Wednesday, December 09, 2009

She's On Her Way Back

And also HERE

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Sight + Sound of the Day: Nice White Lady

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Thomas Merton Mix-tape

Some quotes from Thomas Merton...

“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.”

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.”

“As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another because this love is the resetting of a body of broken bones; even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them. There are two things men can do about the pain of disunion with other men, they can love or they can hate. Hatred recoils from the sacrifice and sorrow that are the price of resetting the bones – it refuses the pain of reunion.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Sapphire Interview

This Q&A I did with Sapphire for the LA Weekly represents just a portion of the conversation I had with the poet/novelist. We only had half an hour to speak and I had a list of questions a mile long. I hope to write at some point about the film Precious, about which I am very ambivalent. Very...

On the evening of the Hollywood premiere of Precious, the film adaptation of the acclaimed 1996 novel Push by Sapphire (née Ramona Lofton), the author sits in a lounge in the Roosevelt Hotel, across the street from the hoopla taking place in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Following our interview, she will dash over with her niece. Dressed in a black cocktail dress topped with a sparkling jacket, Sapphire easily looks 20 years younger than her nearly six decades. Passionate and witty, serious but far from somber, the poet/activist/teacher/sexual-renegade novelist spoke to L.A. Weekly about the controversies that dogged the book, the trade-offs of movie adaptations, and why it doesn’t matter what others think about our painful confessions.

LA WEEKLY: How much of the enormous controversy that greeted Push upon its initial publication was due to your taking on the sacred cow of the African-American community...

SAPPHIRE: Black motherhood. It was totally around that, I believe, because the other aspects brought up in the book had been dealt with before. We’d had The Bluest Eye. We’d had The Color Purple. And I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which explicitly dealt with male/female sexual abuse. I think to show the mother as not a redemptive character, to show her as perpetrator, was in some ways to break the stranglehold of black female victimhood. Part of being fully human is that we are victimizers also. I had one older African-American woman tell me that the only reason white people paid me money for that book was ’cause I made us look bad. And she went on — I guess she had read a little Marx or something — to say that I was a tool of the oppressor.

When I look at rape, incest, I don’t look at this as being male behavior. This is human behavior. We know that this is what people will do to each other. We know that sometimes this is what women do to children. We unfortunately know this is what children do to other children. So this is not behavior that is totally gender-specific and it is not behavior that is age-related. I was trying to show the decayed soul, the soul that is past redemption. And some of us are. That’s just how it is — unless there is something really magnificent that happens. Many people ... first it’s the culture, but then they cooperate with the culture and become horrific people.

Also, when people are — or feel — powerless, they assert themselves by attacking someone even lower on the totem pole.

Exactly. I think that most people are reactive, so if there is not a strong cultural movement going on, people turn in on themselves. What we saw in the 1950s, 1960s and part of the ’70s in this country was a powerful civil rights movement, so a lot of that razor-tiltin’ and self-hatin’ and throwing lye in each other’s faces was circumvented as we came together to stop the oppression of ourselves. Part of what resistance movements do is mobilize people’s self-hate, their feelings of worthlessness, and turn those feelings away from themselves and their neighbors to really look at the oppressor. And that moves them to change their social condition.

One of the most important aspects of the book is that the abuse Precious suffers at the hands of her parents is countered by a circle of women.

Exactly. Yes.

What was your first reaction to the creation for the film of the male nurse played by Lenny Kravitz?

First, I wanna say I love what Lenny Kravitz did. I loved having a male nurturing figure in the film, who becomes a friend. Part of what I was trying to do [in the book] is show a real, multicultural world, where Precious’ world is intersected by people of different races, cultures, sexual orientations. One of her first angels in the book is this Hispanic man who comes and helps her literally give birth, and gives her the motif of her life, which is to push. I don’t know all the reasons why that particular part got left out [of the movie]. I know one of the things [director Lee Daniels] was trying to do was follow the book as faithfully as he could, and then use what film can do. I loved the way he put emphasis on the fantasy scenes. It gives visual relief, because a reader can put down the book, but the moviegoer is there for an hour and a half and they need to breathe. I was very, very happy with what happened. I realize there had to be some sacrifices, as there were also some gains.

If the male nurse weren’t there, the only representation of black males would have been the rapist father, the young jerks at her school and the guys who shove her to the ground while she’s pregnant.

Exactly, exactly. He shows himself as a strong, empathic heterosexual man who accepts her and sees into her soul, and sees her for who she is.

One of the most wrenching aspects of the book and the film is Precious’ racial self-hate, her equation of whiteness or fair-skinned blackness with superiority. Do you see any forward movement within the culture on that issue?

When I’m on public transportation around three or four in the afternoon, surrounded by school kids, I still hear things like, “Your lips so big you have to pick them up off the floor.” Somehow, I thought that would have been dealt with. I [published] the book in ’96, but we had a movement in the ’60s and ’70s that was supposed to be about Black is Beautiful — or if not beautiful, at least as good as everybody else. So, I’m still stymied by that. We still need to look deeply into issues of colorism within the black community.

You were approached by many people who wanted to make the film before Daniels. What were some of their visions?

Lots of people, dozens, had approached me years ago. I remember one African-American man I was talking to told me he had already talked with Brandy. He was gonna line her up [to play] Precious. We just stopped talking. He didn’t even get why I wasn’t returning his phone calls. When I was shopping the book around, one publisher came to me and said, “We love it. We’re willing to pay top dollar for it. But we’d like to see a better ending. We know she learns to read and everything, but we’d like to see her lose weight and get a boyfriend.”

Now, what I was trying to show is that maybe that’s not gonna happen for everyone, and you can [still] have a good life with a community of friends who support you. Young women should have multiple goals. There should be relationship goals, academic goals, social goals, familial goals, so when one thing doesn’t pan out, you don’t jump off a bridge ’cause you can’t find a boyfriend.

How do we strike the balance between examining issues that a lot of black folk sweep under the rug, and the commodification of black despair or dysfunction? Because what we repeatedly see is that complex issues go out into the world and become co-opted by folks — including a lot of black folks — who use these stories or revelations to bolster stereotypes and bigoted theories.

I think at some point we can’t worry about that. That is something I have never allowed to get in my way. Anything you put out there can be used against you. If you are going to be actively engaged in your own health and your own recovery, then you just have to put it out there.

Photo by Kevin Scanlon

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Fried brains

I interviewed Sapphire last evening (Sunday, November 1) for a profile that will run in next week's LA Weekly. She was in town to attend the Hollywood premiere of Precious. I had to do an overnight turnaround in order to meet deadline but the whole process was actually a joy, from the interview itself to listening to her speak as I transcribed the tape. She was hugely inspiring. Hugely. And 'tis true: Black don't crack.

But my brain is fried.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Paradise Built in Hell: Rebecca Solnit on "The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster"

A Paradise Built in Hell: Rebecca Solnit on "The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster"

(Be sure to click the sentence just above to watch this interview, which is largely centered on the racialized reactions folks had to Katrina and its victims, and where that reaction fits in the historical context of human reaction to large-scale tragedy; the transcript is below. --EH)

AMY GOODMAN: We continue on this fourth anniversary special, yes, four years after the storm. Anjali?

ANJALI KAMAT: It’s widely acknowledged that an estimated 1,400 people in New Orleans died in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. An underreported part of that story is the killings of at least eleven African American men in the days after the storm. They were shot by a group of white vigilantes in the predominantly white New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers Point.

Local police have never conducted an investigation into these deaths, but after an explosive Nation magazine cover story by ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson last December, the FBI initiated a probe into the Algiers Point shootings. Federal agents are now investigating the possible role of the New Orleans Police Department in the deaths of one of the men, Henry Glover, whose burnt remains were discovered in a Mississippi River levee not far from a local police station.

We’ll be joined in a few moments by writer Rebecca Solnit, who urged journalist A.C. Thompson to investigate this story. But first I want to turn to excerpts from a video produced by the Nation Institute and Hidden Driver. It’s narrated by A.C. Thompson and features interviews with some of the victims of the vigilante violence.

A.C. THOMPSON: At the ferry terminal in Algiers Point, the National Guard established an evacuation zone and began busing flood victims to Houston. On September 1st, 2005, Donnell Herrington left his home and began walking toward the ferry terminal with his cousin, Marcel Alexander, and a friend, Chris Collins. To get to the evacuation zone, the trio had to walk through Algiers Point.

DONNELL HERRINGTON: You know, I was talking to my cousin and our friend, and I was telling them that, yeah, we’re finally about to get out of here. You know, I was talking. I was talking, because my cousin was on the side of me, on the right side, and I looked down at my arms and everything, and—because, you know, some of the shots hit me in my arm, my chest, my neck, my stomach. And, you know, I just saw blood everywhere.

MARCEL ALEXANDER: As I’m trying to pick him up, they shot us again, so I fell. And Donnell’s trying to get up, and we all were trying. We’re panicking now.

DONNELL HERRINGTON: And he was like hollering, like, “You OK? You alright?” And he was, you know—like I said, he was pretty hysterical, man. And when I—you know, when I saw the guy, when I actually recognized the guy with the shotgun, you know, it was like he was reloading or something.

MARCEL ALEXANDER: As I’m trying to pick him up, they coming towards us with the gun. It’s like probably like—at that time, it’s like probably two or three of them.

DONNELL HERRINGTON: And so, now I’m trying to get out of this guy—trying to get away from him, you know?

MARCEL ALEXANDER: Two of them coming my way and one of them coming at Donnell with—[inaudible] Donnell. And I’m running, me and Chris, running, running. They was like, “We’re gonna get you! We’re gonna get you, nigger!”

DONNELL HERRINGTON: I ran up into the corner. And they had these two guys in a car. They had these two white men in a car, a older white guy and another—you know, a younger white guy. And they had their shirts off. I can remember, you know? And they were like in a small pickup truck.

MARCEL ALEXANDER: We know y’all—what y’all was doing. We saw y’all.

A.C. THOMPSON: Marcel goes on to say the vigilantes thought he was a looter.

DONNELL HERRINGTON: And, you know, I’m asking these guys, I’m like, “Help! You know, help me! You know what I mean?” And the guys was like—I can remember him telling me, “We can’t help you, you know? Get out of here.” You know what I’m saying? And one of the guys, one of them—I can remember one of them calling me a nigger. You know, “Get out of here, nigger! We can’t help you. We’re liable to shoot you ourselves.” That was the last thing I heard him say.

A.C. THOMPSON: Eventually, Herrington got help. A black neighbor drove him to the hospital, where doctors pulled seven lead pellets out of his neck and repaired a large hole in his jugular vein, saving him from death.

ANJALI KAMAT: We’re joined now from Santa Fe, New Mexico by author, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit. Her latest book examines Katrina and other disasters; it’s called A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster. It chronicles both the crimes of the vigilantes and the powerful during Katrina, as well as the numerous instances of altruism, generosity and courage displayed by the vast majority of people who lived through this catastrophe.

Rebecca Solnit, welcome to Democracy Now! Why don’t you start by talking about how you discovered this story and the process you went through before you got A.C. Thompson to investigate this? You write about how many of the mainstream media journalists you spoke to didn’t believe this story.

REBECCA SOLNIT: You know, the thing that still amazes me two-and-a-half years later is that the pieces of this story were all over town. If you wanted to know that this—these crimes had happened, you would know it. It was pretty clear the mainstream media didn’t want to know. Nobody was really looking at it. I had talked to volunteers who worked at the Algiers Common Ground clinic. They told me that vigilantes were confessing to them about the murders, about several murders. I talked to Malik Rahim, who I know was on this show right as all this was unfolding. He was talking about as many as eighteen men being murdered in that part of New Orleans Parish. I had seen Donnell Herrington, who you just showed, on Spike Lee’s documentary. I’d seen another documentary in which the vigilantes confessed on camera. I’d seen a lot of other pieces. It was really clear that there was a story here.

And I couldn’t find anyone to take it, until I talked to A.C., who is a friend of a lot of friends of mine. We were in the same social circles in San Francisco. And he eventually picked it up, with the support of The Nation magazine, as well as ProPublica. And it took him a long time to move forward with that. But he’s the one who really brought a lot more of the details to light, tracked down Donnell, talked directly to the perpetrators, and put it together. But, you know, a lot of the basic information was out there, if that’s how you were willing to think about Katrina. But that’s now how a lot of people were ready to think about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Rebecca, your latest piece, “Four Years On, Katrina Remains Cursed by Rumor, Cliché, Lies and Racism.” Talk about Katrina. Talk about New Orleans four years later.

REBECCA SOLNIT: You know, I think one of the important things to keep in mind is that the great majority of people behaved really well, that I was trying to write the counter-story to the story that most people heard in the beginning, which was about large groups of marauding hordes reverting to barbarism and savagery and violence and whatever. And I went to New Orleans to look at what really happened, which was an enormous amount of volunteerism, resourcefulness, altruism, generosity, heroism, on the part of the people who were stranded, on the part of the people who came in as volunteers and rescuers.

And the question for me is, so why did the minority misbehave? And in this case, I’m not talking about the minority the media were willing to target, which was supposed to be sort of the black underclass; the minority who were public officials and the vigilantes. They assumed, falsely, that because the public, in general, was behaving barbarically, they needed barbaric means to repress that public. Vigilante murders are part of a larger picture that includes the sheriff of Gretna and his henchmen turning people back from evacuating the flooded city at gunpoint, incidents of police violence, but also the mayor, the governor, FEMA and a lot of other people treating the city of New Orleans as though it was full of criminals, rather than victims, and essentially turning it into a prison city in which people were stranded and desperate. And the hospital evacuations, for example, could have happened a lot faster. It could have all happened a lot faster, if people had thought about these things differently.

ANJALI KAMAT: Rebecca Solnit, in your book, you talk about several disasters, and you mention how, even in this worst of times, in the midst of disasters and in times like this, the best instincts of people tend to come out. Talk about the sense of community that was built. You know, we’re focused on the deaths, on the vigilante shootings, but people also helped each other, ordinary people. How did they come together at this moment?

REBECCA SOLNIT: Yes, in most disasters, people do behave altruistically, resourcefully. They improvise communities. And they often find in that a real sense of joy. You see that in the 1906 earthquake. You saw that in 9/11. You see that in Katrina. And essentially, that the normal roles and boundaries that confine people are removed, and it’s absolutely necessary that people connect with each other, that they make strong decisions, that they take care of each other. And that’s what they do.

One of the tragedies of New Orleans is that, because of the stereotypes that turn into rumors, that turn into media reports, people believed that ordinary human beings were savages and were behaving barbarically. The truth of the matter is, even inside the Convention Center, even in the worst places, people were taking care of each other. People were improvising all kinds of communities in the school rooms and other places where they took refuge. And New Orleans, since then, has had hundreds of thousands of volunteers come in to work with the people of New Orleans. And for me, that’s the big story. And demographically, it’s much, much bigger. You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people. And the minority who behaved terribly matter, but it’s important to keep the perspective that this is not how most people behave. This is indeed a minority.

You put this in a very big context, dealing with disasters, from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco to the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, to Katrina. Talk, in those cases, about the similarities you saw, the individual heroes and heroines and the institutional crimes, the institutional lack of response.

You know, a lot of my work has been based on the field of disaster sociology, which emerged after the World War II, when the US government decided it wanted to know how human beings would behave in the aftermath of an all-out nuclear war. The assumption, as it often is, is that we would become childlike and sheepish and panic and be helpless, or that we’d become sort of venal and savage and barbaric. And the disaster scholars started to look at this and eventually dismantled almost every stereotype we have and found that people are actually, as I’ve been saying, resourceful, altruistic, brave, innovative and often oddly joyful, because a lot of the alienation and isolation of everyday life is removed. And, you know, you saw that in the 1906 earthquake, which I studied a lot for the centennial a few years ago, that people created these community kitchens, that they were extremely resourceful and helpful. And you see that all through. You see that in Mexico City. You saw that in 9/11.

What you also see is that because the authorities think that we’re monsters, they themselves panic and become the monsters in disaster. Some of the sociologists I worked with—Lee Clarke and Caron Chess—call this “elite panic,” and that’s the panic that matters in disasters, the sense that things are out of control; we have to get them back in control, whether that means shooting civilians suspected of stealing things, whether that means focusing on control and weapons as a response, rather than on help and support or just letting people do what they already are doing magnificently. And so, it really upends not only the sense of what happens in disaster, in these extreme moments, but I think it upends our sense of human nature, who most of us are and who we want to be. There’s enormous possibility in disaster to see how much people want to be members of a stronger society, to be better connected, to have meaningful work, how much everyday life prevents that.

Rebecca, we’re going to have to leave it there. Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jay Smooth Clip of the Week: He Kills It Again...

By the way, as a point of comparison watch Jay, a man of color, and the witty, intelligent way he tackles homophobia, and then check out the virulent racism of white members of the so-called "gay community" in the comments section at this link as they address the same issue...

Sight + Sound of the Day


Doesn't this video, which very recently dropped, feel really old-hat? Even if viewed as comedic commentary on / clowning of Negroes who really think this way (and lots do), it just feels... old. I mean, Negroes who think they are actually doing something 'cause they have "white friends," Negroes who think they are on some "next shit" and "ain't ya average nigga" 'cause they listen to Coldplay or wear Ed Hardy, or surf/skate and hang out with their white friends (not friends who happen to be white, but their white friends) in trendy or non-nigga spots, while all sides wallow in exoticizing of the other... that's just a kinda new twist on hoary racial-psychological shit. And this video, played for laughs as it is, is just moldy jokes for a static cracka/nigga love affair; it's just draped in updated cultural drag. Maybe that's the real punch-line.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meshell Ndegeocello: Like a Real Revolutionary

As promised, here is the interview I did with Meshell. First up is the version that appears in the current LA Weekly. I am ambivalent about it. I was assigned a non-negotiable 1,000 word piece so I side-stepped reviewing the new CD (Mark Anthony Neal has a great take on it here,) and opted for a Q&A style so I could squeeze in as many of Meshell's own words as possible. That meant jumping around a bit and choosing chunks out of the conversational stream in order to cover as much ground (as many topics) as possible. What's lost in that is the natural flow of the conversation; there's a condensing of her answers and my questions. I will include the interview exactly as it transpired in Blood Beats Vol. 3. In the meantime (also as promised) I am including more excerpts from the original transcript... not everything (I need y'all to by Blood Beats 3) but enough to flesh out the conversation a bit more. First, the Weekly piece, then the bonus stuff...

Meshell Ndegeocello: Like a Real Revolutionary

Meshell Ndegeocello’s eighth studio album, Devil’s Halo (Mercer Street Records), synthesizes her varied influences as they’ve played out on her often brilliantly, at times, bafflingly, varied previous albums — notably Bitter, Comfort Woman, The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams, and Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel. At press time, the 41-year-old singer-songwriter-bassist-producer and her partner were awaiting the birth of their baby; that domestic equation is perhaps the most powerful element in the new music’s composition.

Speaking by phone from her Upstate New York home, Ndegeocello is lighter in spirit than she’s been in the dozen years I’ve been interviewing her. On Halo, that translates into vocals frequently delivered with a playful theatricality (first glimpsed on Man of My Dreams) that adds a jagged twist and a countercurrent joyfulness to sometimes emotionally bleak lyrics. All that serves as both complement and counterpoint to Ndegeocello’s patented mack-sexiness, which simmers through her remake of Ready for the World’s R&B classic, “Love You Down.” She talks about her love for RZA, the effects of downloading on indie artists, and what she has in common with black revolutionaries of the past.

L.A. Weekly:Press notes state that Halo has “no click track or electronic synthetics, with a focus on musicianship and live band energy.” But that's pretty standard for you...

Meshell Ndegeocello: Yeah, the wording is strange. I just really wanted to stress that there’s no Pro Tools. We recorded the initial tracks over a five-day period — me, [guitarist, co-songwriter and Halo co-producer] Chris Bruce and [drummer] Deantoni — to 24-track tape. Everything you hear on the CD is pretty much the first or second take.

How did you decide to co-produce with Chris?

The only past producer I’d ever wanna work with again would be David Gamson, but that hasn’t come up. I haven’t found anyone else I connect with, except for Chris. I’m a true believer that unless you’re Prince or Stevie Wonder — and even Prince is showing that he needs help — not everybody can produce themselves. I’m definitely not that person. Chris is a brilliant musician, amazing to work with, and just got the best out of me.

How did Spirit Music affect your approach to creating music?

In touring to support it, I got to play bass two and a half years straight. It improved my bass playing. It made me respect pop music. I know that’s weird, but I got to play with people who improvise seven days a week, 24 hours a day. That is an amazing skill. It made me appreciate songwriting because you need something that sparks their imagination to allow them to do that. On Devil’s Halo I was really concentrating on writing songs that would be inspiring to the musicians ’cause we’re gonna have to play them over and over again. They still maintain their form, but we all can have some personal self-expression.

You’ve said that the influences for Halo range from Human League to Wu Tang. Describe the Wu influence.

The track that’s Wu Tang–inspired is definitely “Love You Down.” I just love RZA’s programming, simplicity and space. He’s one of the greatest songwriters, and I don’t think he ever really gets credit for that. People keep him in the hip-hop genre, but I think he’s just great at these audio collages. I’m a big admirer.

Why “Love Me Down”?

Because it’s good! I love that song. Everyone remembers it from high school or junior high. It just brings back a flow of memories for everyone, so I knew I had to do it. And I hope to make a covers record.

It’s one of the longest tracks on the record. Most cuts are two minutes and some change; one is less than two minutes...

I guess I’ve purchased a few albums where I just go, “Wow. These songs are really long.” [laughing] My favorite period is when we lived in the land of the three-minute song. The Motown thing — I though they were genius in knowing that’s as much as a listener can take. I guess I was just really in that less-is-more, austere vibe.

One of Halo’s best tracks is “White Girl,” which reminds me of British artists from the ’80s experimenting with dub and reggae rhythms, groups ranging from the Police and Culture Club to...

English Beat, especially.

It also suggests Comfort Woman pushed out of its comfort zone.

Definitely dub is in my body forever. I think I hear everything through a dub filter. Even when I play rock music, I play through a dub filter.

How much was the hard-left turn of your last few albums — the experimentation in production, the genre-hopping — a conscious decision to burn down the tower in which critics and fans had placed you?

I made the first record when I was, like, 22. I’m 41 now. My son is 20. I’m just in a different place in my life. My partner is having a baby in a month. I see the world differently. I think the consciousness comes from that, with the artistic choices. I guess the world of the Internet also changes things. I’m no longer subjected to the Top 10 or the Top 100. I get the music from the last 100 years. That influences my filter, my consciousness.

Speaking of the Internet, chime in on the effects of downloading on the indie artist.

If you can afford it, please buy it. And just know that when you buy it, it allows that artist to have a chance to make something again for you. But if you can’t afford it but you really like it and you’re sharing it with your friends and spreading the positive sounds, I can’t really knock that. But your buying it allows me to take care of this next child and it allows me, hopefully, to make something else.

Let’s talk more about “White Girl.” A few years ago I interviewed you and you joked that you should do like all black revolutionaries and get yourself a white girl.

[Laughing] Yeah, I want a T-shirt that says that, but people won’t really get it: Like a real revolutionary, I married a white woman.

So you embraced the cliché?

It’s been an interesting thing in my life. I think I’ve always been postrace and I’m hoping that with Obama in office ... well, to bring up the lyrics to another song, the common thread is that we’re all gonna die. So find joy. I’m hoping these [bigoted] ideas we all have will fall apart. It’s very limiting to us as a species, the concept of better-than/less-than. It just seems to be at its end. I’m like, this all fades to black, and it’s gone. It’s dust. Choose carefully what you obsess about.

The LA Weekly interview is here.

BONUS excerpts:

Anytime there is a new Meshell album, one of the first things your fans ask is ‘Who else is playing on it?’ I know that [guitarist and album co-producer] Chris Bruce played on Bitter, but how did you come to have the rest of this particular lineup of musicians on Devil’s Halo?

Oh, uh, well, Chris is also just a friend. We haven’t played together [since Bitter] but we’ve kept in touch and we’ve played on some other people’s recordings, so that’s how it came to be. I was really looking for a change and he was the first person I thought of. And also, him and Oren Bloedow had been working with Lizz Wright so, like I said, we had just kinda ran into each other and Oren had to take another spot so Chris was my next choice. The drummer I also knew for a long period of time, just kinda knew from around New York, and he played on The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams. I fell in love with him. He’s my musical inspiration. And Keefus [Cianca] I’ve known since, like, ’93 in LA, when I lived in LA. But this was our first time to actually get to make music together. We just definitely had an instant connection. And the bass player I’ve known for a long time, too. So just kinda, like, people that I have a good rapport with, and that are inspiring. It just kind of came together in a natural synthesis.

Why does Meshell Ndegeocello have anybody else playing bass for her?

Because Mark Kelley is the best bass player in the world, hands down. I don’t know, I was talking to another interviewer and it’s really hard to explain to people. I guess an example is how I grow musically. I hope and think I grow musically. Also, I’m a bass player but I’ve been liking other instruments as well, so it’s not my schtick. I’m interested in other things too, other instruments. I’ve loved other things I’ve [heard] him play, and I can work out ideas in my head that only he can do sometimes.

Seeing Lisa Germano’s name in the credits made me smile.

Yeah, a lot of people, I mention her name and – a lot of people in my circle don’t know who she is. But it was just great to work with her. That was Chris’ idea and I’m glad it really worked out.

The musicians on the CD are the touring band as well?

Yeah, very much so.

Another striking thing about this album is the way you use your vocals. Even when the subject matter is grim, there is a notable playfulness and theatricality to your delivery that started with The World has Made Me the Man of My Dreams

Right, yes…

That’s when you seemed to start pushing your vocals, playing with offbeat accents and such, and that really carries over here. It has me wondering about a sort of chicken & egg equation: Did the music you were playing free you or inspire you to flip-up your approach to the vocals, or did you start writing music toward these voices and characters in your head?

Oh, there are a lot of people in this head. [She laughs.] I think I’m just becoming more comfortable to let those people out. That’s all.

I’m obsessed with sequencing on albums, how they are set up and how they unfold, how narratives can seem to almost organically play out versus how you can sometimes feel the plot being manipulated. On Halo, the first words out of your mouth are, “She said she loved me / I ran away / Don’t say you love me / I’ll run away…” and from there it’s a ride through polymorphous sex, boozing till black-out, lust and disappointment, blistering rock & soul. Did you sit down with your band, write the songs and then shape the album? Or did you already have in mind a kind of narrative you wanted to play out?

I wrote all the songs by myself except for “Die Young,” which a really good friend of mine wrote but never finished so I kind of finished it for him. But I usually write everything, and then I got together with Chris and we played a lot of the songs live and just tried to work out stuff, and then everyone contributes something so then it becomes a collective.
      I live in upstate New York and I just kinda sit in a room… I live in a teeny, tiny town; you could walk the whole town in minutes, and there are a lot of watering holes. So I’ve just been watching people, observing people. I think I’m less solipsistic, I’m trying to be, and narcissistic. I just like watching other people and seeing how they deal with life. Watering holes seem to be the unifying factor – drinking and love. That’s just kind of the head-space I was in.

You know, this is the fourth or fifth time I have interviewed you, and both in your [phone] conversation and in the energy of your performances on the CD, even when the material is bleak, there is a kind of joy consistently conveyed. It’s definitely the most “light” you’ve ever been...

Well, thank you. I agree. And you’re the first to hear that.

[I]n another interview I did with you when your son was very young, I brought up the issue of race and asked what kinds of conversations you had with him about it. At the time, you said that because he was so young you wanted to protect his childhood and not bring it up until he brought it up, and then you’d try to answer whatever questions he had. So now that he’s twenty, and you and Obama are post-race but there are tea-baggers and birthers and Republican operatives who most definitely are not, what kinds of conversations do you have with him about race?

He’s definitely had to experience that situation where, ‘You may be post-race but when you walk in the room, all they see is a very large Black man.’ He’s very clear about that. But also, the thing that he and I have discussed is, avoid delusion and insanity. And be kind. Because people are really suffering from delusion and insanity. When you see them out there protesting and being threatening, you have to step back and realize that’s delusional and insane. And be humble about it. Don’t you live your life that way. You have to truly see them for who they are, and just be kind.

Now, how does someone who is clearly very happy in her relationship write the lyric, "A wife is just a whore with a diamond ring…"?

Oh, now we get into the sexism. [She chuckles.] But, I mean, not to generalize, that’s what I see a lot. A lot of the images that I see in pop culture are like, 'If you liked it, you shoulda put a ring on it.' It seems like relationships have become like an exchange, I don’t know...

A trading of commodities.

Yeah, sex in exchange for all the finer things in life. But I also understand that there are some women who swear that everything is equal, that she’s super feminist, but if you don’t hold the door for her she get’s really upset. So, I critique both sides.

Having lived in LA, the Bay and New York City, how did you come to live in a small town in upstate New York?

Because I hate New York City. I’m really not a city person. I miss the Bay Area but there wasn’t a lot of music going on there, so it was hard for me. And when I lived up there I was a little bit too relaxed. This is a happy medium for me. It’s quiet. I love the change of seasons. It just works for me. It’s by the water. I’ve got a little bit of everything I need, here.

When you are an artist whose voice or vision is frequently misunderstood and you seem to constantly butt heads with people who say “No,” and it’s not because your work isn’t good but because they just don’t get it and aren’t willing to try, you – the creative person – can develop an almost Pavlovian response to the word no, or to any criticism...

[Meshell laughs]

So, where do you go, who do you trust to engage the work, to not have an agenda or blind-spot, and to pull your shirt-tail and tell you that what you are doing is not working, that it may not be good?

Oh, I have Chris. I have my partner who is an amazing artist herself – not a music artist but a writer and a graphic designer – so I have her. I have my best friend of twenty years. They’re not “yes” people. I’ve been very blessed to have that around me and I don’t take it for granted. I’m very wary of people who I feel don’t have my best interests at heart. I’m not in it to win a popularity contest. I like to be challenged.

How did you come to be on your current label (Mercer Street Records)?

Oh, yeah, [owner] Josh Deutsch contacted me and gave me this amazing opportunity.

Do you think this label might be your home for a while?

Oh, I know not the future so I never even speculate.

Other Meshell interviews are in my books Blood Beats Vol. 1 and Blood Beats Vol. 2, both of which are cheap as hell on Amazon right now so... please buy 'em. And my webmaster loves it when you leave comments here on the blog. It makes her feel like her work is seen...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Me + Meshell...

Interviewed Meshell yesterday (Thursday, October 1) and it was a really great session. Her energy is lighter, more peaceful, than I think it's been since I've been interviewing her. (This was our 4th or 5th time gathered round the tape recorder.) And I'm digging the new CD a lot. I think folks who are longing for another Plantation or Peace might still grumble, but Devil's Halo is really doing it for me now, especially the instrumental title track, "White Girl," "Mass Transit" and "Bright Shiny Morning." The interview will run in the LA Weekly in a few weeks but my assigned word-count ain't that high so I'll try to post up, here, what falls to the editing-room floor.

"A wife's just a whore with a diamond ring..." - "Lola," from Devil's Halo.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On: Spirit, Compassion...

Even if you are not a "religious" person (and I am not), there is much wisdom to be had in this ten minute clip:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sight + Sound of the Day

I've written before what a huge fan I am of Raphael Saadiq's retro-soul CD The Way I See It. I think it's the best of the slew of throwback soul discs (yeah, that includes Amy's and Mayer Hawthorne's.) What is blowing my mind at the moment is the way he's been able to sustain the life of the disc; it's well over a year old and is still dropping singles, still garnering live appearances on radio and TV shows. Unless you're Beyonce, that almost never happens anymore. The performance clip above is from NPR; the clip below is from an appearance on the "Today Show" last week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sight + Sound of the Day: N'dambi

And the non-PG version of the song (which I really wish could've been in the video) is right here. The "fuckin'" really does make a difference. (And when doesn't it?)

Buy the single at iTunes here

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weekend Movie Suggestions

Jane Campion's Bright Star and Christopher Miller & Phil Lord's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs... yes, I am completely serious about the latter. I'll hit this spot up over the weekend with full reviews but I have seen and really enjoyed both.

House Music Thursday

MK is one of my favorite House producers/remixers from the '90s. He did a 10 minute (or so) overhaul of Jane Child's "All I Do" that drives me out of my mind. I couldn't find that on YouTube but I did stumble over this Terence Trent D'Arby track in which MK takes D'arby straight to church.

Here is perhaps MK's most classic/club-iconic remix:

BONUS tracks:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Too Much Beauty

      The voice lays all it all out there for you, the drugging, the hard living, the cloaked same-sex love affairs, the toll it's all taken... I won't even draw a line underscoring the glaring similarities to you-know-who, especially since their gifts and how they use(d) them are so very different. But I am in awe, all over again, at the way Holiday's weathered voice has assumed a world-weary, lived in gorgeousness, the way deficits become weapons in the dig for and communication of emotional truths. But none of that is what really gets me about this clip. It's her relationship to the music and her fellow musicians that pulls me, the way she is not simply listening (though that is noteworthy) but how, in the listening, she is diving into and allowing herself to be moved & carried by the horn lines, how she sparks off them. Her head nods in recognition, her lips slow-spread a grin of appreciation, her eyes all but roll back in bliss; she's high as fuck off the sounds her boys are making. It's a true artistic collaboration, and we see it feed her. This is magic.

Hollywood Bowl

This piece of mine appears in the current issue (# 105) of Flaunt magazine, wrapped around some very cool vintage photos of the Hollywood Bowl. The article was actually supposed to run last year and you can easily spot the patched on part to make it relevant for this year.

      The crowd is on its feet, dancing and wildly clapping along to the beat. A dark-skinned, grinning African man has nimbly boogied his way along the narrow and curved catwalk that expands half-moon style into the audience. This section of the stage loops the VIP section behind him in an open semi-circle of top-dollar seats whose moneyed concert-goers intently watch the man’s back as he faces the massive, sold-out amphitheater. Suddenly the dancer, a supporting player in this performance by the Senegalese Afro-pop musician Fallou Dieng, starts doing a series of hard, propulsive pelvic thrusts. The loose-fitting drape of the traditional African garb he's wearing accentuates the swing of a clearly gargantuan dick that is not constrained by any undergarment. Beneath the hypnotic grooves of world music and the colorblind/feel-good vibe wafting over the crowd is unbound affirmation of one of the world’s most potent racial myths. The audience gasps as the dancer wickedly keeps thrusting; he’s getting off on their shock while the countless musicians behind him vamp and riff their way through an elastic groove.

      The Hollywood Bowl, built in 1922, may be best known in the American memory as the site of two legendary Beatles concerts in 1964 and 1965. The sight of hysterical teenagers bouncing up and down, drowning out the Fab Four’s revolutionary sugary confections, is forever burned into history via now-vintage news footage. And the Bowl is the majestic newsreel co-star, unobtrusively filling up the background, anchoring history.

      The stage lights dim and the scrim that is placed center-stage, in the middle of the artfully arranged “clutter” of instruments and stage props, is suddenly lit from behind; the silhouette of a feminine form appears and the mounting anticipation of the crowd (filled with lots of lesbian couples of all ages and style configurations) explodes into a collective howl of welcome. The owner of the shadowy female form is Canadian singer-songwriter Feist. For the next hour or so she performs a set defined by witty banter, musical dexterity and, for those not yet initiated, unexpected soulfulness. Her opening act was Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, and though they put on a very good show (Jones belts her tunes, dances madly across the stage in high heels like a femme sibling of James Brown, and cracks wicked jokes with the crowd), something of Jones feels incredibly contrived – it’s a sweat-drenched “performance of a performance” of a certain vintage style of Negro soul-shouter, Negro soul theater. It’s museum-piece authenticity pitched to old-school R&B geeks and rainbow tribe hipsters. They eat it up. Feist’s stage show is more improvisational, more inspired. More truly organic, though it is also very artsy in its use of set design and projected video images. But the trappings all serve to underscore one crucial fact: What we are hearing from Feist is true soul music.

      Although the VIP section and the box-seats just behind them offer fantastic proximity to the stage, and the amphitheater’s design is such that no sight-lines are disrupted, the primo place to sit may well be up in the very back: stair-stepped cheap seats. Back here, picnics are spread and strangers jostle in close proximity. There is far greater likelihood of spontaneous dancing breaking out in the nosebleed tier than there is down where money talks. And depending on the artist performing and the crowd drawn, there’s a very good chance that a soft but thick floating cloud of reefer smoke will drift its way from the top of the hill, down over the crowd, hovering lightly and sparking one or two contact highs before fully dissipating.

      “I am not playing with you! Make some noise!” Cee-Lo, stripped down to a wife-beater that stretches tightly over the perfectly round, seemingly solid belly that protrudes almost defiantly in front of him, is demanding his well-earned due. And when the crowd gives it up, the Gnarls Barkley lead vocalist breaks into a Cheshire cat grin, then laughs, “I know y’all are like, ‘That big muthafucka is bad.’” And he is. From a frantic “Gone Daddy Gone” to the rock & soul & blues wail that punctuates “Transformer” to the near operatic lushness of “Neighbors,” to the straight up commandeering of Radiohead’s “Reckoner,” Cee-Lo and his artistic partner Danger Mouse slog off their rock-crit jizz-acclaim and push beyond their media hype to create a night of transcendent music. Fucking transcendent.

      There are not a whole lot of places where the mix of people that constitute LA actually do mix. And it’d be foolish to position the Bowl as a place of Kumbaya sing-alongs and giddy culture-mash. But something about the place simultaneously puts folks on their best behavior and encourages them to let down their guard. Strangers share jokes and food. The desire to commune is large and palpable. As the stage is struck following one artist’s set, and then put together for the next artist, conversation is brokered amongst people in the audience who have never met before and may not meet again.

      She’s not having the best night. Her voice is strained and she’s missing notes. At one point, she flubs a line and blames it on the crew. “What do you guys do, turn off the mike whenever I step offstage?” she asks crisply in the direction of the wings. The crowd oooohs in response. She is a legend, and part of that legend is her fabled bitchiness. For some in the audience, this flare-up is better then any song she could sing or any perfect note she might hit. But then, midway through a concert set-list that is really just a tight, Vegas-style run through of over four decades of music and some of the most identifiable pop gems in the American music catalogue, Diana Ross quiets things down for a jazz segment. As she raises her arms, they jiggle a bit, old lady style, and the effect is sobering. The former poster-girl for the impeccably glamorous, reed-thin fashion-plate has aged. But pushing past the effects of time, sound-system screw-ups and whatever other demons taunt aging divas, she delivers a note-perfect, emotionally wrenching version of the jazz standard “Don’t Explain” that brings the sold-out crowd to absolute silence while she sings. It’s that pregnant “hush” you read about when novelists or gossip columnists try to describe the indescribable power a true star has on a crowded room. That’s what happens here. The Bowl itself seems to hang on her final exquisite note.

      The Hollywood Bowl is the result of harmony. The manmade structure is actually built within one of the world’s largest natural amphitheaters. Mother Nature shaped hills, dirt and rock into a perfect-acoustics buffer zone that was fine-tuned with the addition of stage, seats and technology. The home of the LA Philharmonic, the Bowl has hosted everyone from Pavarotti to Ozomatli, from the Bolshoi Ballet to Al Jolson. Its iconic band shell, originally designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank), was remodeled and updated, given improved acoustics, in 2004. Scheduled to take advantage of the refurbishments in this year’s summer concert series were artists like Grace Jones, Adele, Femi Kuti, Santigold, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Ray LaMontagne, Boney James, Depeche Mode, Herbie Hancock, and Liza Minelli.

      An aged but still spry old African American jazz musician who’s played with a who’s who of musicians over the years is sharing the seating box with us. As he rolls out tale after tale of his decades in the business, his wife is on her cell-phone hard-balling her way through business negotiations on his behalf. She puts the phone away during performances (always respectful of the artists onstage) but at every break between acts picks it up again. As the houselights dim and a group of tousle-haired, thrift-store chic attired young musicians make their way onstage, the jazz man furrows his brow. “In my day,” he says emphatically, “we dressed up to go onstage.” But as the performance stretches on, the jazz man starts to clap along. Soon he’s grinning and shouting his approval along with the crowd. Paulo Nutini – of Italian descent, raised in Scotland, fed a steady diet of classic, gritty soul music – is a dervish onstage, his music a fusion of pub-rowdy, literate folk music and vintage R&B. A huge chunk of the crowd is hearing him for the first time but they are immediately won over by the songs “These Streets,” “New Shoes,” and “Last Request.” As Nutini departs the stage after a raucous encore, the jazzman shakes his head and smiles, “I had my doubts... I had my doubts. But that boy was good.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Quote of the Day: Jeanette Winterson

      "Autobiography is not important. Authenticity is important. The writer must fire herself through the text, be the molten stuff that wields together disparate elements. I believe there is always exposure, vulnerability, in the writing process, which is not to say it is either confessional or memoir. Simply, it is real.
      "Right now, human beings as a mass, have a gruesome appetite for what they call ‘real’, whether it’s Reality TV or the kind of plodding fiction that only works as low-grade documentary, or at the better end, factual programs and biographies and ‘true life’ accounts that occupy the space where imagination used to sit.
      "Such a phenomenon points to a terror of the inner life, of the sublime, of the poetic, of the non-material, of the contemplative."

– Jeanette Winterson, The Weight

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


As an update to this post:

"White Girl" is not a cover of the X song.

"Love You Down" is a cover of the Ready for the World classic... and it's a sparse, lush, atmospheric, beat-heavy, gorgeous, pure fuck-groove, with Meshell in patented pillow-talk mode. Good shit.

More on the CD closer to its release date.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The First Cut...

      I really dig the clip above. No disrespect to the great, legendary Bo Diddley (who’s killing it) but it’s all about the women backing him: their slinky evening gowns; the way they break it down with pelvic thrusts and accompanying sweeping/brushing hand movements; those old-school raw, untrained soul voices; choreography that's synchronized but – unlike the cold, militaristic moves that fill music videos now – leaves room for individual, sexy personalities to shine through; and the clip's kicker: an actual musical instrument strapped on one woman’s shoulder, over her gown, and wielded with solid confidence.
      It really makes you think (again) about the ways historical representation (who did what, and when) is shrunken, cut off at the knees and made to conform to diminished options of existence and possibility. The images of black women musicians from the ‘50s and ‘60s run along pretty short rails. (I say that even as an unapologetic fan of the purely pop confection.) But what we have in this clip is the quintessential girl-group aesthetic (the exaggerated hair falls, the matching gowns and choreography) being plucked at the seams, foreshadowing something of riot grrrl and punk and hip-hop female sturdiness and self-sufficiency. And that's just from the margin position of back-up singers. I’m hard-pressed to think of a recent music video of Black women singers/musicians that is more… just cool.
      The Diddley clip was posted on Facebook a few days ago, just after someone else had posted a news item about Melanie Fiona, that long-hyped next-big-thing. It made me go back and re-visit this video:

      I didn’t get all the way through it. And I didn’t the first time I saw it many months ago. It makes me recoil. It’s a case study in too much of what is fucked up about current pop and (who stole the) “soul” music. Let me back up a minute: I’ve long been fascinated with the ways in which art retains and transmits something of the time in which it was created, even as it travels into the future. And I don’t just mean the slang or the fashion of the day (captured in film, music and literature), the sound of recorded music due to the production techniques or recording technology available at a given time, nor do I mean the stylistic innovations and revolutions of the visual arts in any given era. I mean something more ephemeral, intangible – something of the attitudes, values and sensibilities of an era that waft from its cultural artifacts and artists. Example: Madonna’s steely-eyed careerism and [once] signature anthem “Material Girl” marked her as a Reagan-era diva; similarly, Beyonce’s vapidity, steely-eyed careerism, lack of discernible humanity, and unfuckwitable shrewdness – which is not the same thing as “intelligence” – tag her as the consummate Bush-era diva.
      One of the reasons I have spent the last several weeks listening to almost nothing but a two-disc CD set of Elkin & Nelson’s greatest hits that Josh Kun picked up in Spain and was kind enough to burn for me is because the music carries forth a sense of wide-open possibility. In its early ‘70s fusion of genres, in its unbridled experimentation, its joy in creative expression and boundary-pushing, it has something of spirit. Though wholly accessible (my Spanish is atrocious and yet I feel like I am right there with them in every syllable) and “pop” in the best sense of the word, the music comes from a place unconcerned with chart positions, celebrity or world-domination synergy (celebrity fashion lines, endorsement deals, vanity labels, etc.)
      Contrast that with the Melanie Fiona video, which over-powers the music in its contrivance; you can all but hear some record label exec saying, “We need a Black Amy Winehouse.” (Yeah, think about that for a minute.) The video reeks of the market studies, fear-based repetition of what has already been done before, and toothless trendy "edginess" that define the music industry and American pop culture. Although Fiona’s vocal talent is appealing and undeniable, what comes through most forcefully in the clip is the heavy-handed, artless shaping of a commodity, acquiescence to formula. (And not just Fiona’s hair and clothing style; the whole video is a re-working of Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own” music clip.) Compare it to this just below, where Fiona kicks it in a stairwell and knocks it out of the park with surprising accompaniment:

      A few days ago, a former editor of mine with whom I’ve reconnected on Facebook posted a Youtube clip of cult soul singer P.P. Arnold singing her biggest hit, 1967’s “The First Cut is the Deepest,” a cover of the Cat Stevens classic. I hadn’t heard this in years. I'd relegated it to the darkest corner of my mind. After seeing the clip, I was sent scurrying to watch as much as I could of her on Youtube. (Including some relatively recent clips that reveal she still looks and sounds fantastic.) Again, check her amazing style, so very much of its time but so very now. She's not the Aretha-style soul shouter; not the Dionne or Diana glamor girl (though she’s very glamorous); and not a Tina Turner-style rock chick. She’s simply incredibly chic, modern in a way that a lot of her more famous, even iconic contemporaries were not. And from some angles looks a bit like Lauryn Hill:

And click here for a treat.

      I’m closing this post with a couple of hyper-modern remixes of classic Supremes tunes, and some rare rehearsal footage. The first video clip is actually an excerpt from an old promotional clip the trio shot; the re-touched music is a reggae overhaul of “My World is Empty Without You” that is absolutely sublime until it goes off the beat at around the 1:27 mark. Second, sans images, is Omar S’ chill House re-tooling of “Come See About Me,” in which a few key phrases are looped over and over, boiling the song down to its simmering emotional lament. I'd kill to hear it in a club. Last is what is tagged as rehearsal footage for Spanish language TV. Two things make it dope: its low-key performance energy, which translates into something approaching funky for the Supremes, and the fact that they’re wearing their own clothing, “street-wear,” and look amazing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Meshell news...

Just got this press release:

Meshell Ndegeocello to release new full length vocal album - Devil’s Halo - October 6th on Mercer Street

Meshell's 8th album and her first for Mercer Street, Devil’s Halo harkens back to the way records used to be made: no click track or electronic synthetics, with a focus on musicianship and live band energy. Meshell feels that Devil’s Halo represents a return to a place that she truly appreciates, music that is created and performed by people's hands.

Produced by Meshell and guitarist Chris Bruce, and influenced by a wide breadth of sounds - from The Human League to Wu Tang to Yes – Devil’s Halo displays Meshell's vocals and diversity throughout.

Meshell Ndegeocello – vocal and bass
Chris Bruce - guitar
Deantoni Parks - drums
Keefus Ciancia - keys
special guests: Oren Bloedow (b/g vocals), Mark Kelley (b/g vocals) and Lisa Germano (cello)

Devil’s Halo track listing:
1. Slaughter
2. Tie One On
3. Lola
4. Hair Of The Dog
5. Mass Transit
6. White Girl
7. Love You Down
8. Devil’s Halo
9. Bright Shiny Morning
10. Blood On The Curb
11. Die Young
12. Crying In Your Beer

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Be sure to click the link in III.

I. (Apologies for the auto-start commercial tucked in this clip.)



Click here

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Five Feet High and Rising

I loved this short film when I saw it at Sundance many years ago, and was thrilled when it was developed (with some key changes) into the feature film Raising Victor Vargas, which is one of the best American coming-of-age films of the last twenty years. If I were a filmmaker, I'd churn out script after script for Judy Marte.

I Want My Money and My White Chirren

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Soundtrack For a Summer Day

Since I posted this, Youtube has apparently been instructed to remove the content for the first clip. I'm leaving the post up as-is, though. Anyone who reads it and is interested in hearing the music is encouraged to go to Youtube and search out newly uploaded clips, or to just google and see if you can't download the music from somewhere. It's worth the effort. -- EH

I knew nothing about Elkin & Nelson (real life brothers Javier Marin Velez and Leon Marin Velez) until this morning, when Josh Kun posted a YouTube clip of their work. Oh, man... Sent me on a trek to listen to as much of their stuff as I could before I jet to an appointment. This is just some of what I found. I'm definitely digging deeper as soon as I can. Here's what little biographical info I could find online:

Arriving in Spain from Colombia in the early 70s. Elkin (Javier Marin Velez), with his brother Nelson (Leon Marin Velez), established themselves on the Spanish music scene. Fusing hot Latin songs with influences from James Brown, Santana, Afro-Cuban and Jazz-Funk, success in Spain and Latin America saw many number one albums including "Jibaro". Thanks to the '88-89 Ibiza Balearic Beat scene, DJs such as Paul Oakenfold and Pete Tong re-discovered "Jibaro". Elkin & Nelson also performed on some of the biggest hits with The Gibson Brothers - "Cuba", "Que Sera Mi Vida" and "Ooh! What A Life". Elkin is now based in Mumbai (Bollywood), India.