Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sights + Sounds of the Day

Something to offend everyone:


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving, NPR and Movies

      Tomorrow (Thanksgiving) check out NPR's News & Notes, hosted by Farai Chideya. I taped an interview for them two days ago during which I was asked to provide commentary on movies that families could watch over the holidays. When approached, I was given a list of Black American cinema classics (Cabin in the Sky, Imitation of Life, etc.) to choose from. I kept a few of those titles but tweaked the concept of "classic" a bit in order encompass films across genre, decades and generations. Check your local listings for the broadcast times. Meanwhile, here are the films with brief write-ups that explain my choices:


Imitation of Life (1959) – The great Douglas Sirk melodrama, adapted from the Fannie Hurst novel of the same name, which was first made into a film in 1934. In this version, fair-skinned African American Sarah Jane (played by Susan Kohner, who was not African American) tries to pass for white, with disastrous and sometimes violent results. Her mother is cocoa-skinned, saintly, long-suffering Annie (played by Juanita Moore), who works as a maid for Lana Turner’s character, Lora. Annie makes the ultimate sacrifice by agreeing to stay out of Sarah Jane’s life so as to not blow her daughter’s racial cover but in doing so, Annie’s heart is so broken that she falls ill. The film has a lush score, lavish gowns and unbridled emotionalism – the most famous example being the scene in which Mahalia Jackson sings the gospel standard, “Trouble of the World.” I chose this film because it’s a classic weepie, an almost guaranteed tearjerker. The film’s commentary on race is still very potent – as film historian Donald Bogle points out, Sarah Jane doesn’t want to be white so much as she wants “white opportunities” and that’s a crucial distinction to make so that she’s not simply cast as a villain – but the film’s emotional power lies in the way it shrewdly pushes buttons of guilt and grief around maternal love and sacrifice, and the way children can be oblivious to those sacrifices until it’s too late. This is fantastic film to stoke catharsis, to provide a letting of tensions that can spring up around holiday stress. Annie is really the idealized, fetishized black mother and the film masterfully manipulates that archetype to tap into something of longing, connection and reconciliation in that powerful bond between mother and child that transcends even death.



Claudine (1974) – Claudine is a fiercely devoted, hardworking mother of a different stripe, of a different era. In this 1974 film, Claudine, played by Diahann Carroll, is a single mom to six children, working secretly as a maid so as to not jeopardize the welfare she receives. When she falls in love with a garbage man (played by James Earl Jones), it not only complicates her own emotional life but reshapes the dynamic of her household, as well as putting her government assistance at risk. The film insightfully captures all those layers. I chose it because it’s smart, well-written, well-acted and shows the resilience of the black family even as terms of family are being redefined. And it takes two figures who continue to be much maligned and misunderstood – the single black mother and the black male – and gives you a nuanced, layered look at the fullness of them, their struggles, victories, defeats – their full humanity. Diahann Carroll was playing against type in this film and there was real doubt that she could play this poor, put-upon single mom. But the very qualities that people thought would work against her in the role – her regal bearing, the elegant aloofness – really made the performance because you got to see this character in a way she hadn’t been presented before and, unfortunately, is rarely shown in mainstream media today: she has great pride and dignity, she has class. She works hard. Although Claudine is tough and hardened, she’s not simply hard. She’s not anybody’s gangsta bitch and she’s not trying to be. She’s still incredibly feminine and loving, and she finds her strength and toughness in those qualities. It has to be noted that the Curtis Mayfield soundtrack is a fully realized character itself. It’s one of his most perfect creations, which is saying a lot. The songs he wrote and that Gladys Knight performs so beautifully (“The Makings of You,” “To Be Invisible,” “Mr. Welfare,”) all comment on the story, illuminate the characters, and lift the film into the realm of emotional truth. You just feel good after watching it.



Breakin’ (1984) – Breakin’ is an interesting film because it was one of Hollywood’s first attempts to cash in on hip-hop, which was then still thought to be a passing fad in many quarters. The script is formulaic and full of cliché’s, and the acting is incredibly uneven (putting it mildly.) But couched inside the flaws are some radical elements. The basic story is one that Hollywood has trotted out in some form over and over: a privileged white girl studying formal dance runs across a dance crew comprised of black and brown boys from the ‘hood and she’s so taken with their moves – and maybe with one of them – that her own art is transformed and revitalized. (Flashdance employed a bit of that formula; the wretched Save the Last Dance used it wholesale.) But what makes Breakin’ both important and enjoyable is the way it inadvertently moves beyond cliché: It’s a valentine to the West Coast and its contributions to hip-hop, specifically popping and locking; you see a brotherhood amongst black & brown folk that then circles out to encompass others; when you listen closely to the soundtrack and pay attention to what the characters are dancing to, you’re reminded that hip-hop has roots in soulful r&b, German electronic music, funk and disco; the dance sequences are still some of the most spectacular and influential of any Hollywood musical; the camaraderie between the men is playful and brotherly without the exaggerated, tired machismo that is so often deployed to squelch any whisper of queerness; in fact, one of the main characters is a flaming, combustible queen but the film doesn’t identify him as that and none of the other characters trip on his lack of hardness or street posturing because at this point a one-note, static, overly macho ‘hood pose wasn’t yet the badge of hip-hop authenticity that it would later become. Mainly, the film is unabashedly charming.



Antwone Fisher (2002) – Just as Breakin’ transcended the clichés of its script, Antwone Fisher moves beyond its overly familiar template – troubled youth goes under a doctor’s care and as he heals, provides a window for the physician to heal himself. This is a big-budget Hollywood holiday film, and those films tend to center on family, domestic strife and resolution that affirms family and ends on a note of uplift. Fisher does all of that as it tracks the course of its violent, rage-filled, self-destructive title character, who reluctantly goes into counseling with a therapist played by Denzel Washington, who also directed the film. When this movie was first released (Christmas season of 2002), a lot of mainstream critics dismissed it as old-hat, said that it was saying nothing new. They didn’t see beyond the script’s blueprint. How many big budget, mainstream Hollywood films tweak template in order to show how depression and despair are at the root of so much of the violent behavior exhibited by a certain subset of black youth, specifically black males? How many Hollywood films address the sexual and emotional abuse experienced by so many black boys? How many make note of the sadness that is often beneath the commodified and fetishized swagger? The film Antwone Fisher does. But what’s most moving and important about it is that it moves toward a final note of redemption, saying that even those who are deeply damaged, those who are spiritually wounded, can be saved and embraced as family. That they are family.

Buy Blood Beats Vol. 1 or Vol. 2 at Amazon:
click here

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Update, PT. 2 / Friday, Nov. 21, 2008

Really sorry I didn't update yesterday as planned. It's been crazier than I thought it'd be. I'm prepping to interview Cheryl Dunye and Jeffrey Wright (separately) for profiles in Flaunt, and I just did an interview with singer-songwriter Jay Brannan, who is truly fantastic. I will blog about these folks and some other items this Saturday. In the meantime, I am doing last minute stuff to ensure that tonight's Blow Pop (please click that link) is as great as last month's. If you are in LA, come out and join us.

BLOW POP is a chill, house-party style club thrown by New Ninjas, a collective of LA artists that includes Kim Blackwell (actor & writer), Jason Van Veen ("Boondocks" writer & film maker), Ernest Hardy (film critic, poet and author) and Kim Hill (profiler).

The night kicks off with a short film and a classic episode from one of your favorite vintage Negro sitcoms. Then the two Kims hit the decks to spin hip-hop, indie r&B, classic soul, the coolest disco, rare groove and some shit we can't categorize.

Doors open @ 9pm and there's a $5 cover. The club menu includes catfish, red beans and rice w/ sangria, and more. PLUS there will be giveaways.

Address: Club Fais Do Do / 5257 West Adams Blvd. / Los Angeles, 90016


Here's a mini-YouTube playlist of Blow Pop-esque fare:









And these are especially for Mica, Monica and the 2 Kims:


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Update



I will try to put up a new post either later today (or this evening), or in the morning. Deadlines are calling. In the meantime, enjoy the humor of the clip above.

Peace

Monday, November 17, 2008

California Wildfires... Newscast by the Onion


Californians Gather To Celebrate Annual Wildfire Tradition

Soup With Prince


     In my essay, "James Brown: Portal of Possibility," which was published in Flaunt magazine earlier this year and which I excerpted here in mid-October (click here for the excerpt), I mused late in the essay on three of Brown's artistic children: Prince, Michael Jackson and MeShell NdegeOcello. The excerpt I posted didn't include what I'd written about those "children." Here's what I said about Prince:

Prince. A man who in his early years worked enduring, ever-magnetic-in-the-American-imagination tropes of the tragic mulatto (so much for proud blackness), all while rocking Speedos, stilettos and trench coats. The bastard spawn of Little Richard and James Brown, already an artistically incestuous coupling, Prince is so clearly a child of Brown that it forced me to go back and check how much queerness was already packed into the iconography of Brown himself. The same way that Brown blasted open options of expression and black male sexuality for an earlier generation, Prince became for me a god. His androgyny, his promiscuity with genre, the undeniable strength and confidence that played out beneath his choreographed quirks, his feigned shyness and feyness – he was a New Black Man much the way Brown had been for a previous generation. But he was flipping much of the Brown template on its processed head even as he celebrated, riffed on and in many ways reinforced it. And the ambivalence with which so many black folk once and still regard(ed) him and his manifestation of black male sexuality resonated deeply with me. His multi-racial, multi-gendered band (as much Sly as James), the way he worked with female artists in his camp, his own use of conked hair…

     In the current issue of the New Yorker, there's a new interview with the Purple One. For many of us who embraced him early in his career and our lives, it is confirmation of what we already knew to be true the moment we heard that he'd become a Jehovah's Witness. The Prince of stilettos and bikini briefs, who sang of a utopia in which sexual freedom and fluidity were on par with racial equality as things to be pursued and celebrated... that Prince is gone. Retreated behind the securely locked iron gates of religious judgment and narrow-mindedness. Two excerpts:

1) Prince padded into the kitchen, a small fifty-year-old man in yoga pants and a big sweater, wearing platform flip-flops over white socks, like a geisha.

2) Recently, Prince hosted an executive who works for Philip Anschutz, the Christian businessman whose company owns the Staples Center. “We started talking red and blue,” Prince said. “People with money—money like that—are not affected by the stock market, and they’re not freaking out over anything. They’re just watching. So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”
     When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

For the rest of the interview, click here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wanda Sykes Comes Outta the Closet

Classic Wanda...

I mean, I guess there's somebody out there that, that...
Well, how very, very, especially slow does one have to be to have not figured that out? Wanda's humor has always been drawn from a very distinct strain of droll, biting, hilarious, no-bullshit dyke energy. Even when she was talking about her ex-husband. Much respect to her for making her sexuality public, though. Her doing so works on both a literal and metaphorical level, illustrating that the battle for equality always comes down to simply stating the obvious: I'm a dyke. Women are not second-class citizens and they deserve full rights and full & equal protection under the law; Black people / Latinos / the LGBT community / immigrants... are not second class citizens, and they deserve full rights, and full & equal protection under the law. It's the tedium & banality of repeating the mantra, of even having to state the obvious, that drains and infuriates.

Wanda comes out, here...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Check myself

I wasn't gonna blog a new post till Saturday, Nov. 15. I am now in Chicago, where I just had a really great time conversing with students and talking about everything from the globalization of hip-hop conformity, to Prop 8, to the issues around downloading music. Smart kids. Gives me hope. But I was just checking email here at DePaul's library when I received a couple of heads-up letting me know Dan Savage had blogged one of my columns. I went over to his site and saw that he'd blogged about NOT the one in which he was called to the carpet for his part in fanning the flames of racial tension, but this one, in which the controversial symbolism of the KKK in full drag was used to critique the racist blow-back from Prop 8. Dan's commentary on the issue was simplistic and predictable and allows him to shout outrageous indignation while side-steeping introspection on his own bullshit. (Click here for the column.) I'd have completely ignored it all except for one thing, which made me jot the following as I was eating lunch a few minutes ago:

Well, if I'm going to be calling people out they name and holding folks accountable, I have to hold my own feet to the fire.

I fucked up.

Prologue: As someone who is both Negro and homosexual, I often use in my writing the terms of degradation that have been assigned to both those groups. I use them with humor, irony, adolescent flippancy. But I trust the intelligence of readers to "get" the words in the contexts in which I use them. And there is always context. And I make it clear in my writing that I am unapologetically and proudly both Black and gay, committed to fighting racism, homophobia, misogyny, the whole inter-related nine.

This is often (and understandably) misunderstood by some of the same folks with whom and for whom I am fighting.

My fellow Negroes often chastise me for using words like... well, Negro. Colored. Jigaboo.

My fellow faggots often chastise me for using words like... well, faggot. Cocksucker. Butt-pirate.

Folks who are neither gay nor Black will sometimes whine, "Why do you get to use those words and I don't?" (Answer: 1. Don't believe the hype. Ain't nobody stopping you from using 'em. Just know that there may be kunsuhkwinces an' rehpuh'rayshuns for using 'em when you ain't part of the group. 2. Why do you even want to use them?)

Ealier this week, when I came across the Quincy LeNear drawing used here, I jacked it and saved it to my hard-drive until I could blog about it. I saved the jpg under the title White Faggot Racism. I didn't even think about it, anymore than I would have if I'd found an image that I thought illustrated or critiqued black homophobia and might label it Jigaboo Homophobia. (I also needed to differentiate the pic from others in my folder under the series of Brazilian Faggot Orgy photos.) I bring this all up because when Savage right-click-saved the image from my blog onto his, it was the title I gave which came up on his computer. He made a pointed point of mentioning the jpg's label when he posted his column, and as a result I know I need to issue a couple of apologies.

1) To Quincy, who's publicly stated that he used the image he did precisely because it is controversial and he wanted to use the tweaked symbolic imagery of the KKK in hoods to critique the twined racism/privilege of many players (bloggers and posters) in the white gay blogosphere following the Prop 8 debacle. But he didn't label the jpg, I did, and he doesn't deserve any beef thrown his way because of what I did.

2) Anyone (gay, straight, male, female, whatever) who came across the image and commentary on Dan's page and processed it without being privy to any sort of context of either my politics or biography, and who came away thinking or feeling that I was anti-white or anti-gay. Neither is true. I don't expect everyone to co-sign the way I use this language and I completely understand that. But I do hope and trust that a provision and fleshing out of context would at least help you understand where I am coming from.

When Black folk have conversations about racial identity, what the terms are, what the language is, who gets to set the terms and control the language, it's often just presumed that there are no gay or lesbian folk in the mix.

When terms and conversations are held about LGBT identities, what the terms are, what the language is, who gets to set the terms and control the language, it's often just presumed that there are no people of color in the mix. (It's really telling to me that Savage omitted any context of me, my writing, or the conversation and comments on my blog about the image when he posted a link to my blog and then wrote his own commentary. Straight-up bitch move.)

Both the African American and LGBT communities have folks in them who have championed the notion (either as conscious act or unconscious) of flipping the bird to history's bigotry by reclaiming and using historically degrading terms as a way of disempowering them or reconfiguring meaning. It is, to say the least, a controversial tack. Still. Being in both camps, I use both sets of words. I have friends of other races, and friends who are women, who similarly flip the terms that have been applied to their respective groups; I don't use those terms 'cause... it's not my place. Membership has its privileges.

I'm kicking myself for giving Savage Palin an easy out. (But he would have found one anyway.) I'm also kicking myself for not being more careful and thoughtful (I see you, Topher...) about the ways my own shorthand may be used to fan the flames of current controversies. It was stupid. Straight up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Outta Town for a Few Days...

I'm going to be in Chicago from Nov. 12th - the 14th. I won't be updating the blog or moderating comments until I return. Yesterday (Nov. 11th) got pretty heated with the Fuck Dan Savage and Pic of the Day: Scapegoating Then & Now posts. (Here's a link which adds much needed perspective to the debate / controversy: When the Old People Die, Things Will Get Better.) To cool things down a bit while I am away, I'll leave you with two of the videos I watched repeatedly last week when the madness of the Prop 8 blast-back got to be too much. Plus a bonus Anne Bancroft clip. Enjoy the Zen...

Check out this video: cat n box





Pic of the Day: Scapegoating Then & Now


The response to yesterday's Fuck Dan Savage post (just below this one) on Barack Obama's victory and the white gay racist backlash to the passage of Prop 8 has been overwhelming. I thank those readers who've checked in either on the comments section or via email. I was gonna chill on the issue for a minute 'cause it makes me heated and exhausted all at the same time, but then I came across this image from actor/artist Quincy LeNear and had to put it up. I'm crazed today as I prep for a trip to Chicago to speak at DePaul University, but I'll try to post up something non-election related before I leave. Try...

UPDATE:
I have received a TON of comments on this image, most of which I am not posting up. Y'all can take the "nigger" comments over to any number of sites where they will be posted up and have good company. A lot of the comments I've received also say that the comparison in the cartoons is false because the KKK never actually had rights taken away from them. That is true. But that didn't stop them from rallying the troops by claiming that if black folk got the right to vote, to live in certain neighborhoods, to work in certain areas, white folk's very lives and livelihoods were in danger; it didn't stop them from putting forth the notion that the mere presence of black folk took something from white folk. It didn't stop the assignment of blame to black folk when things didn't go the way white folk wanted. That is the echo heard in much of the anger being aimed at blacks right now. I do realize that when black artists create anything, it is almost always taken "literally," with no regard for the fact that there can be play on words (and images) and play with words (and images) in order to make a point, and I think that's one of the issues at play here. I also think there is a real reluctance / refusal on the part of a lot of folk to own up to the racism at play in their feelings and words over the last few days.

Here is my reply to one of the comments in the comments section for this post:

The cartoon does not equate the LGBT movement with the KKK. It takes a symbol of white supremacy and uses a mirroring gesture (the admittedly / unfortunately stereotypical limp wrist) to underscore that the same reflexive racial bigotry and unfounded fury that drove (and drives) the KKK, and is a HUGE component of the queer "community", is at work in the backlash unfolding against black folk. LeNear is not guilty of intellectual dishonesty or false equivalence in this panel. What's at work in the differing perceptions on the image are the varying cultural meanings that can inhabit a single artifact or image. It's the different experiences and references brought to the image by the viewer. You look at the two juxtaposed images and see an argument being made that LGBT organizations = KKK. I, and a lot of other "of color" gays and lesbians (I don't presume to speak for all), don't see that at all. We see a potent symbol of racism being used to critique the real life actions and mind-set at work against our community.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Fuck Dan Savage

Barack Obama’s win, the passing of Prop 8… and white gay racism



(This is a very long post. Just so you know, you've reached the end of it after you hit the Millie Jackson video, which is past the Wanda Sykes clip.)

      I realized a while ago that my strength and my weakness as a writer (indeed, as a human being) is that I process shit emotionally first. A deep, internal well of turbulent emotion is where I reflexively drop music, film, politics, everything, before I run it (still dripping) through intellectual circuitry to map out analysis, to arrive at conclusions. I didn’t want to do that this historic week. I wanted to balance the scales of viscera and thoughtfulness before putting word to monitor to internet. Unfortunately, as I type this I am running on high-grade fury. I apologize in advance if I ramble a bit, circling around a point a few times before finding my intellectual parking space.
      I want to address three topics in this post: the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States and the first black man to hold that office, California voting to approve the anti-gay / anti gay marriage ballot proposal Prop 8, and the bat-shit crazy, nakedly racist, ill-informed but unsurprising reaction of so many gay white men and their vituperative leaders in blaming California’s incredibly small (and rapidly shrinking) African American population for the state’s passing of Prop 8.
      First, Obama. I voted for him but not because I have faith that he can shore up the crumbling empire. The doubt has nothing to do with Obama’s enviable intelligence, wit, education & knowledge (those two are not synonymous), charm & grace. (I love that he so easily revives and carries forth an old-school, distinctly black male elegance. I know the memo states that he’s “post-black” and “post- race.” Eh... He’s on that vintage-but-not-trite-or-corny Negro tip. He knows that; he cultivates it. He is only a “new” manifestation to those who are ahistorical and / or glean their info on Blackness and Black maleness from mainstream media.) No, my doubt stems from the nagging suspicion that, in terms of economic health and sustainability, we may be too far gone for mere “salvaging,” that we need a whole new system of thought, practice and being. “Change” that is deep, systemic, visionary and radical in ways that Obama is not interested in and is not about. (Click here to read brother Mumia’s take on Obama’s run and presidency.) Ron Paul was someone for whom I seriously considered voting when he was in the running. Feeling, as I do, that the two-party system is not doing us any favors, I would have cast a protest vote for McKinney this time (though I’m not wholly thrilled with her either), but for purely selfish psychological reasons I cast my vote not so much for Obama but against McCain / Palin. Although I knew California would go Obama and I could tip my ballot to McKinney without fear of enabling a McCain victory, it was necessary on a purely personal level to use my vote to refute the racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, Islamophobia, homophobia, and all-around nastiness & spiritual indecency stoked by the Republican candidate and his chosen running mate.
      The Republicans and their vitriolic Fox News handmaidens tapped into a fount of American bigotry that is fed by many horrifying streams and turned Obama (in the eyes of their faithful) into a walking quilt of anti-American terrorism, fag-sympathizing, immigrant supporting, lazy-niggers-breathing up-all-the-white-man’s-air-while-bumping-fists, simmering Muslim terrorism, socialism and communism. (Damn, are Google and Wikipedia no longer working?) In shorthand, he was the OG American boogeyman: The scary nigger. With an uppity Black wife.
      But there has been a shift in the American psyche. The Republicans didn’t know that. They were banking on the white folks who are still snagged several evolutionary rungs back. And let’s be clear: the numbers of those folks are not insubstantial. The fact that for most of the campaign cycle the presidential race was even as close as it was is absolutely disgusting and is still a cape of shame hanging on this country’s shoulders. Because despite two-steps-forward, it was still very much about race in this race. (Click this link for a news article on what Palin’s rabble-rousing has wrought.)



      For me, a vote for Obama – along with my voting no on Prop 8 – was a pointed vote against the fear-mongering tactics employed by McCain’s and Palin’s campaign. Those tactics emboldened folks still holding hard to their racism. Those same tactics also emboldened the bigotry that not only drove Prop 8 but that has also found soil and sprouted in the white-centric, queer so-called-community’s racist backlash to the fucked-up passing of Prop 8. All that shit – the homophobia, the immigrant bashing, the marrow-deep anti-Black sentiment, the Muslim bashing, the demonizing of Rev. Wright – is fundamentally connected. It is fear & loathing of “other,” fear of possibility, fear of creating a cultural / political / religious center that is not solely and rigidly flag-waving, Christian, white, hetero – and, to be truthful, seriously moneyed. (One of the most tragically hilarious aspects of the campaign was watching economically disenfranchised, struggling white folk spew rightwing talking-point nonsense about Obama wanting to commandeer their hard-earned money and assets, and then freely pass out the bounty to “the undeserving.” It was like being time-warped back to high school where the in-crowd would have their desperate-to-belong flunkies carry out their dirty work with the unspoken and never-to-be-fulfilled promise of cool-kid inclusion.)
     But I’ve gone off on a tangent. My point in voting for Obama, as I said, was to use the ballot box as my own small way of “renouncing” the exploiting and fanning of prejudice for political gain. That was also my reason for voting no on Prop 8. On a personal level, I have no horse in that particular race. I have no desire to get married, to turkey baste any children into existence, or to own an annoying little yapping dog. But it was clear from the start that Prop 8 wasn’t really about protecting the sanctity of marriage. It was gateway bigotry, a gauntlet thrown down by those who are terrified of the evolution of a collective spirit and consciousness. It was homophobic, plain and simple. Because if the Mormon Church, Negro church (some of whose leaders, it should be pointed out, did publicly denounce Prop 8), and Catholic Church really cared about protecting marriage, they’d have spent the staggering amount of money raised to promote the anti-gay initiative ($38 million according to the Nov. 5 Wall Street Journal) on creating and promoting initiatives that address the issues which really tear at marriage, especially in this dire economic moment – lack of healthcare, extending unemployment benefits and broadening the terms of qualification, something to at least try to ensure that the billions and billions of tax-payer dollars recently sent to Wall Street will actually trickle down to folks losing homes and small businesses. It is unspeakably obscene that with American food banks stretched precariously thin, struggling to feed the thousands of families newly added to their throngs of clients, this country’s religious fundamentalists would channel money into creating a second- class citizenry rather than assist folks who are truly hurting.
      About a month or so ago, I noticed that the media was beating a very disturbing drum. They were whipping the hysteria that the increased participation of Black folks in this year’s presidential election, the robust registration and expected record-breaking Negro voter turnout, bode ill for those favoring gay marriage. I blogged about it on September 21st (click the link here.) It’s been pretty amazing since then to watch fools dance to a tune that was clearly orchestrated a while ago. Following the disappointing returns on Prop 8, the white gay-ghettos of the blogosphere were like KKK rallies much of last week. In comments sections of heavily trafficked and influential gay blogs like Towleroad, Queerty and Datalounge (among countless others), there has been relentless, scaldingly racist recrimination and charges that Black folks are the most homophobic in America, the most backward, stupid and ignorant, undeserving even of the right to vote; the word “nigger” has been freely bandied about on many of those sites, with “moderators” absent at the wheel. Here’s a sample typical of the comments that were being posted. It was actually left by a self-identified white gay man on Rod2.0 (a fantastic, must-read politics & culture blog catering to Negro homosexuals):

“We lost California because of two massive groups, Blacks and Mormons. I would have thought that Latinos, especially coming from societies with machismo and Catholicism built into them, would have voted been worse. However it was n*ggers, yes that’s right I said it, n*ggers who voted for Obama on one hand and then on the same godd*mned ballot voted to erase a fundamental human right for an entire class of citizens. The day every black person in America is singing “free at last”, is the very same day that millions of ignorant homophobic Obama voting n*ggers vote to keep gays as third class citizens.”

On the same day that the comment immediately above was posted to Rod's site, Rod himself blogged the following excerpts from emails he'd received from his readers:

Geoffrey, a student at UCLA and regular Rod 2.0 reader, joined the massive protest outside the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Westwood [On Nov. 6th]. Geoffrey was called the n-word at least twice.

      "It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU NIGGER, one man shouted... If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger. Someone else said same thing to me on the next block near the temple...me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone said after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them."

Los Angeles resident and Rod 2.0 reader A. Ronald says he and his boyfriend, who are both black, were carrying NO ON PROP 8 signs and still subjected to racial abuse.

      "Three older men accosted my friend and shouted, "Black people did this, I hope you people are happy!" A young lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting and said there were "very disappointed with black people" and "how could we" after the Obama victory. This was stupid for them to single us out because we were carrying those blue NO ON PROP 8 signs! I pointed that out and the one of the older men said it didn't matter because "most black people hated gays" and he was "wrong" to think we had compassion. That was the most insulting thing I had ever heard. I guess he never thought we were gay."

      The racism, white supremacy and white entitlement that are never far beneath the surface in the “queer community” have all been released like hell hounds. The thing is, none of that racism and willful ignorance of fact is news to gays and lesbians of color. It’s been infuriating and debilitating to read but only in the way that confirmation of what you already know to be true can sometimes still knock you on your ass. It’s what happens when ghosts are given form.
      Controversy in the queer blogosphere was stirred when popular gay sex columnist Dan Savage posted a column blaming Black folk for the “Yes on 8” victory, all but absolving white homophobia and citing a poll that even on the surface was hugely suspect – none of which stopped it from being referenced all over the media, from traditional outlets to the blogosphere. In the column linked here, Savage writes:

“African American voters in California voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8, writing anti-gay discrimination into California’s constitution and banning same-sex marriage in that state. Seventy percent of African American voters approved Prop 8, according to exit polls, compared to 53% of Latino voters, 49% of white voters, 49% of Asian voters.

“I’m not sure what to do with this. I’m thrilled that we’ve just elected our first African-American president. I wept last night. I wept reading the papers this morning. But I can’t help but feeling hurt that the love and support aren’t mutual.

“I do know this, though: I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there— and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum — are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.

“This will get my name scratched of the invite list of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which is famous for its anti-racist-training seminars, but whatever.

“Finally, I’m searching for some exit poll data from California. I’ll eat my shorts if gay and lesbian voters went for McCain at anything approaching the rate that black voters went for Prop 8.”


      Unfortunately, Savage was not alone in propagating the horribly off-kilter data from CNN's ineptly done poll. (Dig how he drapes himself in anticipated victimhood and martyrdom – “This will get my name scratched of the invite list of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which is famous for its anti-racist-training seminars, but whatever.” – while also taking a none-too-subliminal dig at the notion of race sensitivity training.) Headlines of newspapers across the country boasted the same misinformation Savage was pumping:

“Black voters helped ban gay marriage in California” - Detroit Free Press

“Latin and Black Voters Instrumental to the Success of Proposition 8” - Associated Press

“Most of California’s Black Voters Backed Gay Marriage Ban”Washington Post

“Black, Latino voters helped Prop. 8 pass” - LA Daily News

“Black voters in Broward overwhelmingly supported amendment banning gay marriage”Broward Politics

“Black and Latino voters critical to same-sex marriage ban’s success”San Jose Mercury News

“Exit poll: Black voters back Calif. marriage ban”San Francisco Chronicle

“Black voters helped Prop. 8 passage”The Sacramento Bee

      Luckily, some black folks (who else was gonna do it?) rolled up their sleeves and seriously examined the CNN poll that was being bandied about. The first and most important rebuttal to really blow up was from Shanikka on her blog Maat’s Feather, which was picked up by DailyKOS and exploded across the net. I, and countless other people, posted her detailed breakdown of exactly why the CNN poll being referenced was so crucially “off” onto countless other blogs and sites. It caused some people (gay and straight) to pause and reconsider the scapegoating of Black folk, while others dug in their heels and refused to budge. Below, in italics (the bold highlights are also bold in her original post), is just part of what Shanikka wrote. Even though this is only an excerpt, it’s long and thickly marbled with statistics so grab a glass of juice and some almonds. And although it’s long, it’s not boring. Also keep in mind that this was first posted Nov. 7:

This diary [blog post – EH] is organized around the myths that necessarily underlie the scurrilous claim that “Black people are to blame.”

Factually Unsupported Myth # 1: CNN's 10% Black exit poll sample accurately reflects the actual distribution of voters on Proposition 8.

Each and every argument I've read since Proposition 8 passed that lays blame on Black people --- whether only [as] the worst of the haters or even primarily -- for the passage of Proposition 8 starts with CNN's exit poll statistics about Proposition 8 at its foundation. Yet anyone who knows anything about the demographics of the State of California - or anyone who spent ½ as much time looking up actual data as ranting all over the free world about what "Black people" did "to gay people" (as if those groups are wholly separate, telling you a lot about the racism that underlies the argument) would know that 10% simply defies reality, unless a million or so Black folks snuck into the state just before the election so they could say they cast their vote for Barack Obama on sunny California shores.

But even if you are not like me, not an actual resident of the state and willing to do my homework before spouting off, it did not take any study to figure out what was the problem. Indeed, if you read CNN's own explanation of its exit polling/projection process, it is clear that CNN makes no claim that the distribution of folks which it exit polled about Proposition 8 was necessarily reflective of the actual racial percentages of the California electorate who voted, not even in those places that CNN actually exit-polled in. From CNN's own website about its methodology:

      “The process of projecting races begins by creating a sample of precincts. The precincts are selected by random chance, like a lottery, and every precinct in the state has an equal chance to be in the sample. They are not bellwether precincts or "key" precincts. Each one does not mirror the vote in a state but the sample collectively does.

      The first indication of the vote comes from the exit polls conducted by EMR. On the day of the election, EMR interviewers stand outside of precincts in a given state. They count the people coming out after they have voted and are instructed to interview every third person or every fifth person, for example, throughout the voting day. The rate of selection depends on the number of voters expected at the polling place that day. They do this from the time the polling place opens until shortly before it closes.”

What's missing from this picture?

CNN has left us without a critical piece of information necessary to establish the validity of its sampling on Proposition 8: precisely where the network exit polled in California. It simply says that “the aggregate sample is accurate” but has not provided the key piece of information necessary to actually prove it.

This matters for a reason. Specifically, in a state where different demographic populations are reasonably-evenly spread throughout a state, which does not also have dramatic divergences in political ideology which depend on where you live within the state, CNN's methodology might permit it to make a truly accurate statement about the percentage of voters in total who voted on a measure state-wide.

That, however, is not an accurate description of the state of California, as anyone who lives here knows.

In California, virtually all of this state's Black folks live in just 9 of the state's 58 counties:

Alameda County (13.7% Black)
Sacramento County (10.5% Black)
Los Angeles County (9.6% Black)
Contra Costa County (9.5% Black)
San Joaquin County (8.0% Black)
San Francisco County (7.2% Black - although this number has plummeted and will plummet more after redevelopment of the last "Black neighborhood", Hunters' Point)
Riverside County (6.6% Black)
Kern County (6.3% Black)
and
San Diego County (5.5% Black).


The vast majority of the counties in this state have a percentage of Black residents of between 1 and 2% (and several have far have less than 1%).

When you know that about California, you know that CNN's “random selection of precinct” method doesn't seem to make a lot of sense if what you're trying to do is actually know what Black voters are doing at the polls.

Frankly, in a state whose political leanings of the state are quite red / conservative except for a few pockets of population (which state unleashed Ronald Reagan on the nation again? Any guesses?), choosing precincts to exit poll “by random selection”, and then selecting targets by simply counting either 1 out of 3 or 1 out of 5 - with no attempt to ensure that you are getting an accurate correlate by race -- is a recipe for statistical disaster if what you are trying to do is make a claim about not only how many Black people actually voted, but what those Black voters did, or did not do, on a particular matter.

(In this case, the disaster has in fact occurred and unleashed hateful anti-Black rhetoric from white gay bloggers and others that is going to set the cause of gay people back a long fucking time in the Black community if it doesn't get in check.)

Finally, when was the last time you heard of an exit poll that measured voters by mail? In another state and in another election, not including votes by mail might not matter so much. But in California? In this election? It is a huge omission of data since an estimated 4,000,000 voters in California are registered as "permanent absentee voters." It is estimated by the No on 8 Campaign that 3,000,000 absentee votes were cast in California for Tuesday's election. We are not even going to discuss early voters, since I cannot find a statistic on them right now other than to note that a lot of California voters cast their votes before Election Day. So who knows how those two groups cast their votes on Proposition 8, their racial makeup, or anything else?

I don't. Neither do you.

Factually Unsupported Myth #2: There were enough Black people in California to have created, all by themselves, the 510,000 margin (as of tonight) of passage for Proposition 8.

(Yesterday [Nov. 6 – EH], the measure was winning in the AM by only 400,000 and last night by 504,000 votes. Today's numbers indicate that as absentee ballots continue to be counted the “Yes” votes are outstripping the “No” ones. Sadly. Depressingly.)

Let's now discuss the bottom line fact from which all of the seemingly never-ending “Black voters are the reason Proposition 8 passed” must necessarily flow: the number of Black voters in California. Exactly how many Black voters are there in California? Let's try and find out.

This is the math part.

As of the 2000 census, 6.7% of California's population was Black… However, the more up-to-date ACS estimates indicate that in 2006, only approximately 2.26 million Black people lived in the state. Just 6.2% of the entire state's population.

(This, attentive people will note, is far, far, below our national presence of around 13%.)

I’m going to repeat this for those who are twisting in the wind and keep repeating the false idea of a 10% Black electorate statistic like an emotional life raft in their grief over Proposition 8.

There are only 2.26 million Black people in the entire State of California. We are just 6.2% of the entire population in this state.

Black people are the smallest minority in California other than Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, which come in at just under 7/10ths of 1% and 3/10ths of 1% respectively.

(We used to have lots more Black folks here -- as is evident in even the difference between the 2000 Census and 2006 ACS data, but there has been a reverse migration of African-Americans out of California for the past 15 years or so, the bulk of which has been in the past 5 years. We are the only demographic in California whose population estimates are going down, not up, each year. Rapidly going down, at that, due to the economic difficulties that poor and working class people have had surviving in this state since the dot-com boom. Unfortunately, it's just going to get worse thanks to the California foreclosure crisis, which has devastated Black and Latino communities throughout the state, but it is too early to know new numbers just yet; the 2010 census will be telling.)

It is here that I note for the record that, in contrast to the 6.2% of California that is Black, non-Hispanic whites constitute 43.1% of the California population, Latinos 35.9% and Asians, 12.4%. (There is a 1.2% overlap, mostly between Blacks and Latinos since of course there are a bunch of Latino Black people although you'd never know it sometimes listening to the rhetoric.)

That means:

There are 7 times as many white people in California as Blacks.

There are nearly 6 times as many Latino people in California as Blacks.

And there are double the number of Asian people as Blacks.

Be sure to keep these numbers in mind when thinking about CA registered voters, and Proposition 8.


For the purposes of trying to set the record straight here on DailyKOS and elsewhere on Proposition 8, even though the Black population has declined between 2006 and 2008 and the 2010 Census will almost certainly show it is no longer accurate, let's use the 2.26 million figure for the purposes of the rest of this diary.

Factually Unsupported Myth #3: All Black people in California are old enough to vote.

It seems obvious, but at times when folks are writing diaries blaming “Black people” or “Blacks” or “Black women”, without any qualification, for Proposition 8 - even though 1/3 of us voted against it by CNN’s own poll – and when folks make choice comments such as ‘Dad, I'm no longer a nigger lover!’ (which earned my only troll rating of the entire two days), I guess it needs to be said: Black folks are not hatched fully grown. And, as we all know, in this country until one is 18 years old, one cannot vote.

Of the 2.26 million Black people living in the glorious state of California, just around 700,000 (691,313 of them in 2003, the last number I could find) are under the age of 18, going by the census data. Deducting those Black people leaves only 1.56 million Black adults in the state. [That’s] the maximum number of eligible voters taking into account no other factors, if every last one of us Black folk in California were registered voters.

(Those of you who have looked at these numbers and know that Proposition 8 lost by 510,000 votes know why I'm taking what will be 5+ hours to write this diary, since you can already see where we’re heading numerically even if we stopped here. This diary is not intended to educate you, because your racism doesn't cloud your judgment or common sense. This diary is for those other folks.)

Alas, not all of those 1.56 million Black folks can vote.

      Click here to get the rest of her entry as she further breaks down just why the "Blame the niggers" howl is so very off-key and off-point. It is illuminating. A Cliff’s Notes version of Shanikka’s exhaustive breakdown was provided on the Rod2.0 site by the poster kevjack, who wrote:

1) This [70%] number comes from *one* exit poll of 224 black voters.

2) Of the hundreds of polls done on Prop 8, not a single one showed black support above 50%.

3) Exit polls are notoriously unreliable because the sampling procedure is flawed. These are the same polls that predicted that Kerry would win in 2004.


4) I think we need to discuss the issues of race and sexuality separate from this “black people hate gay people” garbage. As I said, people believe this 70/30 stuff because it is a number that validates what they believe.

5) Why isn’t anybody talking about the hundreds of polls that showed black support for Prop 8 was *below* 50%, and very close to other ethnic and racial groups? Because those polls don't support the hypothesis that black people have a “homophobia problem”. I think we need to discuss the issue of homophobia in the black community, but not because of a flawed poll.


      What especially infuriates me, your humble blogger, is the way nobody in the “proper” media questioned or checked the glaringly obvious problems with the CNN poll. From the start, it was clear that the number of the total black population of California was being used interchangeably with registered and likely voters. Even my mathematically challenged ass, allergic to any math symbols other than those for addition and subtraction, was asking, “Wait a minute. In these numbers being tossed about on the Negro electorate, are y’all factoring in babies, school children, inmates, parolees who can’t vote, and unregistered voters?” For real? But that only underscores the fact that when it comes to covering black folk, the media (mainstream and so-called alternative) are reliably sloppy, reliably unchecked on the ways in which their own racial biases and preconceptions shape the news. And it’s quite telling that when white religious fanatics speak and vote their bigotry, they are specifically identified by their religion (Mormon) or are otherwise individualized (Pat Robertson; the Phelps clan) to set them apart from “normal” or larger whiteness. Negroes are not granted that same leeway.
      I don’t want this post to be seen as me letting Black folks off the hook for homophobia. The modern black church is quite often inexcusably shameful on a host of contemporary social concerns, gay & lesbian issues being one of them. The modern church is not the same place that birthed people like Fannie Lou Hamer. While there are black religious institutions that are progressive and visionary, the hideous (on every level) mega-churches are often helmed by backwards thinking charlatans who prove the theory that a lot of Negroes don’t know how to exist without a massa. White conservatives (who historically and contemporarily have been at best indifferent toward and at worst actively detrimental to issues concerning black folk) pour money into the coffers of these churches and then have leashed & deluded Negro foot soldiers do their reactionary bidding.



      While so many (too many) white queers have spent the last several days bashing all black folk as monolithic homophobic Neanderthals, four things are worth noting. 1) The No On 8 groups did a shitty job getting their message out to various minority groups whose votes hung in the balance and who collectively might have swung the vote a different way if they’d been approached in the first place. Click this link to read one example of how they shrugged off the responsibility of campaigning in communities of color. (And not just black neighborhoods.) By contrast, the Yes On 8 folks rolled out well beyond their natural constituencies, networking with all sorts of folks, being sure to create imagery and to reference cultural signifiers in multiple languages that would play with Black, Latino and Asian voters. Yeah, they lied their lying asses off… but they also did the ground work that No On 8 simply did not. 2) White gay men saying they feel betrayed because they voted for Obama and the niggers voted for Prop 8 need to do better. This was not a quid pro quo situation. You didn't vote for Obama as a favor to black folks. You did it because he was the candidate most likely to serve your interests and who was most in line with your politics and your hopes for the future. 3) Prop 8 was created, funded and overwhelmingly passed by the overwhelming support of white people. 4) The following items are of special note: The nation’s two most progressive governors on gay issues are African Americans Deval Patrick (Massachusetts) and David Paterson (New York). Iconic civil rights figures like Julian Bond and the late Coretta Scott King have been outspoken in their support of gay & lesbian rights. The Congressional Black Caucus is perhaps the most powerful and consistently pro-gay and lesbian political block in Washington. Samuel Jackson, Magic Johnson and Wanda Sykes all made No on 8 public service announcements. Sixty-six year-old James Shelby, president of the Greater Sacramento Urban League, which came out against Prop 8, was quoted as saying, “I’m a Christian man. But I’m also president of the Urban League, and the Urban League has always been a civil rights group. That’s what this organization was founded on.” He said he and his group wouldn’t “wave a flag and see how it blows” on the issue of gay marriage. “The law says that they have the right. I think that the courts are ultimately going to be the ones to prevail on this.”
      Wrapping it up: In his controversial, shit-starting column, Savage quipped, “I’m searching for some exit poll data from California. I’ll eat my shorts if gay and lesbian voters went for McCain at anything approaching the rate that black voters went for Prop 8.” I’m not sure which rate he’s referring to; the one grounded in fact, or the hysterical whine of distortion that he’s helped put out. But as it turns out, according to the gay Republican organization Log Cabin Republicans, gays & lesbians did vote in unprecedented numbers for McCain. In a press email sent out on November 6th, the organization’s president, Patrick Sammon, wrote:

Losing hurts. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. We’re disappointed Sen. McCain lost. We’re heartbroken Proposition 8 seems to have passed in California along with anti-marriage amendments in Florida and Arizona & a gay adoption ban in Arkansas. And we’re sorry to see several Log Cabin allies lose their re-election campaign. But there is some good news from the election and there’s an opportunity for Log Cabin members to help build a new Republican majority.

Exit polls show Sen. John McCain received at least 1.3 million votes from gay and lesbian Americans—more than any other Republican Presidential candidate has ever received. He garnered 27% of the LGBT vote, an increase from 19% support for President Bush four years ago.”

      I won't even get into the cluster-fuck of Log Cabin homo logic and delusion. I will say that Savage is the Sarah Palin of white gay “activists,” riling up the angry, racist, poorly informed, “disenfranchised” troops by tossing off easily refuted bullshit as his platform talking points and having his frothing audience (I’ve dubbed them the Savage Palinites) take the race-baited baton and run with it. What we end up with is the admitted homophobia of the African American community analyzed and contextualized through the filter of white homo arrogance and racism.

Jesus, take the wheel.

      But this is the part of the show where I surrender any and all efforts to be thoughtful and measured, where I just give in to my Detroit background (It’s so cold in the D…) and pull out a Youtube clip I searched out just for Savage and his boys… Yo, is it true you can see Russia from West Hollywood?



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Blow Pop: Growing and Flowing...


The next Blow Pop is November 21st @ Club Fais Do Do in Los Angeles. Come check us out. In the meantime, check out our Myspace page to see pics of the first night; they're in a slide-show that's set to a brand new play-list compiled by the lovely Ninjette (Kim Blackwell), getting her Jamaican on and multi-tasking...

Click here for the Myspace page. Click the photo in this post to enlarge the image.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Day Dream



Years ago I attended a media screening of the film Lift, after which the cast was brought out for a Q&A. The wonderful Lonette McKee, who plays a cold, materialistic mother in the film, was a crowd favorite; they went wild with applause when she was introduced. At one point during the questioning, a man stood up and gushed several minutes of praise toward Ms. McKee before asking if she would sing a song for us. She stepped to the microphone and in a textured, earthy, naturally sexy voice replied, "I don't sing for free."

It was a funny reply but it also made me a little sad. Because in it I imagined I heard years of broken career promises, deals gone bad, money fucked over, tons and tons of bullshit sifted through. I've always been a big fan of hers and look forward to seeing her in anything, which I was happy to receive an email from filmmaker Rodney Evans (Brother to Brother) inviting me to a reading of his new screenplay Day Dream in New York next week; the reading will feature Ms. McKee. I can't make it but here's the info (followed by two more clips of the lady herself):

There will be a screenplay reading of DAY DREAM (with live jazz) on Monday, Nov. 10th at 6:30pm at 45 Bleecker St (at Lafeyette).

DAY DREAM, a new script by Rodney Evans, featuring performances by: Spencer Barros (THE TEMPEST), Reg E Cathey (THE WIRE), Anthony Chisholm (OZ), Colman Domingo (PASSING STRANGE), Aunjanue Ellis (RAY), Yvette Ganier (JITNEY), Andre Holland (SUGAR, WIG OUT!), Marc Damon Johnson (SWEET AND LOWDOWN), Adriane Lenox (TONY Winner-DOUBT), Walter Masterson (L.I.E.), Curtis McClarin (BRING IN DA NOISE, BRING IN DA FUNK) and Lonette McKee (JUNGLE FEVER). The event also features a live jazz quartet - Kyle Athayde (trumpet), Kristopher Bowers (piano), Bryan Carter (drums), Philip Kuehn (bass) - with musical arrangements by Aaron Diehl! Monday, November 10 The Theatres at 45 Bleecker St (Bleecker at Lafayette) 6:30-9:30PM Tickets: $20 General / $15 NewFest 2009 Member Discount.

In DAY DREAM, gay African-American composer Billy Strayhorn travels to New Orleans to investigate the life of Buddy Bolden, the forefather of modern jazz, who spent his last 24 years in a mental institution. Rodney Evans is the recipient of the Independent Feature Project’s Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting and the 2004 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize in Drama for his first narrative feature, BROTHER TO BROTHER. He is a Creative Capital Grantee and a Guggenheim Fellow for 2008/09. NewDraft is NewFest's Screenplay Competition & Reading Series, dedicated to discovering and fostering LGBT feature screenwriters and/or LGBT feature screenplays. Day Dream was one of the two winners of the inaugural competition at this past June's festival. To purchase tickets online, visit newfest.org and follow the links from the main page.

From Cotton Club:


And a clip that seems especially fitting in this Prop 8 moment:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Art of Obama's America

I'm on deadline and will blog semi-seriously about the election and its results shortly, but I will say now that one thing I'm kinda dreading is the art that's gonna come forth now. It's a cliché, both true and not, that from wretched times springs good art. There definitely is something to the notion that adversity and demons-to-slay fires up a lot of people's muses in the best way. And that's precisely one of the reasons I am sitting on trepidation regarding the art that will be inspired by the Obama presidency. (For the record: Yes, I am happy he won. I voted for him.) Judging by a lot of the wretched professional music videos, Youtube joints, poetry and emailed free-styled "words of wisdom," that were created by folks "inspired" by Obama, we are now in for some sappy, sentimental, corny-ass shit. I suspect we'll see less of this kinda artfully inspired playfulness and than we will strained profundity and wan soulfulness like this. And I'm not quite sure how, but I'm blaming this on Obama:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sight + Sound of the Day: The Way They Were

I do love Gladys Knight, one of the underrated all-time great soul singers. Check out what she does in this clip from the 1975 Grammy Awards. Where are the daughters of Gladys on today's soundscape?