Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Honeydripper


Elegantly adapted by writer-director John Sayles from his short story “Keeping Time,” Honeydripper is classic Sayles cinema: an insightful sketch of assorted common folk whose criss-crossing dreams and agendas unfold against larger, more powerful (and sometimes crushing) sociopolitical and cultural forces. Though steeped in race and class consciousness, the film is never dry or preachy; it makes many of its most salient points with the gentlest touch. Tyrone Purvis (Danny Glover) is a retired blues musician in the late ’50s American South, struggling to keep his live-music jook-joint afloat in the face of a new spot directly across the road that features a jukebox playing newfangled rock & roll. His wife, Delilah (Lisa Gay Hamilton), who works as a maid for a wealthy white family, is in the midst of a crisis of faith that stokes household tensions over how Tyrone earns his living. Meanwhile, a racist sheriff (Stacy Keach) and a landlord who’s trying to sell the Honeydripper Lounge out from under Tyrone seem to strip him of options. Then a young musician with a jerry-rigged electric guitar shows up at Tyrone’s door. Tucked into the plot twists and pushed forward through dialogue that perfectly captures accents and era — some of it lifted from old blues songs — are a host of still-relevant issues: the quotidian racism that buffets the creation, reception and selling of race music; the tensions that arise when new Negro creativity threatens to wipe out past Negro history and culture; the ingenuity big business shows in coming up with new ways to replace slave labor; the economic strife at the root of so much domestic turmoil in poor black families. Sayles unfolds these concerns with grace and lots of humor — it helps that his cast is uniformly good, often excellent — and he doesn’t play things easy with regard to race. A scene between Delilah and her boozy boss Amanda (Mary Steenburgen), in which the white woman tries to bond, inadvertently spilling forth the misery of her life and her obliviousness to Delilah’s, treads familiar territory but peels back clichés to find truths across barriers. Time and again in Honeydripper, situational tension is fractured by Sayles’ universal compassion.

Link here





Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sweeney Todd



I loathe show tunes. With a passion. But Tim Burton's unbridled imagination, in giving an expectedly stylish framework to this classic if atypical B'way musical completely, won me over. For the first time in a long time you feel Burton's glee as a filmmaker and stylist. His imagination races through the possibilities of CGI, a hugely talented cast and his own fertile mind (some of the set pieces are just stunning). The performances by Johnny Depp (charismatic and assured), Helena Bonham Carter (droll and very moving) and Sacha Baron Cohen (fucking hilarious) made this an unexpectedly satisfying film-going experience for me. And to my surprise, I found that I recognized quite a few of Stephen Sondheim's songs. For the record, while theater purists will undoubtedly wail and moan at the lack of "proper" singing voices by the leads, I really enjoyed their interpretations, especially Depp's indie-rock approach to the songs. I couldn't see myself ever going back and listening to the soundtrack but for the course of the movie, it worked. Much better than Dreamgirls or Hairspray.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Flashback weekend







These three YouTube clips are audio only. They're songs of my youth that exemplify my favorite kind of dance music: funky, playful, sexy. Effortlessly cool. First up is Howard Johnson's "So Fine," which dominated Detroit radio and basement parties the year it was released (1982). "Throw ya head back (back, back, back) / lean it to the side / hey, fellas, ain't she fine..."

Next is the Alton McClain & Destiny hit "It Must Be Love," an Emotions knock-off filled with its own sparkling charm. As a boy, I hated this when I first heard it. Back then, "biting" was frowned upon. At least by music geeks like myself. Eventually, though, I was won over. This one triggers lots of great memories of the south, my family, dancing in the living room and turning the volume up way too loud for my mother's taste...

Last is "All Night Thang," which I think speaks for itself.

Enjoy.

NWA: Straight Outta Compton

When N.W.A dropped Straight Outta Compton 20 years ago, their hood reportage functioned as art from the Negro underbelly always has: pulling back the curtains on the realities, dreams and unyielding nightmares of a subset of this country’s African-derived have-nots. With droll black (as in folks) humor, it made deft (should that be def?) performance of hood truths and ghetto fantasies. That combo struck complicated chords because truth and fantasy were trickily overlapped, blurred. It was vent and vindication for many, but jolting news flash to multitudes who weren’t already in the thick of it: the black middle and upper classes, many of whom lived — and still live — half a paycheck away from brutal niggerdom; white folks and non-Negro minorities clueless as to the realities of modern-day native sons. Its greatest and most unfortunate legacy may be that it folded neatly into a lot of folks’ (including Negroes’) long-standing fetish for dysfunctional niggers. It opened some doors of social dialogue and set the template for countless rap careers, but it also helped pave over other avenues of black expression, stoking a global market for shrunken, restricting notions of “real” or “valid” blackness.

Rest of review is here

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Reporting From Harlem

An early New Year's Eve resolution: I will update my blog more frequently in 2008 than I did in 2007. In the meantime...

The Princeton gig went amazingly well. I met some heroes and heroines; was immersed in some heady Negro intellectual convos (man, Ms. Kara Walker is a sho nuff conversation grenade) and had a great time. The reading at Columbia was sparsely attended but ended up being a lot of fun. I will blog about both in the next day or two. I've been battling a serious cold for the last two days (a major wrench in my plans for New York) and am just now coming out of a lovely Nyquil haze. One thing that is bugging the hell outta me, though, before I sign off, is how almost nobody in major media is connecting the dots in New Orleans' manufactured housing crisis while they all line up to fellate Brad Pitt. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Pitt, coming up off 5 million dollars of his own money, rolling up his sleeves and literally helping build 150 homes for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. But the fact is, Pitt's news story is also a smokescreen for the reality that HUD is bulldozing four large housing projects that were basically untouched by the hurricane and that housed 4,700 families; the land beneath those housing projects has already been doled out. (Home Depot has a lease for some of it.) And is it mere coincidence that New Orleans finally has an all-white city council? As I and countless folk have said before, this is a shameless land grab that has the great additional perks of wiping out a major fount of black American history and culture, of AMERICAN history and culture, for the creation of yet another tourist resort/playground for the rich, white and entitled as this country spirals ever deeper into its racialized class schism. The race and class metaphors and realities for Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath are layers and layers deep, and will unfold for decades to come.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Princteon / Columbia... Here I Be



"Ain't that a Groove": The Genius of James Brown
A Princeton University Two-Day Symposium


PROGRAM

Thursday, November 29, 2007
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University

6:00pm
Welcome
Valerie Smith, Director of the Center for African American Studies

6:15pm
"James Brown: Man To Man", Concert Film Footage
courtesy of Alan Leeds and Harry Weinger

7pm-9pm
"On the One": A Keynote Roundtable featuring Robert Christgau, Farah J. Griffin, Alan Leeds, and Fred Moten
moderator: Daphne A. Brooks

Friday, November 30, 2007
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University

9:00am
Opening Remarks: "'I'm Not There': Popular Music Studies & the
Godfather of Soul"
Daphne A. Brooks

9:30-11:30am
"It's A Man's Man's Man's World": Black Power, Black Masculinity and the Politics of Funk

Mark Anthony Neal, "In the Rhythm of Patriarchy: 'Papa Don't Take No Mess'"
Jason King, "James Brown's Sweat"
Thomas F. DeFrantz, "My Brother, the Dance Master"
Robert Fink, "Soul Power, 1971"
Moderator: Tera W. Hunter

1:00-3:00pm
The Funky Precedent: Revolutionizing Rock, Birthing Hip Hop—Theorizing James Brown's Musical Innovations

Kandia Crazy Horse, "The One and Only: King James' Rock Revolt"
Rickey Vincent, "James Brown and the Rhythm Revolution"
Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson, "The Roots of Hip Hop"
Harry Weinger, "Listening to James Brown"
Moderator: Joshua B. Guild

3:30-5:30pm
"Mama Don't Take No Mess": Black Feminist Readings of James Brown

Greg Tate, "blues and the nekkid truth--the embodied she-funks of betty davis, chaka khan, grace jones and meshell ndeocello"
Imani Perry, "Telling Him About Himself: A Feminist Reading of James Brown"
Mendi Obadike, "The Pleasure/Challenge of James Brown's Iconicity"
Ernest Hardy, "James Brown: Portal of Possibility"
Moderator: Tavia Nyong'o

5:30-6:00pm
Closing Remarks
Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor in the Center for African American Studies

8:30-10pm
101 McCormick Hall

Special Evening Q&A
A Conversation with legendary James Brown band members Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley and Questlove of the Roots
Moderator: Alan Leeds

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

White Boy to Jill Scott: "Step back nigger..."


From the Bossip website

Jill Scott explains a recent incident where she was called a nigger and how she handled it:

      “I was waiting outside for the valet to bring the car round, and these … I say kids, but they must have been 25, looking wealthy, five-o’clock-in-the-morning wasted. And this guy’s saying, ‘Step back nigger, step back nigger.’ He’s saying it like it’s a song, but there’s nobody out there but me. I was taken aback, and I said, ‘Excuse me?’

      And he said, ‘Shut your mouth and don’t say a word when a white man is talking.’

      “I’m not kidding. I started laughing, and I followed him and his cohorts through the parking lot laughing hysterically, and they became more and more uncomfortable. It was one of the best moments of outrageous laughter I’ve had. To think for one moment I could possibly fit into that box … I am so far from that word that it is funny. They looked so uncomfortable; I wanted to emasculate him, to make sure he was getting no nookie that night. The girls sobered up and were looking scared. It was something else - the first time in my life I’ve been called that. Wow. But I enjoyed it. You must fight back; it’s imperative. I like the fight in me now.”

Link

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Boho Darling of the Week



      I haven't thought about Angel Grant in a very long time. The model-pretty, airy-voiced singer-songwriter was meant to be the jewel of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis' Flyte Time Records, which they formed in the late '90s. In 1998, I flew to New York to attend a three-day series of artist showcases being thrown by Universal Music; one of the artists slated to perform was Ms. Grant since Flyte Time was distributed through Universal. (The criminally overlooked Rachid was also part of the three-day showcase.) Grant's single "Little Red Boat" was already a minor r&b chart hit whose video was in heavy rotation on BET. Hours (at least three) slowly went by with no sign of the star; all the free shrimp was eaten; the vanilla-scented candles in the middles of the tables pretty much melted away; the backing band ran through their bag of tricks, and the gathering of movers & shakers were salty as hell. (At one point, Jimmy Jam took the stage and jokingly asked, "Any singers in the house?" He was smiling but he clearly wasn't amused or happy.) Finally, Ms. Grant showed up... Now, I can't say for certain what the problem had been, but when a female voice rose above the crowd and proclaimed, "That bitch high," the room murmured in collective agreement. And Grant's career was pretty much over before it began.
      Grant came to mind while I was listening to Joyful, the debut CD of Ayo. Ayo's voice is better, stronger, possessing more character and texture, and her songs are tighter (which is saying something, really, 'cause Angel's songs were generally very good.) But something of Grant's arresting vulnerability is in Ayo's style and approach. A resident of Germany, born to a Nigerian father and a gypsy Roma mother (the biracial beauty brigade is constantly upping the ante, yo... it ain't enough to just say you're half-black/half-white no more; your shit's gotta be hyper exotic... cubed), Ayo's guitar driven, folksinger, singer-songwriter approach is heavily centered on reggae (she cites Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer as influences -- as well as Pink Floyd, King Sunny Ade and Fela), and she sounds a bit like Sade as channeled by Tracy Chapman. There's a sturdy strength beneath the afore mentioned vulnerability. That might all sound incredibly hackneyed but it's actually quite lovely. The music soothes. It can function simply as chill background fare but it's more than able to stand up to scrutiny. I'm really loving "Life is Real." Check it out...







CD review: Kenna



KENNA
Make Sure They See My Face | Star Trak/Interscope

      It’s the absence of irony that makes Kenna’s ’80s throwback CD, Make Sure They See My Face — his non-jinx sophomore effort — so damn cool. He’s not above the Brit new wave references he so copiously cites; he doesn’t wink or smirk, or hide his love away beneath art-school archaeological detachment. That’s not to say that Face is absent effect. It swims in it. But the 29-year-old Ethiopian-born, West Virginia–raised BFF of Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams (a.k.a. the Neptunes) gives himself over to his musical influences with sincere abandon, capturing something of what it was like for so many American kids first hearing (or seeing) the early ’80s British MTV/KROQ darlings as they stormed the shores of U.S. pop culture. It’s the giddy rush of possibility, as assorted cultural assumptions are trashed and genre boundaries traversed via technology and innate pop sensibilities. With the help of producer and co-songwriter Hugo (Pharrell also produced and co-wrote two tracks), Kenna has mapped the future through artfully massaged re-creations of the not-too-distant past.

      Flickers of Coldplay and Radiohead crop up on Face, and the Ramones get a nod too. But spiraling through the grooves of Make Sure They See My Face most powerfully are the stylistic fingerprints of the Cure, U2, the Pet Shop Boys, the Fixx and countless British ‘80s one-hit wonders who made their marks and then vanished. (If Kenna doesn’t quite have the full-on lung power of Bono, he nails the phrasing and passion.) Hugo and Pharrell provide foundations of syncopated drum beats that simultaneously unfold the DNA of their own fabled studio aesthetic, while being grin-inducing, ass-shakingly faithful homages to the drum-machine glories of days gone by. Highlight: The black-boy-white-boy rap Kenna does mid-way through “Loose Wires,” evoking Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant’s deadpan delivery on “West End Girls,” and in the process, underscoring the cross-genre pollination that fed so much ’80s fare.



Review is taken from here

Monday, November 19, 2007

Video of the Day



I love pop music. I'm not a Negro-on-some-next... To me, a really good pop song is the most amazing work of art. But my definition of "pop" encompasses a whole range of genres and moods. I recently reviewed the new Kenna CD (that review is coming up in this week's LA Weekly) and it forced me to pull out some old Rhino compilations of '80s New Wave hits. The music on those discs ranged from Marshall Crenshaw (undervalued genius) to Kajagoogoo (undervalued fluff) to Fun Boy Three. It all made me smile. And it all made me grateful to have been a teenager in Detroit (just named the most dangerous city in the country) when one radio station playlist could and would include the Bus Boys, Cherelle, the B-52s, Run DMC, Culture Club, Prince, Cyndi Lauper, the Time. This Blondie track predates all that by a few years but it sorta dovetails right into the mix. It's one of my all-time favorites. Pure, shimmering, perfect-world pop.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book news... and more

After working our asses off to get Blood Beats Vol. 2 out before the end of this year, my publisher and I decided to push the new publication date to January 2008. It really is coming out then. In the meantime, the current issue of the Advocate (the one with Cate Blanchett on the cover) has an excerpt; it's taken from a piece I wrote on Lil' Kim just for Vol. 2 called "The Pornagrapher's Daughter."

I'm also going to be speaking at Princeton later this month as part of their two-day symposium, "Ain't that a Groove": The Genius of James Brown. I'm on the panel "Mama Don't Take No Mess: Feminist Readings of James Brown." (Where else could they slot a mama's boy?) For more info on that, click here.

Peace

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Quote of the Day

Martha Graham in a letter to Agnes DeMille...

There is a vitaltiy, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action.

And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.

The world will not hear it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is:

Nor how valuable it is;

Nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours;

Clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work

You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased.

There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.

There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Meeting Mary...


Here are a few snippets from my forthcoming Advocate interview with Mary J. Blige


Mary on her gay fans: "The majority of my fans are gay. The majority of them are, and I have to really make sure that they know I’m paying attention to the fact that they support me, and I support them."

On gay folk in her life as a young girl:
When I was growing up, my neighborhood was full of everyone—black, white, Latino, gay, straight. A lot of people that I knew were gay, but they were great people. They were good people. It’s not like they were alien. They were just people. That [acceptance] was just something that was always in me. I’ve never been a judgmental person because I have been through so much hell myself."

On when she first realized she had so many gay & lesbian fans:
"I realized that years ago. Like, probably during…was it Share My World or Mary? It was probably during the Mary album that I realized I had so many gay fans, because one of my managers at the time was gay and him and all his friends were die-hard Mary fans. And then there’s a lot of gay women that love Mary J. Blige—a slew of gay women. And that’s never been something to bother me. Never. Because we’re all people at the end of the day.'"

On the loss of her friend songwriter Kenny Greene to AIDS, and why she got involved with AIDS causes: "[AIDS] was the elephant in the room that nobody’s looking at. It made me be like, Oh, this is right at our front door. This can touch us. So why wouldn’t I want to get involved with something that can help save all our lives, save everybody’s lives?"

On homophobia in hip-hop: "The real hip-hop, the real people don’t even care about that. They’ll love you and accept you no matter what because they know who they are. There are a lot of people trying to figure out who they are and what they’re gonna be. There’s a lot of confusion in that. Confusion causes a lack of identity. I’ve heard a couple of guys say foul things, and those guys are not around me anymore because when they say things like that, I’m looking at them like, What makes you so scared? You don’t know who you are? I guess it all boils down to them not being sure about themselves and what they wanna do, whoever that is. I won’t say any names. And I don’t dislike them or anything—it just makes me wonder about them period. ’Cause if you’re not sure about that, then you ain’t sure about a lotta things!"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Charles Burnett DVD Signing

Press release I just received:

Director CHARLES BURNETT will appear at Rocket Video on Thursday, November 15 at 7 p.m. to sign copies of his new DVD release KILLER OF SHEEP. An interview and a brief Q&A session will precede the event. Rocket Video is located at 726 N. La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. For more information call (323)965-1100. Admission and parking are free.

R.I.P. Dr. Donda West


Last Friday night, I went to dinner and saw a movie ("Before the Devil Knows You're Dead") with a very good and dear friend, catching up after months of not being able to hang. At some point, Kanye West's name came up in the conversation and my friend made a face. "I can't stand that guy," he said. I chuckled and asked why. "I don't know," replied my friend. "I guess it's because he's such a mama's boy. He has a certain kind of arrogant confidence that mama's boys have. Like, you know that whenever he fell, there was someone there to pick him up."

I've written too much about Kanye to regurgitate it again but I am a fan. I do think he's insufferably cocky and, at best, a so-so rapper. I love his music (great production, clever rhymes) but take his beyond-the-headphones persona in very small doses. I think a lot of the resistance so many hip-hop heads (the thugs, playas, "real" niggas) and macho dudes have to 'Ye is the fact that his swagger is so deep and in-your-face but doesn't come from the usual testosterone carved sources. He ain't nearly the only rapper raised by a single mom and I'd wager that more than one sneering, menacing rapper is also a big-ass, undercover "mama's boy." But 'Ye doesn't showcase bottomless gendered wounds (if not standard-issue misogyny) toward women for his growing up in a single-mom household. The roots of his swagger were watered by maternal devotion, and he boasts of that fact. His cock-of-the-walk strut wasn't forged in the streets, in a gang, in prison, selling drugs. He got it from his mama: Dr. Donda West.

When I heard that his mom died Saturday night, my heart tightened. Speaking as an unabashed, unapologetic mama's boy, I know that 'Ye is really going through it right now. Here's a live clip of his tribute to his mom, "Hey Mama."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Meshell, Keyshia, Joni, Herbie, Jill... Fiddy & 'Ye



The contrived media beef between 50 Cent and Kanye West in the weeks preceding the September 11th release of their latest CDs (Curtis and Graduation, respectively) accomplished two things. First, it laid bare the crude, cynical marketing strategy behind so much hip-hop animus — Biggie and Tupac died for these sins — even though that revelation ain’t hardly new. It also gassed the flames around the always and forever blazing authenticity bugaboo that rends the American Negro community: intra-racial class warfare. It was the up-by-his-bullet-wounds, ’hood-spawned gangsta versus the middle-class prep-school mama’s boy. Predictable camps fell along predictably defensive (and often offensive) lines of rhetoric; much old-media ink was spilled and blog space allocated toward explaining how this latest manifestation of patented Afro-Am class schisms folded into and stoked anxieties around definitions of “real” black manhood. But like the tabloid feud between Donald Trump and Mark Cuban, this was also and primarily a pissing contest between very rich men. (You almost have to admire the audacity of the two trigger-tempered hip-hop divas for the way they jacked a date swollen with nationalistic emotionalism and overwrought good-versus-evil symbolism, and used it as marketing D-day for their own dick jousting.)

For more, click here

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Love is Blind... and Apparently High as Hell

This is my lifted blog entry of the week. I really have no words. It speaks for itself. Not work safe. But you must check it out.

Here

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Looking forward to this...


The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust Produced by Trent Reznor.

The new Saul Williams CD.

Tracklisting:

1. Black History Month
2. Convict Colony
3. Tr(n)igger
4. Sunday Bloody Sunday
5. Break
6. NiggyTardust
7. DNA
8. WTF!
9. Scared Money
10. Raw
11. Skin of a Drum
12. No One Ever Does
13. Banged and Blown Through
14. Raised to be Lowered
15. The Ritual

Order here

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Back in Los Angeles

I'm back in LA, now. New York was great. Really great. (So fucking warm...) The PEN awards ceremony was amazing. Sitting on the same stage as one of my heroines, the great Sonia Sanchez, and having her ask questions about my work, having it be clear that she'd actually read it and thought about it and seemingly liked it... and having her come up to me at the post-ceremony reception and say, "My young brotha, you must sign my copy of your book." No words to even express how dope that was. I'm feenin' for New York right now now. Seriously missing my beyond-brother/brother from another mother / ace-boon-coon, Billbrown, his amazing Harlem apartment and his crackhead cats Sammy and Rosie. I will post up some new stuff blog soon, as well as some pics from the PEN event. The trip back east was sobering and thought-provoking, making some career choices and decisions-to-be-made crystal clear. But why-come nobody be tellin' you that clarity can be a terrifying state of mind? Gotta bounce now and meet some deadlines: a big music feature for the LA Weekly that drops next week (the Unabridged Hardy Original Mix of that will have to wait for Blood Beats Vol. 3... which is a long, long, loooooong ways away) and then fine-tune the profile of Mary J. Blige that I'm doing for an upcoming cover story for the Advocate. (Mary fans... she's dope. Everything you'd want her to be. I wasn't a believer before but I "get" the hype now. And the few tracks she played me from her upcoming album were very, very nice.)

Peace,
EH

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Quote of the Day (thanks Reggie...)


These words are from Junot Diaz, interviewed by Edwidge Danticat in the new issue of BOMB magazine.

"There's a lot of language in this book (The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao) that many could find offensive. The N-word is without question one of them. But as I'm always saying: there's a difference between representing a thing and endorsing it. The Yunior narrator feels comfortable using "the N-bomb" but Oscar never would, not for anything, and I think it's important to remember that. What's funny is that this is a conversation that interests the middle classes and the upper classes in our communities -- but talk to kids where I grew up or where I'm living now and that's not really what's at the top of their priorities. They're wondering why they've been abandoned educationally, politically, culturally -- why living in these urban zones is so very bad for your goddamn health.

"As an artist and as a person of color who've never had a moment in his life where someone hasn't been actively trying to control my tongue, I'm seriously conflicted about these debates. To keep it short: language has never been a good dog and its free exercise will never provide comfort to cultures of respectability. And I guess I've never really been one for comforting my readers either."

Video & Quote of the Day



From the September 26th issue of New York magazine. Interview done by Tim Murphy:

Q: Is there anybody else's music you're really enjoying right now?
Joni Mitchell: No. [Laughs.] I couldn't listen to music for ten years, I hated it all. It all pissed me off.

One artist in particular?

No. Music just became grotesquely egocentric and made for money. It wasn't music — there was no muse. Music requires a muse. The producer is not a muse. He's a manufacturer. Contemporary music made me want to punch people. I couldn't stand any of it. The whoring, the drive-by shooting of it all. I don't care how well crafted it is. America is in a runaway-train position and dragging all the world with it. It's grotesquely mentally ill.

Rest of interview here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Girl, my label f*cked me raw-dog style...


Fifty cops pleas as to why his CD is being beat-down on the charts by Kanye, following reports that Ye was outselling him 2-1. Just remember, Curtis, you promised to retire if Mr. West outsold you.

You promised.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Video of the Day



I have absolutely no desire at all to see this film but this video of the scoring session is very nice...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Track of the Day



One of my all time favorites...

LA's Coolest DominiRican


Danny Gonzales' short film Blind Leading the Blind is playing LA Shorts Fest 2007. Check it out Sunday, September 16, 2007 at 3 PM. More info here...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rolling Stone: "The Great Iraq Swindle"

"Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up."

Rest of article here

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Opposite of Sexy


Sexy is in the eye of the beholder. In the brain of the beholder. It's too variable to be pinned down. Your sexy muthafucka might be my instant wood-killer, and vice versa. But really... Mariah. Ain't sexy. Maybe she is in that faded porn-star, "Oooooh, I bet she let'choo do N-E-THANG you wanna do" kinda way. Except Mariah is constitutionally incapable of giving off actual sexual heat, let alone suggesting that she has an arsenal of sex tricks up her sleeve. She's seventy years old and comes off like a retarded ingenue. The thing is, when she ain't being ridiculous (i.e., posing for pictures like the one above; being the Diva of Ditz on MTV) and really puts her mind to it, she still makes fantastic music. Emancipation of Mimi had some undeniable gems on it, some classic r&b grooves she worked the hell out of. I'm looking forward to the new album... to see if she's still hungery, if she's held on to that do-or-die / I'm reclaiming mine focus she had when making Emancipation, or if the comeback has made her lazy and self-indulgent again.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tears Dry On Their Own


Fuuuuuuuck.

This might just be more tabloid sensationalism but... From the linked story:

"Bloody and battered after ripping into each other during a drug-fuelled row, this is Amy Winehouse, the cream of Britain's young singing talent, and her junkie husband Blake Fielder-Civil.

Stumbling around the streets of London at 4.45am, the pair bore the wounds of an almighty row which spiralled wildly out of control.

They have been holed up in a suite at a five-star hotel in Soho for the past three days after checking out of rehab for crack and heroin addiction."

Rest of this klorox-crackhead tale here.

For Tino and BBrown

Monday, August 20, 2007

LOL... I luh huh

Video of the Day

Black Butterfly Grounded


      This past weekend I briefly attended Sunset Junction, the annual street fair that normally takes place right in front of my Silverlake apartment and stretches several blocks down Sunset, one of the major road arteries in Los Angeles. This year it was moved a few blocks west and expanded, complete with big-name corporate sponsorship. The bad news, as anyone who attended the festival in the past will tell you, is that Sunset Junction has become a too precise mirror of this genrified, hipster-infected neighborhood. Years ago, what made the festival so dope was that it was a true community event, and the community itself was an effortless fusion of cultures and types: immigrants from across Latin America; a healthy sprinkling of all stripes of Negroes; gay folk whose idiosyncrasies made them too quirky, too real and too undigested for the gay ghetto of West Hollywood; true struggling artists of all hues and backgrounds.
      Now, of course, Silverlake is crammed with trust-fund bohemians, the same strain of obnoxious faggotry that permeates West Hollywood / Chelsea / the Castro, and lots of rich folks with dollar signs in their eyes and calculatedly ill-fitting, second-hand clothing on their ever-posing frames. Latino families are still here but, in many cases, just barely holding on as rents skyrocket and apartment buildings that were once allowed to all but rot are cleared of old tenants and then kissed with costly make-overs to lure a new breed (i.e., lighter complexioned) renters. Negroes are fading fast, though resilient scraps of Negritude are holding on. (There are small, roaming bands of young half-Negroes with their good hair done up in dreads, though. Clad in ripped, skinny jeans and punk tee-shirts. Little Lenny Kravitzs and baby Ben Harpers.) Silverlake is a very self-conscious theme park of faux-diversity that has a money-driven, class-banked, reinforced center of whiteness. But I can't lie. It's relatively safe, centrally located, and I have a good deal on an apartment in a city where good deals are all but dead.
      Sunset Junction has replaced all those booths of amazing, diverse Latin American cuisine with pretty much the same greasy, overpriced crap you can get at any neighborhood's street fair in the country; seller's tables that years ago were heavy with handmade blankets and clothing largely have been traded in for tee-shirts and overpriced trendy shit. It's cookie-cutter community clap-trap.
      Where the festival has improved, though, is in the musical line up. Check here to see what this year's roster looked like.

      Saturday night, I attended the line-up of the Emotions, Deniece Williams and Morris Day & the Time. Click here to read my review of the Emotions and Deniece Williams. (That's all the LA Weekly wanted me to write about.) I'll just add that I fell in love with Niecy all over again, in large part because of the way she handled what happened to her at the concert but also because I was simply reminded of how amazing her older music was/is. I'm not a fan of her gospel music and would be happy to never hear "Let's Hear It For the Boy" ever again, but those first few albums, and then the brief musical comeback she had starting with "Silly," are simply unfuckwitable.
      I didn't stay for the entire Morris Day set. The Time wasn't the real Time, of course, just some dudes wearing some vintage suits, trying to get paid by backing Morris. They were fine but... so very much not the Time. And Mr. Day was sprinting through the songs like his ass was aflame. He sang all the hits: "Get It Up," "777-9311," "Wild & Loose," "Cool," as well as some of that bullshit music the Time did from Purple Rain forward. He was in great but badly miked voice, still pulling off that synchronized choreography and still charismatic as hell, but kind of on auto-pilot. What did make a favorable impression was how much sexier he is now than he was when the Time were those ninjas. Back then, he was a cocky punk, flamboyantly and theatrically full of himself in the way that young men often are. Unearned self-adoration. It was all for show, of course, tongue-in-cheek, and balanced out by some seriously, seriously funky music. (Those first two Time albums are mandatory listening.) But Saturday night, those same elements of the cocksure strut and gleefully lascivious sexuality gelled and resonated in a different way; Day had an air about him that was truly c-o-o-l. He was a man, seasoned, been through some shit. And he was leaner, seemingly more fit, than the last time I saw him a few years ago. Which made it all the more disappointing that the show he put on was just a slightly better performance than you'd get in one of those casinos dotting the outskirts of Vegas proper. Seriously, if he could reunite the whole of the old Time and bring all that he now is to the table, that would be one hell of a show.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bolka Means "Pain" in Bulgarian


“Influences are tricky things. Nina Simone is the closest thing to an actual influence, in that she accepted that she was a freak of nature and was fearless in laying her heart out for the world to see. I love Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Son House, Yma Sumac . . . I suppose my tastes tend to be dark and lyrical. I do love words. And people. Darkness, words and people.”

The quote above is from an interview I did with LA-based musician Dorian Wood. Full article is here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Miss Cleo & shit...

I missed this USA Today write-up (cut & pasted below) when it first ran. My friend Brett tipped me off about it a few days ago. I chuckle at being described as a novelist. Somebody's been peeping my bedside notebooks and looking into the future.

Vandross legacy plays out with 'Love'

Luther Vandross' sweet, soulful voice was the gold standard in romantic music for more than two decades before his untimely death at age 54 two years ago. Love, Luther, a new Sony/Legacy box set due in stores Oct. 16, is a paean to his long career.

The four-disc, 53-track set traces his beginnings as a jingles singer and New York sessions vocalist through his 25 years as a solo artist who earned 15 platinum records and sold 30 million records. In addition to his hits and "Lutherized" covers are six previously unreleased songs and duets with the likes of Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Dionne Warwick and Frank Sinatra.

The set makes clear that the eight-time Grammy winner — who was a vocal arranger for such stars as Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Donna Summer, Bette Midler and David Bowie before he became famous — also was an exquisite songwriter, hitmaking producer and passionate performer. An accompanying book includes rare photos and an essay by novelist Ernest Hardy and a poem by Nikki Giovanni.

"His music has gone all around the world," says his mother, Mary Ida Vandross. "The message in his music that God wants to get out is that we have really to love each other." -- Steve Jones

By the way, the Janet Jackson duet ("The Best Things in Life Are Free") just fell out of the project.

Link

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Updated blog... soon


The last few weeks have been hectic as hell. Tomorrow (August 10) we're sending out the unedited galley of Blood Beats Vol. 2 to a handful of folks for blurbs. Still have to clear a few samples. I don't wanna be singing Erykah's line from Love of My Life, "... but the shit didn't clear!" And we are still very much on track for the October publication date. (I'd like to big-up Gordy...)

There's been so much cool and crazy-making shit that I've wanted to blog about but I haven't had the time or energy to write coherently ... There's the transparent, they-don't-even-give-a-fuck-enough-to-hide-it racism in the prosecution of the "murder and consipiracy" cases against the black youth from Jena high school in Louisiana... the DVD release, at long last, of Isaac Julien's classic art-house/queer-cinema/Harlem Renaissance essay Looking for Langston, from the good folks over at Strand Releasing... the land grab taking place in New Orleans, as taxes that are as much as 17 times the standard rate are being levied on the folks that are still there... the amazing writer's retreat I attended a few weeks ago in Austin, Texas (which I am going to blog about soon)... My morphing and down-graded opinion on Amy Winehouse (though I do love the fact that she is both clearly conflicted by and unconcerned about the rules of the game)... the Marcus Patrick spread in Playgirl being on it's way to claiming "best-selling issue ever" for that magazine, just as he hits the big screen this weekened as an omni-sexual nightclub guru / sexual pied piper in the Rosario Dawson flick, Descent. (Do not pay money to see this pretentiousness on the big-screen. Net-flix it in six minutes when it goes to DVD and you can fast-forward to the last ten minutes, the best part of the film)...
The hit that Ledisi has on her hands with her new single, "Alright," which ain't even the best track on her fantastic new good CD, Lost and Found, which drops August 31... and the ever growing Duggar family, who inspired the image below (about three puppies ago):
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I'm out for now. Will update the blog very, very soon.

EH

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fear of Black Dick Will Turn You Gay




Fear of the "pretty stocky black guy" who turned out to be an undercover cop made Fla. Rep. Bob Allen perform the actions that led to a charge of solicitation to commit prostitution, Allen told police in documents aired by the Orlando Sentinel.

Rest of story here

PS: I suspect that, in the bit of Allen's quote that is given, there should be a comma after the word pretty.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Republicans: Shady by definition (swipe)

Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district. Nineteen of the fifty-three districts are represented by Republicans, but Bush carried twenty-two districts in 2004. The bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes—votes that it wouldn’t get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union.

For rest of article, click here

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Depressing But Good Read, Pt. 2

This will be the last post on this topic (for the day, at least) lest I start to read like someone with a foil cap on my head. But this piece underscores the other editiorial I linked to earlier. Only, it shows that it's not just crazy leftists who are concerned about the issue. The headline for the Raw Story piece reads: Old-line Republican warns 'something's in the works' to trigger a police state.

Click here to read the article.

Depressing (but good) read of the day

From the pen of Phil Rockstroh comes an essay that at one time could well have been laughed off as emissions from a paranoid conspiracy theorist. And yet the world we now live in, and the way he grounds his thoughts in history, make it hard to just shrug it off. It's not new news for most of us, but I think what he says here is worth repeating:

In this summer of angst and grim foreboding about what further assaults against common sense and common decency the Bush Administration might inflict upon the people of the world, how many times during the day do those of us -- still possessed of mind, heart and conscience -- take pause, hoping we've seen the worst of it, then, fearing we haven't yet, attempt to push down the dread rising within us, so that we might simply make it through the day and be able to rest at night? Accordingly, those who have been paying attention are aware that the outward mechanisms of martial law are in place. We shudder knowing that Bush has issued an executive decree that grants him dictatorial power in the event of some nebulously defined national emergency. In addition, the knowledge nettles us that a vast network of internment camps bristle across the length of the U.S., standing at wait for those who might raise objections to the fascistic fury unloosed by the American empire's version of the Reichstag fire.

Moreover, a closer look would reveal that the inner processes by which an individual begins the act of acceptance of authoritarian excess -- the mixture of chronic passivity, boredom, low grade anxiety and unfocused rage inherent in the citizens/consumers of the corporate state that primes an individual for fascism -- have been in place for quite some time within the psyches of the American populace, both elites and hoi polloi alike. Although, don't look for torch-lit processions thronging the nation's streets and boulevards; rather, look for a Nuremberg Rally of couch-bound brownshirts. Instead of ogling the serried ranks of jut-jawed, SS soldiers, a contemporary Leni Riefenstahl would be forced to film chubby clusters of double-chinned consumers, saluting the new order with their TV remotes. In the contemporary United States, the elation induced by the immersion of one's individual will to the mindless intoxication of the mob might only be possible if Bush seized dictatorial control of the state while simultaneously sending out to all citizens gift certificates to Ikea.

After the catastrophes spawned by the rise of European fascism in the 1930s, a number of brilliant, original thinkers (including Hannah Arendt, Roberto Freire, Wilhelm Reich, and R. D. Laing) set out to study the phenomenon in order to learn how future calamities might be prevented. Although the methodologies and conclusions of these thinkers varied, each noted that alienation and dehumanization festered at the core of the death urge of fascism.

For the rest, click here

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

KISS: Enrique, Donnie and the heart of man



Un beso. A few weeks ago, during his hot-ticket performance at London’s gay nightclub G.A.Y., hetero heartthrob and erstwhile Latin pop “It” boy Enrique Iglesias freaked his signature stage bit where he plucks a female fan from the crowd and serenades her with his hit, “Hero,” a cookie-cutter I-will-be-your-white-knight pledge of eternal love and heroism. That night, he pulled a young man from the audience, crooned the tune to him (“I can be your hero, baby/I can kiss away the pain/I will stand by you forever/You can take my breath away . . .”), hugged him from behind as he sang, and then ended the song with a tender peck on the guy’s forehead. Audience cell-phone cameras went into overdrive. Within hours, the entire performance was uploaded to YouTube several times over and seen around the globe. (In the comments section of one posting of the clip, a fan wrote in cap-lock hysteria, “OH GOD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME THAT’S NOT THE REAL ENRIQUE!” — a bit of psychic distress that can only be responded to with ROFLMAO.)

For rest of article, click here.

PS -- The version of Donnie's new CD, The Daily News, that is available at Circuit City has three bonus tracks.

Video of the Day

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Back in 5 Minutes

I'm headed to Austin, TX for a writer's retreat. My publisher Lisa Moore has organized a get-together for all her Redbone Press authors and a few folks who have shown us love and support. We're calling it the Redbone Revue. There's a big reading Friday night, July 20th (click here) and the rest of the time, we'll be cooking (there will be Red Velvet cake, cobbler, homemade biscuits and fried chicken, just for starters), and us sharing work, listening to music, and just chilling at the lake that's right outside the house where we're staying. I'll update the blog when I return. In the meantime, enjoy the stuff below.

EH

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

At the movies



      I wrote a while back that I would blog about my Michael Moore’s film Sicko, and then spaced on doing it until I received an email reminding me that I said I would. I don’t have a whole lot to add to the reviews that are already out there. It’s an engaging film, filled with justified moral outrage, some well-placed dry humor and some genuinely heartbreaking moments. It's a bit of necessary shit-stirring in the debate on universal healthcare, and it’s on the right side of the argument. I don’t even mind that in the much talked about sequence where Moore gives a boatload of Americans a ride to Cube for free healthcare, the score becomes so laughably self-important and bombastic that I honestly thought the moment was a send-up of Dudley Do-right style posturing. It wasn’t. Shit was being played straight. And the film would have been richer if instead of Moore chatting with clearly well-off French middle class folk and American expatriates living in France, he’d spoken to some of the poor – starting with the immigrants and their car-burning children and grandchildren who live in the suburbs – to get their take on the application of universal healthcare. I mean, they’re the true model of the world that’s coming. Still, the pros easily outweigh the cons with Sicko. See it.
      A problem for me is that I’m not a fan of Moore’s inability to rein in his wide-eyed, faux naiveté when going in for a “gotcha” moment. Even though he’s knowingly playing it up, it just annoys me. But that’s a minor irk. My bigger issue with Moore, and it doesn’t come through so much in Sicko but I think it’s a defining characteristic of the man, is his own class anxiety and snobbery. It’s a humming undercurrent in his work and I can never not hear it.
      You get a telling glimpse of it in his very first film, Roger & Me, where he visits the woman who, in order to support her family after the plants close in Flint, sells rabbit pelts, rabbit meat, etc. Moore’s sneering, condescending handling of the woman was infuriating. Especially from a man who claimed to be down with and fighting for the people. But he was playing to those sheltered, self-righteous liberals on either coast (and I hate his tubby ass for making me sound like Ann Coulter right now)… but it’s true: he was playing to those coast-dwelling liberals who hoist themselves above the unwashed masses – cheering for them in theory and over wine & cheese sessions, but snickering and mocking them when confronted with the truth of their lives. How could he not understand and extend sympathy to this woman’s plight and her solution? He made her seem like a monstrous idiot, in the way he juxtaposed her with the cute and cuddly rabbits she was about to kill. Fuck that. To feed her kids, she went straight Elmer Fudd: Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit. Completely understandable. But I think Moore has a lot of unexamined, complex shame at his blue-collar roots, and it’s resulted in his palpable need to ingratiate himself with the cool kids. You also saw this class anxiety and the performance it sparks in him appear over and over again in Bowling for Columbine… I'm down with his politics. I just think he needs to see a therapist to work through his shit. Click here to read the latest on Moore's well publicized beef with CNN and their biased reporting on his film.



      I loathe show tunes and was all prepared to hate the new version of Hairspray. Instead, I liked it quite a lot except for a couple of moments that set my teeth on edge. (Go here and scroll down for a plot synopsis.) But before I get to those, here’s my take on the rest of the film. John Travolta still can’t act after all these years and initially his self-effacing, whimpering Edna (whose speaking voice was described dead-on by one critic as a cross between Cher and Carol Channing) is incredibly annoying; all you see is the weakness in Travolta’s craft. It makes you long for the sly, smart performance by Divine, who – in the original film version – conveyed volumes about this working class white woman and her dreams deferred, with just the way she warned, “I’ve got clothes to iiiiiiiiiron, and my diet pill is wearing off!” But then, Travolta’s charm (his gift and his crutch) kicks in and the character completely wins you over. Christopher Walken shows up and does a variation on himself. It’s a very “eh” performance: doesn’t suck, doesn’t do much. Michelle Pfeiffer is too thin but still gorgeous, and kills it as a campy, racist villainess. Queen Latifah is that same warm, maternal, glowing character she’s been ever since trading in her African medallion for Farrah flips, but at least the shtick isn’t wrapped in hood rat drag. James Marsden is very, very good and the era suits he wears are beyond cool. (The folks who did the wardrobe for this film earned their wages several times over.) The youngsters in the cast are all especially appealing, with Nikki Blonsky (as Tracy, the lead character) giving big girls a plucky new heroine and Elijah Kelly being set to bring dark-skinned brothers back to center-stage as sex symbols. The songs are energetic toe-tappers whose lyrics are full of wit and humor. And the black girl-group that appears in the film, the Dynamites, prove once again that in terms of total package – sexiness, presence, sheer fierceness – ain’t nobody else seeing the black woman; that game’s on lock.

      Still, two things really bugged me. This is a film about race and the power of race music and black culture to bridge differences. (On that front, the original film – which actually uses real-life old race music and old Negro dances to prove that point – easily trumps the newbie.) But the filmmakers twice unwittingly and tellingly fall into predictable traps. In one scene, in which Tracy needs a dance routine to win a spot on the local talent show, she offhandedly mentions the original dance created by her high school schoolmate Seaweed (Kelly), but then insists she can’t use it since he made it up and should get the glory. “No, you take it!” he grins. And grins… She takes the dance and wins her slot. It’s a laughable glossing over of the way culture “moves and evolves” from the source to the mainstream: Here, baby, take it. I want you to have it. And have all the credit for it too.
      More grating is a scene that follows the black kids being booted from the local TV show by bigots. The young ninjas are sitting around dejected, listless, with no idea what to do next (and you know a ninja without a song is a sad ninja indeed), when fiery Tracy declares that they’re going to fight injustice with a protest march. [Scooby sound of bafflement, here.] It’s not bad enough that even in escapist musicals about racial inequality, white folks conceive and lead the march toward freedom [press play for dejected, listless sigh here] but this remake is actually a step backward from the forward thinking original film, in which the very black, very pissed off Motormouth Maybelle (Ruth Brown) organized the march.
      I think that difference is very illuminating about the contrasting perspectives and visceral politics of so many “minorities” working within the system versus the ways "minorities" working outside the machine see the world and either challenge or perpetuate the bullshit. Even though gay icon John Waters’ Hairspray was a “Hollywood” film and was very safe and toned down by standards he’d already set for himself, it also bore the marks of someone who reflexively torches the status quo and speaks perceptions that go beyond maintenance of familiar bullshit. He's a real outsider who is very secure in that standing; he knows the value of the views it affords him. The largely gay creative team behind the new Hairspray (director Adam Shankman; producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, who also produced the film version of Chicago; writer Leslie Dixon, who adapted both the original screenplay and the script for the Broadway musical for this script) are faithful industry cogs, plain and true. They’ve churned out a gleaming, rousing good time – one that at pivotal points highlights the retro in their “Hollywood progressive” vision. I’d love to know why they made the change from Negro determination to having the ninjas need a white savior to show them the way.

Video of the Day

God Bless the Child


      I've been a big fan of Sarah Schulman's for a very long time. I love her frank assessments of the world as it really is, admire her no-nonsense attitude toward tackling issues of oppression and bigotry as experienced by many of us -- layered, complicated and often demoralizing -- and her ballsiness in calling out the culprits. Yet, her books (which can go deep and dark) never give off the whiff of defeat or fatalism, even when the endings are far from happy. My writer's-crush on her deepened a few years ago when I interviewed her (in a Q&A that will appear in Blood Beats Vol. 2) and asked her a question, to which she replied, "I don't know." Blew me the hell away. No one ever says I don't know anymore. No matter how far outside their field of expertise the query, no matter how transparent their ignorance as they bumble through an answer. Their fear and ego won't allow it. My respect for her quadrupled because I knew that what she did answer, I could trust. An old-school New York lefty Jewish lesbian intellectual, she's just dope...

Here's a recent interview I did with her for the LA Weekly to promote her latest book, The Child. (The image accompanying this blog entry is the book's cover.) Click here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Give it up for "Cha Cha"

A Gate-Crasher's Change of Heart:
The Guests Were Enjoying French Wine and Cheese on a Capitol Hill Patio. When a Gunman Burst In, the Would-Be Robbery Took an Unusual Turn.

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer


A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.

"Give me your money, or I'll start shooting," he demanded, according to D.C. police and witness accounts.

The five other guests, including the girls' parents, froze -- and then one spoke.

"We were just finishing dinner," Cristina "Cha Cha" Rowan, 43, blurted out. "Why don't you have a glass of wine with us?"

The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, "Damn, that's good wine."

The girl's father, Michael Rabdau, 51, who described the harrowing evening in an interview, told the intruder, described as being in his 20s, to take the whole glass. Rowan offered him the bottle. The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.

Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants.

"I think I may have come to the wrong house," he said, looking around the patio of the home in the 1300 block of Constitution Avenue NE.

"I'm sorry," he told the group. "Can I get a hug?"

Rowan, who lives in Falls Church and works part time at her children's school, stood up and wrapped her arms around him. Then it was Rabdau's turn. Then his wife's. The other two guests complied.

"That's really good wine," the man said, taking another sip. He had a final request: "Can we have a group hug?"

The five adults surrounded him, arms out.

With that, the man walked out with a crystal wine glass in hand, filled with Chateau Malescot. No one was hurt, and nothing was stolen.

The homeowner, Xavier Cervera, 45, had gone out to walk his dog at the end of the party and missed the incident, which happened about midnight June 16. Police classified the case as strange but true and said they had not located a suspect.

"We believe it is a true robbery," said Cmdr. Diane Groomes, who is in charge of patrols in the Capitol Hill area. But it's one-of-a-kind, she said, adding, "I've never heard of a robber joining a party and then walking out to the sunset."

The hug, she said, was especially unusual. "They should have squeezed him and held onto him for us," she said.

Rabdau said he hasn't been able to figure out what happened.

"I was definitely expecting there would be some kind of casualty," Rabdau said this week. "He was very aggressive at first; then it turned into a love fest. I don't know what it was."

Rabdau, a federal government worker who lives in Anne Arundel County with his family and lived on Capitol Hill with his wife in the 1980s, said that the episode lasted about 10 minutes but seemed like an hour. He believes the guests were spared because they kept a positive attitude during the exchange.

There was this degree of disbelief and terror at the same time," Rabdau said. "Then it miraculously just changed. His whole emotional tone turned -- like, we're one big happy family now. I thought: Was it the wine? Was it the cheese?"

After the intruder left, the guests walked inside the house, locked the door and stared at each other. They didn't say a word. Rabdau dialed 911. Police arrived quickly and took a report. They also dusted for fingerprints -- so far, to no avail.

In the alley behind the home, investigators found the intruder's empty crystal wine glass on the ground, unbroken.

The Beating of Black Lawyers

BY Mumia Abu-Jamal

No matter who we are, or where we live, folks in Black America have grown up with the lesson of the importance of education as a tool of social mobility.

That's why lawyers are generally so highly regarded in many Black communities, as people who have undergone years of legal education.

But that respect doesn't go far beyond the community. Cops in Brooklyn, New York recently showed what they thought of lawyers by beating them up! Well-known human rights attorney Michael Tarif Warren, and his wife, Evelyn (also a lawyer), were driving down Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Avenue, when they spotted a Black youth being chased by cops across a McDonald's parking lot.

The youngster was tackled to the ground and handcuffed, when the Warrens saw a Sgt. Talvy begin kicking him in the head, the ribs, and stomping on his neck.

The 2 attorneys stopped their car, walked within 10 feet of the beating, identified themselves (as lawyers), and told the cops to stop beating the youth, and simply take him to the nearest precinct.

The Sergeant's response was to shout, "I don't give a f**k who you are, get the f**k back in your car!" The Warrens returned to the car, where Michael began to write down notes of what he saw, and the license plate numbers of the cop cars present.

Before he could finish his notes Sgt, Talvy walks up to the car, and began to repeatedly punch him through the window, shouting "Get out of the car!"

Warren was then dragged out of his car, his clothes ripped in the process. His wife, obviously upset at these events, demanded to know why he was attacked, and was promptly punched in the face by this same cop! Both Warrens were arrested and driven to the 77th precinct and charged with obstruction, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Within hours hundreds of Brooklynites converged on the precinct, demanding the release of the Warrens. People came from all walks of life, for Tarif has a long history, almost 30 years, of representing people who have been victims of police or prosecutorial misconduct in the city. Groups like the December 12th Movement, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the International Action Center, and many others quickly mobilized support for the Warrens.

In an interview in the New York Daily Challenge, Evelyn Warren spoke for many people when she said, "We are professionals, if they do this to us in broad daylight on a crowded street, what do they do in the dark when no one is around? That's what I'm concerned about."

LINK

Friday, July 13, 2007

Don't be throwing no shade...


      I really wanted to like RuPaul’s new film Starrbooty, playing at this year’s LA Outfest. It’s being sold as a return to Ru’s ribald, less MTV-friendly performance roots and the premise seemed just stupid enough to possibly be inspired: The niece of a world-famous supermodel (Ru) is kidnapped by the supermodel’s jealous, longtime professional nemesis and possibly sold to a sex-slave ring. Said supermodel (who is also a high-ranking international spy) then has to go undercover as a low-end streetwalker to infiltrate the business empire of her rival and retrieve her niece. She’s told by her spy-biz boss that when she goes undercover as a ho, she’s gotta keep it real – suck dick, take it up the ass from johns – whatever it takes to maintain her cover. Needless to say, she’ll do whatever it takes to “get my baby back!” So far, so stupid, so promising.
      But execution is everything, and the generically bitchy humor, witless quips and wisecracks, and horribly deadly direction (this shit should buzz fast and furious but it feebly sashays like an aged crackwhore in withdrawal) make it painful. The risqué elements don’t save the film. There’s lots of dick (some of it hard) mainly provided courtesy of real-life porn stars Michael Lucas, Owen Hawk and Gus Maddox; ironically, all of their actual XXX fare has higher production values and greater wit than Starrbooty. But the biggest disappointment is Ru, whose make-up, wigs and drag are all flawless but beneath it all s/he actually looks kinda gaunt and tired. Worse, s/he gives a low-bloodsugar performance; even the neck-rolling and “reads” seem perfunctory. Interestingly, her whole “ghetto ho” shtick comes off as the kind of performance of blackness that black folks who don’t actually hang with black folks do for their white friends. That’s not meant to be one of those bullshit challenges to anyone’s racial authenticity. Ru might hang with more ninjas in a weekend than I have in life. But check the smart, knowing hood-rat satire of this outfit right here and here, then compare it to what Ru and director Mike Ruiz serve up. What does work in the film is the original music, which is bawdy, profane, no-holds-barred sex-rap a la the great poetess of our time, Khia:



      Also check out this overview I did of Outfest and current queer cinema. Excerpt:

      Watching most contemporary queer movies, particularly the American ones, is to see art reflect the downside of the progress achieved in the culture wars, in gays and lesbians securing that much-coveted “seat at the table.” It’s the same banality of vision that so often follows even the slightest triumphs of assimilation: Homogenizing formula sets in and starts to rule as the formerly marginalized start to negotiate power and position with the status quo. The popular or collective imagination — made up of artists and audiences — becomes enslaved to that which is both safe and familiar, even (or especially) when it comes disguised as edgy or subversive fare. It grooves to that which doesn’t threaten whatever ground has been gained, but it also reduces struggle and victory to template. As a result, the same tales get told over and over again, relayed in the same predictable and uninspired ways.

      It’s infantilized art. Think of how small children want the same story read to them over and over; it makes them feel secure, comforted. They get the thrill of the tale, but the uncertainty of outcome has been removed. They know when and how the villain will appear, how the battle will play out, how the villain will be vanquished or the dilemma resolved, and what the ending will be.

For the rest of the article, click here

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Catching up...

      It’s been a minute since I did a proper blog update. Really sorry about that. It’s been pure madness, but in a good way. Two essays written just for Blood Beats Vol. 2 have been bitch-slapping me all across my apartment – one is on Lil’ Kim; the other is on gay hip-hop porn (believe it or not, those are two completely different essays) – but I’m happy with the results. There’s a ton of stuff to catch up on, and I’ll let my A-D-D do the shaping of the freestyle/stream-of-consciousness update that follows...