person around you.

We've seen grown people lose their minds once they became famous. Remember Billy Bob Thornton? The man was in his 40s before true fame came his way. Suddenly, he divorced his wife, shacked up with Angelina Jolie, and started carrying a vial of her blood around his neck. Look at how the Johnny Depps, Russell Crowes, and Christian Bales of this world have acted once the scrutiny became too much for them.

And this level of fame was foisted upon Michael when he was just eleven-years-old. It became utterly cosmic after Thriller. Boomers often regale us with tales of Beatlemania, and we've all seen the sheer madness that ensued when the Fab 4 hit the States. The Beatles were big, no doubt. But Michael Jackson had that insanity trail him on every corner of the globe. There is not a single person on this planet above the age of 25 who does not know who Michael Jackson is. I even heard one reporter talk about how MJ was greeted at the airport by every single dignitary, official, journalist, janitor, and child when he landed in Cote d'Ivoire. Was there any place this man could hide? Did the man ever have a chance at a sane existence?

"Doctor My Eyes"

There are a lot of things about Michael Jackson's untimely death that had originally creeped me out. One of the things was that Michael never grew older, he only grew weirder. Our other childhood/teen idols from the '80s are aging well, but they are aging. Bruce Springsteen pulled that "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up" routine during the Super Bowl; Madonna seriously needs to euthanize her sex kitten act; and Prince has gotten hip-replacement surgery. And all we have to do is watch VH1 to see how Father Time is bitch-slapping the rest of those fools. But with Michael ... with all that surgery ... we could never really tell exactly how old the man was. He only looked creepier than he did in 1987--not older. So, he was frozen in time in our own minds. We couldn't understand how someone so young died so soon. Fifty is way too young to die, but it's more understandable than the 29-year-old we keep picturing him as.

"Man in the Mirror"

As I stated before, when I think back on my young, black childhood, I often think of Michael Jackson. When I think of the later Michael Jackson, however, I can't help but feel more than a little discomfort. The question that plagued me for the last 25 years still nags at me as I type this: Why did Michael do that to himself?

Don't get me wrong: I know that we black folks often have a love/hate relationship with our brethren. Well, more like love/annoyed relationship--especially when the media picks out the most triflin' motherfather when they do their "man on the street" interview. (Seriously people, at least pick a Negro with all his teeth in his head!) But it's mostly love. We love our religion, our music, our language, our loudness, our people, our skin! What did this man see in himself that he hated so much? Why did he have to constantly chisel away at his big, broad, black nose? Those lips? Why did he keep becoming whiter and whiter?

And what does it mean when this icon of black culture, all that is beautiful in our people, became whiter than a ghost caught in a supernova?

I know we're all going to shove those questions to the back of our minds. I know that Jamie Fox will not be alone in screaming that Michael Jackson was a BLACK MAN (word to Jamie, outside of MJ, only Corey Feldman could rock that look; believe that!). I know a lot of us will cling desperately to our '70s Michael and vitiligo. But let's face it, if Michael really wanted to even out his skin with all those white splotches showing up, wouldn't it have been a lot easier to cover those splotches with Negro-friendly makeup than it was to completely bleach his skin?

As a whole, I know we will forgive Michael this grandest of betrayals if only because these questions are too complicated, too depressing to contemplate. However, I think they will always nag at us.

"Leave Me Alone"

I know that Black Woman Trumpet disagrees with me (check out her blog, people), but Michael Jackson's life did become a freak show. The man and everything and everyone that revolved around him was just ... bizarre.

The German zoo debacle, dangling his own child over a balcony.

The nose, Emmanuel Lewis, McCauley Culkin, the skin.

Lisa Marie Presley, Neverland Ranch, Elephant Man bones, his Jackson kin.

And yes ... the kids.

Of course, with the 24/7 media colonoscopy the man has received these past 20-plus years, anything he did would look bizarre. But damn, Michael, you did provide a lot of fodder. But, before the end, after that horrible Martin Bashir interview and the LA District Attorney went after him, Michael went from a creepy, circus freak to become an object of my sympathy. It was all so horrible, I cried along with him when he sang, "Leave Me Alone."

Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that the freak show ain't over by a long shot. Later, when I remember MJ, I'll try to remember these past few weeks because the next few weeks, months, years? are going to be a side show that will continue to make us cringe. Michael is still worth a lot of money, and there's going to be a battle royale over that loot. His family has been leeching off him for decades now (hell, is there even a Jackson 5 without him?). Do we really think they won't ring every ounce of blood out of his estate? We've already seen Jesse Jackson attach himself to the fam. It can only go downhill from there. We will be inundated with news updates over his autopsy, subsequent conspiracy theories, the custody over his children (the real keys to the treasure chest) and people tearing each other's throats out while they claw away at his remaining wealth. It will be sad, tragic, and we will marvel--just like we've been marveling over the man for the last 40 years.

"The Lost Children"

But, as I said, so much of the man's life was utterly bizarre. In fact, it was so bizarre, so completely insane, that when MJ told that dickhead, Martin Bashir, that nothing was more beautiful than sharing one's bed with a child, I actually believed him. I really thought that he just "shared" his bed and never touched any of those kids he slept with. Don't get me wrong: it creeped me the fuck out, but I just didn't picture Michael as a child molester.

I mean, here was a man who had never been a child. He was performing and touring at the age of five; his father was constantly whipping his ass if he didn't get his dance moves straight; and he had grown women throwing themselves at him by the time he was 11. The pop psychologist (black apologist?) in me thought, in a weird way, it was probably perfectly normal for Michael to try to regain that childhood he never had.

I still hate Martin Bashir for airing and building his career off that interview. I still hate the LA District Attorney's office for trying to prosecute that non-case. And I really hate all the parents who smelled blood and moolah and tried to sue him into bankruptcy.

"Off the Wall"

I think Sue over at What Got Me Going Today (read it) hit it on the head when it comes to what really bummed me out about Michael Jackson's premature death: he never did get his moment of vindication.

I read once that celebrity news stories often run similar to the Greek heroic epic. Our hero comes out of nowhere, rises to the top, is brutally knocked down, and then climbs back to the top, achieving redemption and vindication. Michael never got that. And that's what saddens me most.

For those people under 25, Michael Jackson was never the great artist that he was. He was either considered an institution or someone who needed institutionalized. He was the Freak Show. Not the Michael Jackson of the Jackson 5, of Off the Wall or Thriller. Not the Michael so many of us grew up loving.

Our media constantly abuse the terms "great" and "icon" to the point that it's a bloody pulp without any true meaning. But Michael Jackson was great!

As I said, Thriller hopped over the Iron Curtain. There were people, cowering while listening to "Billie Jean," dreaming of freedom.

MTV originally refused to play his videos because of his black skin. Yet, it was this black man who made MTV the powerhouse it is today. It was Michael Jackson who turned the music video into an event, an art form, more than just a simple tape shot of musicians stiffly performing their own music.

Before Thriller, music execs were complaining about how they were losing sales and may not survive, that they couldn't generate anything more than one one-hit wonder at a time. Michael changed all that. He saved the music industry in the early '80s.

Thriller was the greatest selling album of all time. Not the Beatles, not the Stones, not Elvis. Michael Jackson holds that title. Like the home run record, it'll probably be broken one day, but it's gonna be damned near impossible to break that 60-million-record mark.

And here was a man who had hits in five decades!

Hell, the man even invented his own shoe, so he could pull off that freaky, 45-degree lean in "Smooth Criminal."

His music, his voice, his performance was so great, there was probably not a single person on the entire planet that had not heard his music. There was not a cobweb on the globe that did not contain at least one Michael Jackson fan.

Yet, so many people will never know the Michael that ruled our world. They'll only remember the Freak Show, the Pedophile, that cadaverously white flesh.

That is what strikes me as the real tragedy in all this.

"Remember the Time"

As with any public figure, we will take and cherish and deride what we will with Michael Jackson. Personally, I'm going to try to forget the tragedy of his later years. I don't remember all that. I want to remember my little "Rockin' Robin" routine, rocking to "Rock with You," falling on my face while trying to moonwalk. I want to remember that little kid with that ever-present, infectious smile. I want to remember when Michael made me feel black and proud. That's the Michael who makes me smile, who makes me feel good. And when it comes down to it, isn't that what so much of his music was about? Isn't that what this truly, great performer really deserve?