Sunday, February 28, 2010

Prepare to be Pissed: Skilling Will Go Free

The Supreme Court is preparing itself to hear the appeal of Jeff Skilling's appeal. Yes, Enron's Jeffrey Skilling, who was given a 24-year sentence at a cushy Club Fed on conspiracy and fraud charges.

According to Reuters, Skilling's defense is going to argue that his trial should've been moved away from Houston, that failure is not a crime, and that the prosecution theory of "honest services" that was used to convict him was, basically, full of shit.

I'm no legal scholar here, as I've said many a time, so I'll let Reuters sum up the "Honest Services" theory for you:

"That theory holds that Skilling robbed Enron and its shareholders of his 'honest services' by setting a corporate agenda met by fraud while he and other top executives hid the company's troubles with lies and murky financial statements."

Honest services fraud was originally adopted by Congress in 1988 as an addendum to federal mail and wire fraud statutes. It was originally intended to prosecute government fraud but has been used to convict fraud and corruption in the private sector. Here's a list of recent public and private sector scalawags who've had "honest services" thrown in with their other charges of malfeasance:

Jack Abramoff

Rod Blagojevich (who's about to give a talk, “Ethics in Politics: An Evening with Former Governor R. Blagojevich," at my alma mater--I shit you not)

Former Illinois Governor, George Ryan;

and newspaper magnate, Conrad Black, whose six-and-a-half-year jail sentence for mail fraud and obstruction of justice may also be overturned tomorrow.

One can only imagine how a law that was originally intended to prosecute government corruption but is also used to address corruption in the private sector will fare in the Roberts court. Though Roberts had promised Congress that he wouldn't legislate from the bench, that he would only "call balls and strikes," he and his conservative co-conspirators have decided, as I heard one journalist say, "create their own game," caring nothing for precedent, practicality, or even common sense if they run counter to their own ideology.

Remember their Lilly Ledbetter decision, when Alito decided that: "We apply the statute as written, and this means that any unlawful employment practice, including those involving compensation, must be presented . . . within the period prescribed by the statute." In other words, if you're being paid less because of discrimination, you have to fail your lawsuit while you're being employed--as though all our wages are public record and we can just walk up to our bosses and/or H.R. Departments, say, "Hey, I think you guys are paying me less because I'm [fill in the blank], could you open your books so I can see if I'm right?"

How about when SCOTUS upheld Congress's Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act? These self-proclaimed preservers of precedent were all of a sudden responsible for, as WaPo put it at the time, "marked the first time justices have agreed that a specific abortion procedure could be banned. It was also the first time since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of January 1973 that justices approved an abortion restriction that did not contain an exception for the health of the woman." Justice Kennedy said, in his decision, "The government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman."

In Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, the Court ruled against assigning students to public schools solely for the purposes of creating some sort of "racial balance" and that said racial balance was not a compelling state interest. Roberts also snarkily added, "[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

And we all know how the Roberts court overturned a century of legal precedent and gave "personhood" and Free Speech rights to corporations in their Citizens United decision (though, in Morse v. Frederick, this same Court stated that high school students don't necessarily have the right to free speech if that speech gets in the way of their meting out school discipline).

As Jeffrey Toobin noted in his New Yorker piece about Roberts, "No More Mr. Nice Guy," last year:

In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

So, it doesn't take a significant use of one's imagination to figure out where Roberts' court will dump the notion of "Honest Services." Scalia has already been noted as saying that the statute is soooo sweeping it could be used against "a mayor for using the prestige of his office to get a table at a restaurant without a reservation."

Expect Scalia to right the majority opinion. Expect an effective weapon to prosecute graft and corruption (Lord knows, it's hard enough as it is) to be blithely swept aside by this (retro-)activist Court, who has absolutely nooooooo problem with obliterating laws they simply don't agree with. Expect the usual sturm und drang that's becoming all-too-familiar with each reactionary Roberts decision. Expect Jeffrey Skilling, Conrad Black, and any millionaire Club Fed prisoner with a dime-store lawyer to be set free any moment now. Expect placing any limits on corporations and/or their malfeasance to become that much harder. And definitely expect to be pissed for days to come.

I expect you to come back here so I can say, "I told you so."


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

Earlier this week, inspired by Elmore Leonard's "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction," the UK Guardian asked a bunch of authors their own rules for writing. Now, I only just recently read my first Elmore Leonard novel, Freaky Deaky, and I gotta tell ya, I don't really want any advice from that guy. But let's face it, who are you gonna listen to? A living legend, millionaire author who's been writing successfully for five decades or a self-admittedly Unknown Writer. So, when Leonard says, "Avoid prologues: they can be annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword," listen to the man. When I say, "Keep masturbation (mental and physical) to a minimum," screw it and gits ta jackin'.

You can read the entire article here, but here are some of my favorites:

-- Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. -- Margaret Atwood

-- Don't write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés . . . Since then I've developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity. -- Geoff Dyer

-- Only bad writers think that their work is really good. -- Anne Enright

-- Don't have children. -- Richard Ford

-- Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money. -- Jonathan Franzen

-- Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to. -- David Hare

-- Bear in mind Wilde's dictum that "only mediocrities develop" – and ­challenge it. -- Andrew Motion

-- Keep in mind Oscar Wilde: "A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal." -- Joyce Carol Oates

-- Stop reading fiction – it's all lies anyway, and it doesn't have anything to tell you that you don't know already (assuming, that is, you've read a great deal of fiction in the past; if you haven't you have no business whatsoever being a writer of fiction). -- Will Self

-- My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work. -- Philip Pullman

-- Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say. -- Michael Moorcock


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sharpton Calls for Boycott of ABC's Lost

It was short and sweet because I demanded it be short and sweet. Everyone knows that Baptist minister, self-proclaimed civil rights leader, and radio talk show host, Alfred Charles "Al" Sharpton, Jr., will talk your ear off if given the chance. I made it clear before I even stepped into his Harlem offices that, under no uncertain terms, I had to pick Pooh up from daycare back in DC by five. Oddly enough, the good reverend agreed. His message is that urgent.

"Hit me, Al," I said, upon entering.

"Lost kills black people," he informed.

"So does Ray Lewis. Where were you then, Al?"

"Brother Campbell, I am being serious. This is no time for jokes!"

I take my seat and get out my recorder, ready to get schooled.

"For six, long, arduous seasons full of high intrigue, mind-boggling plot twists, and fantastical jumps in logic, we have been watching the cold, calculated, conniving, Caucasian killing of black folk, and it has got to stop!!!"

Rev. Sharpton pulls out a handkerchief and wipes his brow.

"It's as though, if you have any, any African heritage on that island, you might as well kiss your melanin-blessed patooty good-bye."

"I never really thought of it that way," I confess.

"Well, think, my brother! For once in your life ... think!!!"

I do. Sharpton helps.

"First, there was that Russian-speaking sister who we all thought was the leader of the Others. When she came on, I tell you, my spirits were lifted. I was thinking, 'Yes, this is just like Angela Davis on Fantasy Island." Sharpton, of course, is referring to the now-classic, banned episode of the old ABC show, where Communist and black radical, Angela Davis, plays Richard Pryor's wife, and the two team-up with Tattoo to solve the kidnapping and murder of their pet chihuahua. SPOILER ALERT: The pigs did it.

"But then J.J. Abrams and the White Citizens' Council over at ABC had a summer to think about it and were, like, 'Oh hell naw! We can't be havin' us no black woman leader. So, they put a bullet in her."

"That did seem rather abrupt."

"And that brother from The Wire and now Fringe, Lance Reddick--"

"You actually know his name?"

"A mighty fine actor," Sharpton continues. "They bring him in for, like, four episodes and pop! pop! pop! Another Negro dead."

"Michael," Al's on a roll, "just a hard-working black man, trying to do what's right for his son. Why's he gotta be the one sellin' everybody out? Why's he gotta go off killin' everyone? Why did they bring him back just to get blown up on that stupid boat? And why, why, why did the brother have to go walkin' 'round so gotdamned nappy-headed all those years?

"And what about Ana Lucia? I mean, sure, she ain't black. Puerto Rican, right? Which is pretty damned close. Unless you're Jason Mattera, of course."

"Actually," I say, "I think Michelle Rodriguez is half-Puerto Rican and half-Dominican."

"Geez, is that even legal?"

I shrug.

"See!" Al screams. "They kill her off! And have Michael do the deed! Yet another case of black-on-damned-near-black crime!"

"Mr. Eko!" I trumpet.

"Exactly. Now you're getting it, Campbell." Al wipes his forehead again. "Sure, Mr. Eko had been a murderous drug dealer. But he had found Jesus. And he was the most popular God-fearing black man since ... since ... well, me."

"Do you think he was a surrogate for you and the producers of Lost were just playing out their fantasies of your murder?"

Sharpton's eyes bug out in anticipation. "Ooh. I like that. I like that."

"You know, I think you've got something," I concede. "I'm guessing that's why Rose is hiding out, not really part of any plots herself. Not having her own storyline in years. She's afraid she'll be part of the genocide."

"Cause on Lost, black folks stay dead," Sharpton said. "Those white folks. They get resurrected more times than Jesus. They should rename John Locke 'Chuckie Lazarus.' That hobbit shows up every time you turn around. And now Claire, who everybody thought was dead is back. And how does she celebrate her return to life?"

I shrug. I didn't see last night's episode.

"By planting an axe square in a black man's gut!!!"

"Oh, hell naw!" I say.

Rev. Alfred Charles "Al" Sharpton, Jr., shakes his head gravely. I jump out of my seat.

"That's it!" I scream. "Let's march!!!"

"That's more like it, Campbell!" Sharpton smiles grandly. "That's more like it!"


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Meaning of It All

Though Mrs. Unknown and I walked down the aisle to "The Creator Has a Master Plan," the song's title is not a notion I particularly subscribe to. I've always viewed such statements as "Nothing happens without a reason" and "It's all part of God's plan" as something we tell ourselves to reconcile our spirits to the brutal randomness of life. Good and bad things happen to good and bad people. Moral conduct does not dictate the rewards and/or punishments in life. There really is no rhyme nor reason to it. It's really terrifying stuff. But if, somehow, this is all part of some mysterious plan, then life's brutality doesn't seem so brutal. It can all be explained away. It doesn't make all the pain go away, but it sure helps it to hurt less.

Yet, there are times, when life throws a string of coincidences together that lead to an event, when you find yourself wonder what was the meaning of what just happened.

Mrs. Unknown, fresh back from Haiti, has a few days off. So, she dropped me off at work yesterday morning so she can have the car. I decided, as soon as I got to work, that I was going to work exactly eight hours and 45 minutes (with my daily two-hour commute and having to drop off and pick up the Missus and Poohbutt, I hardly ever get a full eight-hour workday in and have to work Saturdays to get anywhere near 40 hours; so yesterday, I thought I'd take advantage by working longer).

At work, I'm reading Fundamentalist preacher, Max Lucado's Fearless, which is basically, as far as I can tell, about how the absence of God in our lives leads to us leading a fearful existence. However, if we lived with God in our lives, knew the role He has fulfilled with his life, death, and resurrection, we would no longer need to fear life's petty trials and tribulations and go on to greatness. Fearless is not something I'd be reading outside of work--and rarely at work. I do enjoy an occasional theological text, but self-help Christianity usually leaves me pretty hostile. But it's work. You often have to do things you don't want to do. For me this week, it's reading Max Lucado's Fearless.

And just before I was leaving work, I was reading the chapter on the fear of death and how Jesus' own fear of dying almost destroyed him, but that it was His trust in the Father that carried him through Gethsemane:

"Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."

But since I was hungry and my wife had mentioned getting something to eat after she picked me up, I was thinking more about pizza and burgers than the body and blood of Christ as I walked to catch the train.

However, when I made my way to the underground bus terminal at my subway station, I caught a glimpse of a little Latino lying on his back on the sidewalk. Nobody seemed to be paying him much attention, so I thought it was just your usual, unusual urban weirdness. Then he started doing some weird, trance-like motions like Lindsey Vonn "visualizing" her downhill ski run. Worthy of mockery and ridicule on TV. A little disturbing in real life.

I started tentatively approaching, not knowing exactly what to do. People were starting to get a little curious. A middle-aged woman biked up to me out of nowhere, and urgently asked if anyone was calling an ambulance. I walked over to a guy on a cellie and was about to ask him when the guy on the ground made this weird gurgling sound. All our eyes shot down at him to see blood bubbling out of the guy's mouth. And he was shaking like his own, private earthquake.

I immediately dove down and pulled the guy onto his side, terrified he was going to drown in his own blood, or something. Another guy appeared out of nowhere, trying to hold the man's head up. He quickly moved his gloved hand away. It was covered in blood.

"I don't think it's a very deep gash."

I looked. There was a deep red pool of the deepest red blood you'd ever see where the guy's head had just been. People started screaming, "Call 911! Call 911!" The guy I'd been about to ask said he was on the phone with them. A bus driver had come off his bus to also make the call.

He was talking. The other guy was talking. The bicycle woman kept asking, "Is he all right?" People were walking by, crowding around, "What happened?" "Is he all right?"

Seizures ensued. I struggled to hold the guy still. My partner announced himself as a doctor and tried to pry the guy's mouth open--so he wouldn't bite his tongue, choke on his tongue, drown in his own blood. I don't know. It sounded like he was choking.

Another guy appeared and tried speaking Spanish to the guy. To no avail. He was totally out of it. For 10-15 minutes, I tried to control the guy's bucking, the doctor kept his hand pressed against the man's scalp to stanch the bleeding, blood was pooling everywhere, and the third guy constantly soothed, "Tranquilo ... tranquilo..."

Every once in awhile, our "patient" gave me a look that scared me half to death. It was glassy and vacant, yet truly terrified. And he seemed to be searching--looking at me--looking through me--questioning--looking for some sort of recognition--some sort of meaning to what was happening to him. And then he would spasm violently. Once knocking me over. I don't speak Spanish. All I could think of was "Ta bueno ... Ta bueno ..." not even sure that meant anything. But he'd calm down eventually.

It seemed to take forever. Though, really, it didn't. But the paramedics finally arrived. They really had no need for us. Didn't even acknowledge our existence. Or ask what happened. And the bunch of us, I guess, Samaritans just dissolved, getting on our buses and our trains and calling it an evening.

I sure hope the guy, whoever he is, all right.

'Cause all of that would've meant nothing if he isn't.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Wow, Psychosis Is Genetic

Today, Joseph Stack's daughter, the guy who flew his plane into the Austin IRS building (NOTE TO MEDIA: Please stop saying "allegedly," did the guy pilot the plane? Is he alive to prove that he didn't do it? Were his remains found in the wreckage? Were they "allegedly" found there? Do you see my point?), Samantha Bell, was on Good Morning America today calling her father a "hero," though she conceded that his actions were "inappropriate." Yes, she hails Daddy for waking America up to the oppressiveness of our tax system--from Norway!!! Yes, since mean old Uncle Sam would not properly take care of her while she was on Medicare, she went to a real socialist country where she could sponge off the state.

Apparently, fanaticism never calls for intellectual consistency. Anywhere, here's the interview.

And it's not just a distraught daughter trying to justify the murderous actions of her father. No, there's apparently a nascent movement growing on Facebook trying to elevate the terrorist to folk hero status.

Maybe I'll get into this more in-depth later (though I hope not to). In the meantime, definitely read who Brown Man Thinking Hard believes is the true hero of this tragedy ... SPOILER ALERT: It's Vernon Hunter, the poor IRS employee who died in the conflagration. Brown Man's call to action is compelling and should definitely be heeded.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Welcome Back, Babe

Mrs. Unknown just called from Miami International, which has got to have the worst customs in the world. So, she'll be home pretty soon. Pooh and I are very excited!


Friday, February 19, 2010

Blood Done Sign My Name

All right, I got this over at Pam's House Blend. I know absolutely nothing about Tim Tyson's novel, but damn this looks like it'll be a good movie--even with Rick Schroeder in it. Check out the trailer.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

One "Feminist New Black Man" Rants

"Now, if you're wondering, what just exactly is a feminist new black man. Think of a crossover between RuPaul and Barney Frank."

--Jason Mattera, CPAC speech 2/18/10

I wasn't born yesterday. I know that CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) is nothing but White Supremacy Tea Party shenanigans for the Jet Set. So, why should I be surprised if anything offensive comes out of this week's conference. After all, aren't these the same fools who burned a cross hooted and hollered when Rush Limbaugh gave their keynote address last year? And we all know how Rush feels about the black man.

And I definitely can't be surprised that the same movement that has attached themselves fastidiously to "the party of Lincoln" while they deride its black chairman, Michael Steele, would have a Puerto-Rican American who clearly ignored his own family tree while starting the Whites Only Scholarship at Roger Williams University. So, yeah, I should've expected this light-skinned negro guardian of Whiteness, Jason Mattera, to go up in front of Massa his fellow Caucasians and deride all things multicultural.

And in his CPAC speech, Mattera had his fellow white supremacists (really, Bill, you need to stop) having the supreme white stuff dripping through their socks.

Oh yeah, he contrasts his conservative gathering to Woodstock:

“Except that unlike the last gathering, our women are beautiful, we speak in complete sentences and our notion of freedom doesn’t consist of snorting cocaine, which is certainly one thing that separates us from Barack Obama.”

Yep, Barry the Drug Dealer. But wait, it gets better:

“Actually, on the cocaine front, I do believe many people in America viewed Barack as they do drugs: it was a substance to experiment with. But like most narcotics, the hangover afterward has them thinking, What the hell did I just do?”

Because only drug abuse or insanity could explain how the country elected a nigra Prezeedent, I guess.

Come on, Bill, you're just part of the vast Left wing conspiracy who's just trying to paint every hard-working, white, earnest American who criticizes you repeatedly and starts a Whites Only scholarship, racist. Jason's not a racist. Nooooooo ... he just likes recycling old Eddie Murphy jokes.

He's like the Carlos Mencia of the Conservative Movement.

And I guess that's why he "channeled" Chris Rock when he said, "Get your government off my freedom!"

Yeah. And it wasn't his mocking jive or Ebonics but his "Brooklyn accent" when he "satirized" Obama's campaign slogan: "Yes, my brothahs and sistahs. Yes we can!" I mean, damn, you hypersensitive minority, "brothas and sistahs" isn't black--it's Brooklynese.

So, you just leave
mi hermano, Jason "Whites Only" Mattera alone!

Yes, Con Kluxers, you're right. I am overly-sensitive. None of the examples above is racial in the least. In fact, to call Mattera a "racist" wouldn't be giving him enough credit. After all, he alludes to liberal women's being ugly; when he derides college's supposed liberal agenda, he derides feminists and Native American feminists; and, to top it all off, he calls any black man who's, I guess, queer enough to consider himself a "feminist," a cross-dressing homosexual with a lisp.

No, Jason Mattera is not a racist. Not only a racist. He's apparently a sexist and homophobic racist, who, judging by all the laughs, has found a comfortable klaven within the Conservative movement.

If I were to be surprised by any of this, I would simply be a self-deluding naif who refuses to use the critical brain God has given him. And if I were to be offended, I wouldn't even know where to start.

After all, while not "new" by any stretch of the imagination, I am a feminist black man. And I'm trying to figure out what Mattera and his "fellow" whites find so damned funny about that. By using RuPaul and Barney Frank, are they saying I'm not a man in their eyes? Are they saying that RuPaul and Barney Frank aren't men? Are they saying homosexuals, transgenders, and cross-dressers are only worthy of scorn?

Of course, they are, Bill. Stop being a fucking moron.

And, to be honest, folks, I can't be angry. Because, seriously, these Conservatives can deny racism until they're blue in the face and see red anytime you accuse them of it, but events like CPAC, speeches like Mattera's, and any Teabagging protest you care to see always show their true color.

Ever since Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and the Strom Thurmonds and Jesse Helmses of the world flocked to your ranks, the Conservative movement has been nothing but choked with folks who will never openly claim their white supremacists beliefs and yet really do sound racist as hell. Your honorary white man, Jason Mattera, ain't nothing new and apparently ain't alone in this. And the fact that no fellow Conservatives ever seem to call any of these fools out, never lambaste Limbaugh, makes me think that you are all sympathetic to their cause. In fact, you laugh right along with them.

Sure, I'll buy that there are conservatives who actually do believe in lower taxes and small government (though your elected officials never seem to believe in it--judging by the deficits they constantly run up). But even they seem to be laughing at us RuPauls and Barney Franks.

And shit, fools, keep laughing. Every little smirk, every little chuckle, every single "niggar" sign is just another nail in your fucking coffin. Just look at the number. Just 40 years ago, white people made up something like 85 percent of the country. As of 2006, they only make up 74 percent. With immigration going the way it's going and Latinas having the highest birthrates in the country, what do you think America's going to look like in 10, 20 years? Do you think speeches like Mattera's, rants like Rush's, and protests like the Teabaggers' bemoaning the loss of white America ("We want our country back!!!") is really going to attract them?

Yeah, the Nuyorican Jason Mattera wasn't alone laughing at black folks at your little CPAC, but I'm guessing he wouldn't get many chuckles if he spouted that shit back in Brooklyn. In fact, I'm thinking that he'd be playing to a crowd of one--while his Latino "brothas and sistahs" were cramming the halls to see Sonia Sotomayor.

I wonder how big of a Latino audience Conservatives plan to attract with all their anti-immigrant talk of "taking all our jobs" and "literacy tests." I wonder how many blacks, how many gays Mattera's "youth-oriented" Conservative campaign is attracting? Hell, how many whites are they attracting?

Yeah. All those code words Conservatives have been using were fine and dandy and soooo darned funny when the country was overwhelmingly white. They could play that race card all day long. You could be homophobic to your hearts content.

But yall need to face it: this country was never as white as you imagined it and it's becoming less so every Rio Grande-swimming day. Less and less whites agree with your racial ideas, fewer find your jokes funny. And, even the ones who may identify with your sentiments, don't want to be identified with some of the bullshit popping out of your mouths.

So, I say, go ahead and laugh. "Hee, hee, RuPaul, you a funny motherfucker." I say laugh to your hearts' content, for your brand of asshole is, indeed, a dying breed. So, laugh, laugh, laugh! CPAC! Laugh, Jason Mattera! Laugh all the way to the grave!

Oh yeah, and Jason, if I ever see you, I will take off my heels and help you into the box.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Be Thankful for What You Got

I confess. I'm not a big fan of platitudes. They're way too easy. And, most annoyingly, they're too often true. Last week, the one that kept plaguing me like a heart beneath the floorboards was, "Be careful what you ask for."

As many of you know ('cause I blogged about it), Mrs. Unknown is in Haiti doing what relief workers do. Now, despite obvious apprehensions, I was all for her going, encouraged her to go, got her to bug her bosses until they let her go. I thought it was a chance to do good work and a great opportunity for her career. I was ecstatic/apprehensive when she was tapped on the shoulder to go down to Port-au-Prince--though that meant three weeks of my watching Pooh all by my lonesome.

Our first week together had its ups and downs, of course. We had sleep issues--among other things. But nothing too major.

Then Snowpocalypse '10 happened. DC was inundated with snow. And Pooh and I were trapped together in the house for a week. Only really making it out of the house twice so that Daddy could take hours shoveling the car out of the deluge and to risk the unshoveled roads to go to the grocery store and for Pooh to make "cupcakes" in the snow.

Now, any fan of The Poohbutt Chronicles can tell you that I'm usually pretty tongue-in-cheek about my parental incompetence. But after a week of my daughter going all Lord of the Flies on me, I was chewing my own heart out, lamenting my complete and utter failure as a parent.

There were crumbs everywhere I looked. Toys everywhere I stepped. I imagined (I hope) that the house had started to smell like one, giant dirty diaper. It was so bad that I wasn't sure if Mrs. Unknown would realize she left Haiti when she finally returned home.

Pooh was taking her "nap" at 9pm and keeping me up till one in the morning. Our meals were so scatter shot I couldn't even pretend to a schedule. And I refuse to tell you what these "meals" actually were. I was down, out, dispirited, self-pitying, and ready to call Child Protective Services on myself. And through all the chaos, all I kept hearing was "Be careful what you ask for ... be careful what you ask for ..."

Then I was listening to the radio, and there were all these reports of deprivation throughout the DC area. There were people without electricity, without heat. And then one report talked about how school officials were concerned about children in their lunch programs. "These children are on these programs because they don't have enough to eat at home. I can't imagine how they're faring now."


And oh yeah, Campbell, why exactly is your wife in Haiti?

Suddenly, "Be careful what you ask for" was replaced by the William DeVaughn classic, "Be Thankful for What You Got." I suddenly felt better. I was like, "Yeah, William. I don't drive a great big Cadillac with a TV antenna in the back." But I've got my home, electricity, food, Pooh, and a kick-ass wife." Yeah, the place was a mess, and my kid was subsisting on Goldfish pretzels. But how lucky can a fool be?

Yeah, I admit it. I smiled warmly.

Of course, that was the moment that Pooh decided to vomit her egg breakfast all over the place like she was in a revival of The Exorcist. And soon thereafter, the electricity went out.

But I did realize that I had a lot to be thankful for ...

including Yo Gabba Gabba!

Now, I'm not much of a TV person. In fact, I only really have three TV shows that I generally feel compelled to watch (Lost, 30 Rock, and Men of a Certain Age--and I'm currently contemplating Archer). I was even one of those people (pre-Poohbutt) who used to condemn parents for letting the television raise their children. We were pretty consistent with Pooh's not watching TV until after she was two (with my brief--who am I kidding?--The Wire obsession and Steeler games being the only exceptions).

But I gotta tell ya, while Nick Jr. didn't necessarily save my ass during Snowpocalypse, it most definitely saved my sanity. Nothing calms the hyperactive synapses of a two-year-old toddler like the flashing cathode rays of a flat-screen TV in high definition!

And I just love Yo Gabba Gabba. I know I'm way behind on this and that Brad Pitt already dressed up as a cast member last Halloween. But give me a break, the kid just turned two. And this is the first time the Unknowns have ever had cable.

But Yo Gabba Gabba's the bomb. I love the characters--especially Plex. And every time DJ Lance Rock talks, I think I'm high on something. Besides, he's the coolest black nerd since Urkle. And the music! My God, I think I used to review some of this stuff back in the day when I was a music critic. Well, OK, it's not that good. But it's funny as an aging hip-hop head to be watching a TV show with major hip-hop influences (yeah, I know there's Hip-Hop Harry, but he's got nothing on my ace Pat Boone, DJ Lance).

If there's one thing that kept me sane and damned entertained throughout the whole snowed-in week, it has to have been this show. I didn't catch cabin fever. I got Yo Gabba Gabba fever. I strongly recommend it for all toddlers. Well, maybe not them, but definitely their parents (especially the Jack Black episode). I hope they one day come out with new episodes.

Now, break it down!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

N.O. Saints: Modern-Day Seabsicuits

We all know the story of the legendary horse that could, Seabiscuit (or we've at least seen the movie). Where, against all odds, Tobey Maguire takes the undersized horse and beats all comers. Seabiscuit went on capturing Depression-era America's heart as everyone identified with not being given a shot in hell and winning despite all odds.

Could that happen today with the New Orleans Saints?

If you ask me, yes.

After years of governmental deregulation, refusal of regulation, and catastrophic mismanagement, America once again finds itself down-and-out, wondering if another Great Depression is yipping at our heels. And what city, what team best personifies all the things that went wrong with this country in the past decades? New Orleans and their Saints. We don't have to rehash Katrina and its devastation and the Bush administration's "response." We all know that New Orleans is still in the shitter, and we are right there with them. This is the team that America needs right now. Not because it'll get the Dems off their asses or give the Republicans sanity. It's just it would be nice to witness a feel-good moment after the past few years we've had.

But Bill, why are you so down on the Colts?

Actually, I'm down on Peyton Manning. For the past decade I've been hearing nothing but how great Peyton Manning is. Anytime I'm unfortunate to turn on a football game, I hear the announcers constantly rhapsodize about how Manning is, perhaps, the greatest man to ever play quarterback. And then I'm switched to commercial, where he's in all of them!

All this despite the fact that Manning only has one Super Bowl ring!

In the "Manning Era," I've seen Tom Brady take his Patriots to four Super Bowls, winning three of them. In his first year as a starter, he won a Super Bowl with a fairly mediocre team. He came 35 seconds away from winning his fourth Super Bowl with a perfect record. And face it, if Reche Caldwell could've actually caught a ball, Brady would've probably been to five Super Bowls, and today's would've been Manning's first.

I saw Ben Roethlisberger take a mediocre Steelers team to a 15-1 record in his rookie season and then win a Super Bowl in his second season. Big Ben pulled off one of the greatest Super Bowl comeback drives to win his second ring.

But no, Manning's the greatest. Yeah, he's got records. But he's only got one ring. And it's not as though he's like his father, a great quarterback on a crappy team. No, he's had the likes of Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison. He's had a Freeney- and Mathis-led defense. There are going to be more than a couple of Hall of Famers on Manning's Colts teams.

And yet, this "greatest quarterback ever" has almost always figured out a way to lose. His team has had a few seasons starting off 10-0 or better. They'd have home field advantage through the playoffs. Yet, the Steelers or Colts or whomever always ended up befuddling this amazing quarterback and send them packing.

If Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback to ever play the position, he's also the greatest underachiever.

Is that why you're rooting against the Colts today?

Pretty much.

Do you really think the Saints have a shot?

Actually, I do. Both teams are offensive juggernauts, and neither team has a great defense (which usually dictates these things). So, there really could be a bunch of scoring in this game--though there probably won't be.

With pass-rushing stud Dwight Freeney hobbled with a ligament sprain in his leg, he's just not going to be too much of a factor. It's the same thing Hines Ward had in last year's Super Bowl, and he was basically a no-show. I'm thinking Freeney will probably suffer the same fate. I definitely can't imagine his playing any meaningful minutes after halftime.

That's going to give Drew Brees a whole lotta time. If they can keep it close as they go through their first-half jitters, they could definitely pull it off.

But Peyton Manning's the greatest quarterback of all-time. He'll simply outscore the Saints.

Possibly. But, while the Saints don't have a great D, they do have a great defensive coordinator. Greg Williams knows how to coach--in the coordinator position, he sucked as a head coach. I'm sure he's looked at the old tapes, has studied how the Chargers, Steelers, and, more recently, the Jets have befuddled Manning. You may not be able to sack P-Man too often, but he can get confused--despite his reputation. I've seen it. If at any point in the game, Manning starts getting his "happy feet," you'll know the Saints have him. I actually expect to have him.

So, really, all that stuff about New Orleans' being a feel-good story is all bunkem. You just want Manning to lose.

No, no, no. While I hate Brady and New England, I am a patriot. We do need a feel-good story. New Orleans needs a feel-good story. I know what it's like living in a depressed city and pinning your hopes on your sports team. I know, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't mean anything. But it sure as hell feels good.

And New Orleans is down right now. America is down right now. I think the Indianapolis Colts should, for the good of their country, tank this game. I put America's need for a New Orleans victory right up there with job creation, health care, deficit reduction, and the Teabaggers taking the opportunity at their convention to go all Jonestown and drink the friggin' Kool-Aid.

Saints 35
Colts 31

Eh toi!!!


Friday, February 5, 2010


Sleep has never really been much of an issue between Poohbutt and me when Mommy's been away. We'd eat dinner, play for a few hours. I'd look at the clock, and ask, "Do you wanna go to bed, Pooh?" She'd nod. We'd change her clothes. I'd put her in her crib, and she was off to Slumberland.

I don't know why--maybe some child development specialist can explain--but that's all changed with Mommy's going to Haiti. Now the kid refused to sleep in her crib. Refuses! This kid just won't cry a river when she's being obstinate. Noah starts building arks when Pooh gets going. Seconds, minutes, hours can screech by during one of her Attica! Attica! crying attacks. Entire empires are born and crumble to dust.

Right now, I'm a little too harried to resist. So yes, things have indeed changed. As I write this, Pooh's sleeping on the futon next to me as I write and watch this Russell Simmons piece on Bio.

This refusal of the crib also means that my daughter is now sleeping in the big bed with Daddy. And I must confess ... Daddy is getting his ass kicked, people! For, much to my chagrin, I have discovered that my sweet, little two-year-old daughter is a deadly Shaolin master of the sleeping martial art commonly known as Poohjitsu.

It's a devious, lethal art mastering several stealth techniques meant to injure, maim, and even kill an unwary opponent.

First, the Poohjitsu disciple must master the Whirling Dervish. The little tyke knows that, at any time, the adult can roll over and crush them. They must keep the adult's subconscious mind conscious of this tragic fact. Therefore, they ceaselessly flail around in the bed. The skillful Whirling Dervish tactician can be found on her opponent's side of the bed, sleeping across the pillows by the opponent's head, and even squirming around at the foot of the bed. This wears down the adult, leaving them in a fitful state of paranoid semi-wakefulness, constantly wondering where the child might be. This forces the adult to the edge of the bed, facing in at the Poohjitsu warrior.

The Poohjitsu will then execute the Christ, spreading out in the Cruxifix pose to secure the adult at the edge of the bed, precariously balanced so as to neither fall off the edge of the bed or fall in and crush the toddler.

Once successful, the Poohjitsu goes to work.

Yours truly has received numerous Drooling Dropkicks to the Jock, the Snoring Smack in the Face, and countless Thumbsucker Socks in the Eye. I am proud, knowing that Pooh can defend herself against any sleeping foe, but I sure as hell am beaten.

It's going to be a long three weeks, people.

Help ... me ... Help ... me ...


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Great News in Black Music

I confess, even though I am a blogger, I can be completely unaware of stuff going on around me. I often argue there's just too much to know out there. One can't possibly be informed of everything. But I found out two things today that made me just absolutely ecstatic.

First, VH1 is prepared to air a documentary commemorating the 40th anniversary of Soul Train next month--of course. Black History Month tokenism aside, I can't wait to see it. I wonder if Pooh will be up for a Soul Train Line. One can only hope.

And then at work today, Mozart informed me that there's a Broadway musical dedicated to one of my favorite musicians of all-time, Fela! (He was the third act in my fantasy birthday concert last year.)

I'd never even heard about it, and it's been on Broadway since November. Jay-Z and Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith are the producers. And it was off-Broadway for a year before that. How have I not heard of this?!

Hell, even the New York Times loved the damned thing. Well, I need to stop being a Zombie and get my Shuffering and Shmiling black ass up to New York!

Though I'm sure it's some Expensive Shit.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Duncan Hunter: "I Had Gay Marine Monkey Sex in Iraq!"

With the Republican Party's mounting a campaign against the Obama administration's proposed repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, banning homosexuals from openly serving in the armed forces, the GOP has suffered a setback today from which many experts believe they may not recover. Less than 24 hours after Republican Congressman and Iraq War veteran Duncan D. Hunter has publicly come out against DADT, a man from his past, Iraqi national Abdullah Abdullah Jax, has come out with some startling revelations of his own about the ex-Marine artillery officer.

This morning Jax contacted the Tome offices, claiming he had a "sex tape" involving Hunter with many in his former Marine unit. We, of course, turned Jax away as a crank. However, upon receipt of an emailed video file, we were so disturbed, we realized that we had to contact Rep. Hunter immediately for clarification.

Rep. Hunter originally started off with the same attack he waged against DADT yesterday, claiming that "openly homosexual" and "transgender" soldiers threatened "unit cohesion" among our armed forces.

"People serve in close, close, very close quarters in the military," Hunter informed. "We can't disturb that hot, sweaty closeness with openly gay soldiers getting in the middle of all that."

"But there has always been homosexual activity in the military. Songs have been written about it."

"Personally, I prefer 'YMCA,'" Duncan countered icily.

"Some have even said that you have participated in such activity during your service in Iraq."

"Ridiculous!" Hunter yelled. "Look at my website! I'm all about God! Family! Country!"

"Abdullah Abdullah Jax," I interrupted.


"We have the video, Congressman."

More silence.

"Is it true, Congressman," I asked, "that your nickname after Fallujah was 'Dick-In Hunter?"

Suddenly, the California Congressman started blubbering on the other line.

"I know that cross-dressing doesn't mean one is transgender, but a burqa, Congressman?"

"OK! It's true! It's true!" he screeched. "I had gay Marine monkey sex in Iraq!"

"So, that video is true?" I asked.

"Yes, yes. It's all true," Hunter continued, composing himself. "Fallujah was a long, hard battle, Campbell. Long ... and hard. We'd lost a lot of good men in that battle. Good, rock-hard, patriotic, Amercian men.

"My men were dispirited and dirty and fatigued. Those patriots. Those hard, chiseled men--with bodies like Adonises needed their spirits lifted. They needed their LT. Don't you understand?"

"Uh ... I guess not, Congressman."

"Well, they did. So, after the battle, when we were back in the Green Zone and my men were showering, I knew what I had to do.

"So, while they were showering with all that hot, hot water, I put on a burqa and entered that hot and steamy shower. It was soooo steamy. And hot. All those young, hot, hard bodies just glistened in all that hot, steamy water. The soap just clung to every bulging, rock-hard muscle! And I did it. I gave myself to my men.

"I'm a Christian, ya know. It's on my website. And the whole thing--it wasn't gay. It was all very Christ-like. I did what Jesus would've done. I gave those hungry, young boys my body to feed off of. I didn't give them my blood exactly. But I did give them my other precious bodily fluids. I think God was proud of me that day.

"As I said, it wasn't gay. No, not at all. And definitely not openly gay. It was more like a Christian service, really. I enjoyed none of it. Not really. I didn't even cum twice that time. Or any of the other times, to be honest."

"How many other times were there, Congressman?"

"Between 2003 and 2005? Oh, at least forty."

We immediately contacted House Minority leader Rep. John Boehner for comment on these recent revelations.

"Rep. Hunter is a fine, young, patriotic American, who has dedicated his life to the service of his country," Boehner responded. "If he felt the need to service the men in his unit, it was only for the good of this country. As long as he didn't do so openly, I am fine with it."

"There's a video, Congressman," I informed.

"Oooh, really?!" Boehner squealed. "Tell me about it!"

I proceeded to tell the Congressman, but our phone connection must've been bad. He constantly requested that I slow down in my descriptions, and he asked me to repeat several details over and over again. Oddly, towards the end of my tale, Rep. Boehner insisted that I speed up the narrative and again asked that I repeat several details--just more quickly.

"Yes!" he finally ejaculated. "Could you make two copies of this--this disgusting, disgusting video. Sen. Graham and I may just have to open a probe into Congressman Hunter."

"Into his activities?" I asked.

"Sure," Boehner breathlessly agreed. "What you said."


Blogroll Amnesty Day is Here!!!

Yes, today is Blogroll Amnesty Day, where all us small blogs celebrate and link to each other and make our readerships aware of other blogs out there worthy of their precious, precious time.

However, for me, time has suddenly become a little too precious for me to fully participate. With Mrs. Unknown suddenly whisking off to Haiti to do relief work for the next three weeks and work and Pooh and I rolling duo and dealing with the two-year-old who knows that Mommy's "on a trip on a airplane" but not quite understanding why Mommy isn't around, I'm feeling a bit squeezed at the moment. (Seriously, how do single parents do it?!)

So, my intrepid Tome Readers, please, please, please check out my blogroll to your right and go adventuring. These blogs are definitely worth that time I just spoke of.

And for you bloggers out there who are kind/crazy enough to link to Tome, please drop me a line in the comments section, and I will be glad to reciprocate!

Enjoy and seize the day!