Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New James Brown 3D Set:: "I Got the Feelin'"

James Brown's new DVD comes out on August 5th. It's
gotten rave reviews. Here are some notes that came with the video:

James Brown - In The 60'S / I Got The Feelin' Video Notes

This 3 DVD set is the definitive look at JB's on-stage prowess, including an acclaimed documentary, 2 previously unreleased concerts, and more. With full-length versions of many classics, this set is an essential part of any music lover's collection. DVD #1 includes The Night James Brown Saved Boston about a 1968 concert that averted riots in the aftermath of MLK's assassination. DVD #2 is a live 1968 concert at Boston Garden. DVD #3 is a live 1968 concert from the Apollo Theater plus bonus performances from 1967 and 1968 at L'Olympia in Paris plus a performance from the 1964 T.A.M.I. Show.

James Brown - In The 60'S / I Got The Feelin' Movie Description

In the immediate wake of Martin Luther King's assassination, many of America's inner cities became fraught with riots, and the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston was threatening to erupt once and for all. Nervous at the possibility, Boston's mayor contacted soul legend James Brown, who had a major concert scheduled for the night after the historic murder, and asked for help. Brown, already a burgeoning civil rights hero, allowed the concert to be televised, and urged his fans to stay home--a peace-keeping move now credited with keeping the city from burning. VH1's "Rock Doc" THE NIGHT JAMES BROWN SAVED BOSTON, presented here alongside two other full-length James Brown concerts from the 1960s, features rarely seen footage of the historic performance, and and explores the remarkable events of the tragic day.

James Brown, the Godfatha

In anticipation of James Brown new DVD, which drops on August 5th, the daddy is
posting a good biography of the Godfatha of soul. Here it is:
"...And while his rock ’n’ roll counterparts chafed at the idea of being mere entertainers, Mr. Brown never stopped bragging about being the hardest-working man in show business...He was black and proud, he was a sex machine, but he was also a brilliant conductor, known for coaxing great performances out of the singers and musicians behind him. That, most of all, is what Mr. Brown did." --New York Times

James Brown -
American Icon (1933 - 2006)

James Brown was and will always be a true legend in every sense of the word. He will be missed by millions but his influence on music, culture and the countless number of lives he touched will carry on for decades to come.

Mr. James Brown's dynamic showmanship remains timeless. His style has been celebrated throughout generations. As one of the most sampled artists to date, he has more honors attached to his name than any other performer in music history.

Mr. Brown is a three-figure hit maker with 114 total entries on Billboard's R&B singles charts and 94 that made the Hot 100 singles chart. Seventeen of these hits reached number one, a feat topped only by Stevie Wonder and Louis Jordan. Over the years, while maintaining a grueling touring schedule, James Brown amassed 800 songs in his repertoire. With his signature one-three beat, James Brown directly influenced the evolutionary beat of soul music in the Sixties, funk music in the Seventies and rap music in the Eighties.

James Brown's life history contains many triumphs over adversity.

He was born in South Carolina during the Great Depression. As a child, he picked cotton, danced for spare change and shined shoes. At 16, he landed in reform school for three years where he met Bobby Byrd, leader of a gospel group and life-long friend. Mr. Brown tried semi-pro boxing and baseball, but a leg injury put him on the path to pursue music as a career.

James Brown joined his friend Bobby Byrd in a group that sang gospel in and around Toccoa, Georgia. After seeing Hank Ballard and Fats Domino in a blues revue, Byrd and Brown were lured into the realm of secular music. Naming their band the Flames, they formed a tightly knit ensemble of singers, dancers and multi-instrumentalists.

Mr. Brown instilled the essence of R&B with recordings under the King and Federal labels throughout the Sixties. With albums such as “Live at the Apollo”, Mr. Brown captured the energy and hysteria generated by his live performances. People who had never seen him in person could hear and feel the excitement of him screaming and hollering until his back was soaking wet. Convinced that such an album would not sell, King Records refused to produce the album.

Mr. Brown put up his own money and recorded the performance at the Apollo Theater in 1962.

Released nearly a year later, “Live At The Apollo” went to Number Two on Billboard's album chart, an unprecedented feat for a live R&B album. Radio stations played it with a frequency formerly reserved for singles, and attendance at Mr. Brown's concerts mushroomed.

To read the complete biography, see All About Jazz

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Albert King, the Blues, and Rock & Roll, Part II

"King was also the first major blues guitarist to cross over into modem soul; his mid- and late 1960s recordings for the Stax label, cut with the same great session musicians who played on the recordings of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave,Eddie Floyd, and others, appealed to his established black audience while broadening his appeal with rock fans. Along with B.B. King (no relation, though at times Albert suggested otherwise) and Muddy Waters, King helped nurture a white interest in blues when the music needed it most to survive."
--All About Jazz

"Albert King could blow Eddie Van Halen away with his amp on
-- Joe Walsh speaking at Albert King's funeral

So the blues, as it was played on the chitlin circuit by African Americans, was in danger of being surpassed by rock & roll and relegated to a mere note in musical history. Bands associated with the drug scene and San Francisco such as the Jefferson Airplanes, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, plus bands from foreign shores like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Burton and the
Animals combined to put the blues on the ropes and
down for the cou

Stax Records
When Albert King walked into Stax
records, he had a number of things going for him. He had experience playing with all types of musicians. He had experience recording in the studio. He was in a place under the control of black management, which meant that King could record the music he liked and the way he wanted, and not commercial music pushed by white marketers. Most of all, he had at his beck and call, some of the most talented studio musicians: Isaac Hayes, who would become a legendary R&B phenomenon, Booker T Jones of Booker T and the MGS fame (Remember the song "Green onions?"), He was a good organist/pianist who coordinated the music in the studio; Steve Cropper, a fantastic rhythm guitarists, Duck Dunn, an inventive bass player, the Memphis Horns, three guys who could blow their assesses off and another group of good young musicians called The Bar

In the making of his first album with Stax, “Born Under
a Bad Sign,” the studio talent at Stax and the experience
and the deceptively effective voice and soulful guitar
soloing of King came together. All the studio musicians knew that Albert brought something special to the studio—a strong feel for the blues based on experience. They all knew that he had something special: what blues great Little Walter calls “blues with a feeling;” and he could effectively communicate that feeling in the studio and on record. “Born Under a Bad Sign” represented a union between the old blues from the chitlin circuit with a hip R&B style that was being played on black radio stations by some of the top studio and performing musicians at the time. Thus the songs “Born Under a Bad
Sign,” “Crossc
ut Saw,”and “Pretty Woman” contained
uptempo, R&B
arrangements yet the strong blues feel in Albert's deep, soulful voice and gut-bucket guitar sound.

For rock guitarists especially, “Born Under a Bad Sign” represented teachable moments in time. On the song “Personal Manager” Albert’s showed rockers how to build on a solo, and not just start out screaming. He showed them how to build passion with less notes and more control of the instrument. His solo on the tune “Personal Manager,” where he plays the basic melody before soaring high on the guitar register taking blues lovers to musical heaven, was copied whole by Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Stevie Ray Vaughn and other rockers.

But to the daddy’s mind, the tune “As the Years Go Passing By” is the best. Combining an almost crying voice with a nodding“Amen” and “ I hear you” from his flying V guitar, this song represents the best in music as art: as controlled emotions concentrated in time, as music played not from notes so much as from the heart. And more than 40 years later, “As the Years Go Passing By” is still played by blues musicians, especially in black blues bars.

“Born Under a Bad Sign” did something else: It demonstrated conclusively that blues can not only be sad but exciting and soulful as well. You can moan and croon with Albert on “As the Years Go Passing By” or rock and nod your head to “Pretty Woman,” “Born Under a Bad Sign,” or “Kansas City.”

Songs from this album was played on black radio stations, FM and progressive stations everywhere. Based on the strength of this album, Albert began touring all over the country, indeed, all over the world. The album resurrected the blues by bringing it into the soul era without sacrificing its essence.

Albert Spoke the truth

Albert went on to make other quality albums for Stax: “Live Wire Blues Power," “I Wanna Get Funky,” “I’ll Play the Blues for You,” “San Francisco,” and “I’m in a Phone Booth,” “The Blues Don’t Change,” among others. All retained a strong blues feel, including strong social content. Listen to “Born Under a Bad Sign,” the signature song of the album:

I can’t read.
I didn't learn how to write.
My whole life has been

One big fight.
Born unde
r a bad sign.
Been down ever since I began to crawl.

If it wasn’t for bad luck
I wouldn’t have no luck at all.

Listen to “Angel of Mercy.”

They cut the lights off this morning.
Threw my furniture outdoors.
I heard on the new tdoay
It's gonna come a rain snow.
I got the pneumonia.
My daughter’s got the flu.
My whole family’s got malnutrition.
I don’t know what I’m gonna d
I cry “Angel of mercy,
Mercy, look down on me.

Listen to "That's what the blues is."

I went out in my backyard
And whistled for my dog.

You know he ran back under the house, people
Like he didn’t know me at all.

Hadn’t fed him for a few days.
He was looking kind of thin.
Ah, when your dog turns his back on you, buddy,
You don’t even have a friend.

Above all, listen to “Little Brother, Make A Way," Albert’s personal plea to younger African Americans:

You know I had to work everyday.
On my job I didn’t get much pay.
Had to yessuh to the other man.
I was too confused to understand.

I had to do things, yeah, against my will.
If I hadn’t, little brother,
you wouldn’t have lived.
Take it on, little brother.

Take it further.

I said take it on, little brother

And make a way.

Now you got the future in your hands.
Don’t you be no lazy man.

We laid the ground and paved the way for you.
Come on and show us that you’re proud o
f us.
You have it hard trying to get through.

But keep on pushing.
We’re right behind you.
Take it on, little brother.

Take it further.

I said take it on, little brother
And make a way.

By updating the blues without changing its essence, Albert rescued the blues from rock & roll, its derivative, and from historical obscurity. But Albert did more: In both approach and content, he left footsteps on the road of freedom for you to follow. All you have to do is pick up a copy of “Born Under a Bad Sign” and let a blues master play the blues for you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Albert King, the Blues and Rock & Roll, Part I

Got no big name.
Well, I ain't no big star.
But I’ll play blues for you on my guitar.
And all your
I just got to soothe.
I’ll play the blues for you.”

--“I’ll play the blues for you,” by Albert King

"It changed th
e world, what we did at that little studio. I'm taking nothing away from all of the other great independent labels, but what we did managed to cut through the segregation to such an extent that it was way beyond what I had even hoped we could do. That not only affected this nation, it affected people around the world, and it absolutely had a lot to do with encouraging communication between people of different races."
-- Sam Phillips, Sun Records

Today, the daddy’s talking about Albert King? Why talk about King? Okay, some of you
blues lovers already know about him. Now, you can check out the book “Nothing But the Blues” and it will say that Albert was born on April 25, 1923, that he came from a family of 13, that he was born and raised on a farm. It will say he bounced around cities like Indianola (in Mississippi ), St. Louis, Chicago (briefly), among other places, playing the blues, making a few regional hits but nothing that made much money or made him well known.

It will tell you that he becam
e well known when he landed in Memphis and at Stax Records, where he made a series of quality albums that made him famous. It will tell you that, as a left-handed guitarists, he learned how to play a guitar for right handed players by perfecting a technique of pulling down the strings. And, yes, they’ll tell you that he influenced English groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and that guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughan worshiped him and copied his licks.

But to say Albert influenced a number a few now-famous rock groups and guitarists is like saying Bob Dylan wrote a few songs, when everybody and their momma knows the dude wrote songs that defined a generation. No, Albert King didn’t influence a few rock groups or musicians. He resurrected a genre; he transformed a d
ying music into a living, breathing phenomenon that continues to speaks not only of relationships between men and women but hard times on the cold concrete of Urban America—hard times that reach all the way back to the cruel introduction of Africans, a sun people, into a strange, new land. To fully appreciate King's influence, the daddy will take you back to the early fifties, when the twin heads of racism and opportunity combined to create rock & roll and, ironically, catapult Albert King into world prominence.

Sam Phillips
In the fifties, Albert, like other black bluesmen, played “the chitlin circuit,” the neighborhood bars, clubs and theaters frequented by African Americans. B.B. King played them too, but Albert never reached the level of B.B. This was due to nothing but straight-up white racism. You see, white fathers didn’t want their precious, “innocent” daughters deflowered by listening to what they called that “jungle” music and by watching those “savages” (black men) wiggle their hips on stage. But a guy named Sam Phillips, head of record company called Sun Records, ever the businessman, had an idea: We’ll get a white guy to play black music and shake his hips on stage (Note: This is not to suggest that Phillips was a racist. In fact, he recorded a number of black musicians as well, including Ike Turner, Howlin Wolf and B.B. King. It’s only to suggest that he understood the role that racism played in American culture). So, on July 5, 1954, Phillips got a young, good looking white truck driver named Elvis to record “That’s Alright, Mama,” an Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup blues tune; and the rest, they say, is history.

Elvis Presley went on to record “Jail Hou
se Rock,” a song written by black songwriter Scrapper Blackwell. He recorded “Hound Dog,” a Big Mama Thornton tune that seemed to be about a male stalker. But who cared? It had a crazy, bouncing beat that drove white teeny boppers wild, especially when the pretty white boy shook shook his hips on stage. Phillips was a genius.

Now, the music business was changing. Thanks to the business genius (Phillips) and the pretty white boy (Elvis), black music was being transformed from a slower, syncopated groove with a heavy backbeat into a faster clone that was more acceptable to white America. As the great bluesman Muddy Waters put it, “The blues had a baby and they called it Rock & Roll.” Pretty soon, Carl Perkins was warning people not to step on his blue sued shoes, Jerry Lee Lewis, who stole Little Richard's beat and piano act from Little Richard, was telling white teeny boppers to “come on over, baby, whole lotta shaking going on,” and Bill Haley (from Bill Haley and the Comets), who stole Big Joe Turner’s act and songs, told them now-deflowered white girls to “Shake, rattle, and roll” and “Rock around the clock tonight.”

But once you open the floodgates, there’s no telling what or who might come in. Soon, white girls would be dancing in the isles as Little Richard kicked away the stool, banged on the ivories, and cried “Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, won’t you come along with me?” and a tall black guy named Chuck Berry, a former blues guitarist with Chess Records, tapped into teenage boredom and raging harmones that made them sneak out of their bedrooms, when he sang “Maybelline, why can’t you be true? Oh, Maybelline, why can’t you be true, and start back doing the things you used to do?”

A British Invasion
Meanwhile, some white guys across the waters heard this music. They loved it, but they wanted to know its true origin. This got them to buying records of blues musicians like Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Bill Broonzy, B.B. King, Freddie King, and, of course Albert King. So the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Eric Burton and the Animals, John Mayall and other European bands made the blues an integral part of the musical repertoire.. The Beatles sang “I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come,” Eric Burton sang “There is a house in New Orleans,” John Mayall played blues harmonica like the great harmonica player Little Walter (former great harmonica player for Muddy Waters), and Clapton backed him up with B.B. and Freddie King’s riffs, alternately bending and pulling strings over notes ala Albert King. Yes, it was cool to play the blues.

And while some white rockers (like Clapton) played it well, others played it poorly: Too fast too loud, too
uptempo, not giving the listener time to take in the music, to feel it in their bones. But, bad or good, whites loved it anyway; and with whites playing the blues fast and loud, the blues, in terms of the way it was played on the chitlin circuit, began to sound out of date. Indeed, the genre itself was in danger of being superseded by rock, its derivative, of being tossed into the garbage can of history-- to fade away like folk music or spirituals. Though still popular with musicians and a core group of whites, the blues, by and large, was becoming extinct, taking on the appearance of a few old black men sitting on a porch with a guitar, lamenting their trials and tribulations with a woman who left them in between swigs of strong, cheap whiskey. The blues needed to be rescued. More than any other artists, guess who did it?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Do You Remember Billy Stewart?

Sittin' in the Park

Yes, I'm sitting right here
Waiting for a-you my dear
Wondering if a-you ever
Gonna show up
(Show up)

I don't know if you gonna show
My darling I got to go
But never-the-less, I said
You got-a me waitin'

(Sittin' in the park waiting for you-hoo-hoo)
(Child, I'm)

Sitting here on the bench
With my back against the
Wonderin' if I have any sense
(Child, I'm)

Somethin' tells me I'm a fool
To let you treat me so cruel
But never-the-less, I say again
You got-a me waiting

(Sittin' in the park, waiting for you-hoo-hoo)

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why
Oh why, oh why?
(Tell me why)
Won't you tell me why?
(I wanna know why)
Oh, my darling I said-a right now
Good girl
I wanna know why?
(Tell him what-a-matter)

(Sitting in the park, waiting for you-hoo-hoo)

(Tell him what-a-matter )

Sitting here on the bench
With my back against the fence
Wondering if I have any sense
(Tell her don't matter)

Somethin' tells me I'm a fool
Let you treat me so cruel

Never-the-less, I said
You got-a me waiting

(Sitting in the park, waiting for you-hoo-hoo)

Hope I'm not gonna wait
(In the park)
I am tired of waiting
(A fool)
No longer gonna wait, girl
Any longer

(Sitting in the park)
I'm tired of waiting
(In the park)
Oh Lord, I'm not a-gonna wait
No longer gonna wait, child

--Billy Stewart

Listen up. The daddy wants to ask you something: Do you remember Billy Stewart? He was a great R&B singer whose talent and influence on the music of the 60's has yet to be fully acknowledged. His songwriting, arrangements and phrasing was copied by many.

But in 1968, his diabetes began to worsen.
In 1969, he was in a motorcycle accident. Then on January 17, 1970, he and three of his band members were killed when his car careened off the road and plunged into a river. Soulful listeners lost Billy but, through his albums, they can still return again and again to the sounds of a multi-talented musician (songwriter, pianist, singer) and stylists who captivated audiences with his distinctive voice and sweet, haunting and heartbreaking songs. One reviewer said of him:

"Like Little Willie John and Jesse Belvin before him, Billy Stewart remains a largely unknown and vastly underrated figure in the history of R&B. Billy Stewart was discovered by the legendary Bo Diddley who was so impressed by his ability to play the piano that he asked Billy to join his band back in 1956. Diddley even got Stewart a recording contract with his record label Chess and Billy recorded "Billy's Blues". That one went virtually unnoticed and Billy Stewart would not venture back into the studio for another seven years. "

Stewart took standards and made them his own-- made them sound brand new. Now, the daddy's heard a thousand renditions of "Summertime" but none more unique or more passionate than Stewart's.

Stewart had a number of hits during the sixties: "Summertime," "Fat Boy," "I Do Love You," "Sitting in the Park," and many others. But the daddy's favorite Billy Stewart's song wasn't really a hit but a cut from one of his jazzier and lesser known albums called "Unbelievable." The song was "Time After Time." Okay, you've heard many renditions of it, but just wait til you hear Billy Stewart's. It will make you grab your main squeeze and start dancing in the kitchen and slow drag her all the way out to the porch or patio. It'll make you call up that special someone and say "I miss you. Can we get together soon?"

The daddy says check out Billy Stewart and do some dancing in the kitchen.

Do you remember Billy Stewart?

What's the Sweetest Song You Ever Heard?

Note: Beginning today, and throughout the week, the daddy will be posting about music. He will begin with the first of two music pieces he was asked to repost: about singer/pianist Nina Simone and Chicago guitarist Lurrie Bell. Holla at the daddy and let him know what you think.
What's the Sweetest Song You Ever Heard?
by the daddy

Listen up. The daddy's got a question for you:
what’s the loveliest, sweetest song you ever heard? The daddy’s got two nominees for you.

In a CD called “Aretha Franklin’s Gospel Greats,” recorded in a black church in Cleveland, with the famous Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern Community Choir, Aretha sang “Amazing Grace” with such passion and with such power that she left no doubt who the greatest soul singer is ever, man or woman. The sister moaned to the floor, preached to the congregation, and, with head up and hands outstretched, testified to the lawd above, saying, "Yes, I once/ was lost. But now/ now I'm found/ My savior/I know he leads/ leads me on."

On the CD "Pain in my heart,", the late Otis Redding sang “You send me,” a Sam Cooke hit. And, yes, Cooke had the smoother voice, but Otis had a more powerful, more soulful voice. And Otis had something else: a tighter band of southern studio musicians who played with such soul that it made you feel guilty for not attending church as much as you should. Duck Dunn on bass, Booker T from Booker T and the MGS, Steve Cropper on guitar, and the Memphis Horns, the baadest group of horn players around at the time. With this tight group, Otis gospel voice, and the song's sweet, honest lyrics, “You send me” couldn’t miss. Though overlooked by critics, it is one of the sweetest ballads ever recorded.

But the daddy heard his sweetest song ever at a house party. You know this type of party: The party where a couple of your male friends invite you because they want you to get married, have children and live in the suburbs like they do;where one of your male friend's girlfriend wants you to date her sister or cousin so you'll settle down and stop taking her boyfriend around clubs where single, attractive, and available sisters are in abundance; the kind of party where you walk in the door with very dim lights and five or so couples dancing so close you’re sure that at least one of the women is going to get pregnant right on that dance floor (if she isn’t already); the kind of party where singer Marvin Gay welcomes you by saying “Let’s Get it on” makes it plain as a country black preacher that he wants him some "Sexual healing."

This is the kind of party where Junior Walker of Junior Walker and the All Stars raps hard and long and, getting a little frustrated, asks:

“What does it take/
to win your love for me/
How can I make/
this dream come true for me/
I just got to know/
Ooh, baby cause I love you so/
I’m gonna blow for you/"

It's the kind of party where the Isley Brothers ask, “Who’s that lady” and, after a sips of wine, whisper into ear, confessing, “I want to groove with you... between the sheets."

It's the kind of party where two females show up unaccompanied, where even Ray Charles on heroin could see that they are there with an agenda of their own. No, no one's eyes are closed at this kind of party; and every thing comes at a price.

This is why the daddy never stays at these parties longer than to say hello, have a drink, and eat up the appetizers (Note: the daddy has been known to stuff cheese and grapes in his pockets on the way out); and this is why the daddy was heading toward the door when he heard this song that made him stop in his tracks, the one song that wasn't about making out so much as making time; that wasn't about manipulating a woman into bed but consciously hearing her gentle plea to be rescued from an abusive relationship.

The daddy knew this voice. It was Nina: The Nina who played piano as a child to support her family, the Nina ,who, after finishing Juliard, was denied entrance into another music school solely because she was black, the Nina who got so fed with American racism that she left the country and moved to France; the Nina who told us we were "young, gifted and black;" the Nina who, from distant shores, decried American racism, shouting "Mississippi Goddamn;" the Nina who, through concerts in America and around the world, supported Dr. King so his organization, the Southern Christian Conference (SCLC), would have the funds to get peaceful protesters out of jail, pay staff and travel; the Nina who--wherever she went-- never left us. That’s why, even at a make out house party, everyone stopped to hear her melancholy plea to Porgy:

I loves you, Porgy,
Don' let him take me,
Don' let him handle me an' drive me mad.
If you kin keep me,
I wants to stay here wid you forever,
An' I'd be glad.

I loves you, Porgy,
Don' let him take me
Don' let him handle me
With his hot han'
If you kin keep me
I wants to stay here wid you forever.
I got my man.

That's why you could hear a pin drop when she soloed on the piano, her long, dark fingers gently sliding across white ivories, transferring voice to fingers and moving us in a way no vodka or "available" companion ever could.

That's why the daddy whispered to the host to put the song on repeat and promptly grabbed a woman's hand and began dancing.

Shortly afterwards, the daddy left the party. But he wasn’t alone. Nina was still with him.

What's the sweetest song you ever heard?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Senator McCain's Inappropriate Remark

Here's the outlandish statement that Sen. McCain made about Sen. Barack Obama:
"It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign." Besides being desperate for publicity, he is suggesting that Obama, or
anyone, who disagrees with his idea of staying in Iraq for 100 years is self-centered, naive, unpatriotic, even treasonous. Here's what some veterans had to say:

* As a veteran of a fifteen-month combat tour in Iraq at the height of the surge, it is incredibly offensive to see John McCain make off color remarks about Senator Obama's view on Iraq, claiming he "wants to lose" there. By bolstering his political rhetoric, he forgets that many veterans of the war in Iraq would like to see a reallocation of forces to Afghanistan to combat genuine threats to our national security. Would John McCain be so cavalier to say that I want to lose in Iraq, a place where many of my friends left their lives and limbs?

Alex Horton
Austin, TX
Iraq veteran

* Senator McCain's comments represent the radical anti-troop, anti-veteran rhetoric his campaign has become known for. I went to combat, and I saw first-hand the damage the failed policies of George W. Bush and John McCain have caused to our American troops. I wonder if this eye-witness knowledge means that I want to lose as well.

Richard Smith
Huntsville, AL
Afghanistan veteran

* The message of "losing" being offered by Senator McCain is a lie. There is no compelling United States interest in Iraq that is worth the treasure and time that our nation has been asked to pay. The police action in Iraq has done nothing other than to show the world that America is weak and afraid--of admitting mistakes. In this case, over 4,000 men and women have died because of the cowardice and lack of integrity of our political leadership.

Senator McCain has to stop following this folly. He has to show strength and admit that the strength of America is in its willingness to champion reason over fear. There is no possible cost-benefit analysis that can justify the abandonment of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to police a sovereign state that no longer desires our presence.

George Zubaty
Louisville, KY
Iraq and Afghanistan veteran
2001-02 and 2003-04

* To suggest that Senator Obama wants to "lose" in Iraq is outlandish, thought I can't help but notice that Senator McCain has no problem with the fact that we continue to lose ground every day in Afghanistan--the real War on Terror.

Brian McGough
Ashburn, VA
Iraq and Afghanistan veteran
2001-02 and 2003

To read the full story, see "Veterans Respond to McCain's 'Obama Wants to Lose'" by Brandon Friedman at Vet Voice.

In Sen. Obama, Berliners Love What They See

"The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christians and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."
-- Sen. Barack Obama

The late John F. Kennedy came in 1963 and proclaimed to 120,000 Germans at the Rauthus Shoenberg, “ ich bin ein Berliner.” In 1987, Ronald Reagan spoke before 20,000 at the Brandenburg Gate and shouted, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down these walls!” And last night, Barack Obama, his voice soaring above a crowd of 200,000 and an angel who sat atop a column in Teirgarden Park, implored Germans to join the United States of America in “remaking the world.”

But both Reagan and Kennedy were presidents. And Last night, in 2008, Barack Obama, presumptive candidate for the democratic party, came to Berlin as a first-term U.S. senator and “as a citizen of the world;” and there are no modern historical parallels for such a speech:that a mere senator of another country eschew tradition and dare step onto the world stage to give such a historic speech was unprecedented.

Nonetheless, all of Germany seemed to take to him with ease, greeting him with applause and respect every step of the way. And Sen. Obama did not disappoint, telling them what they wanted to hear. His speech slowly gathering steam, he said that it’s time for greater cooperation between the U.S. and Germany; that it’s time to work together to end the war in Iraq and defeat terrorism in Afghanistan; that it’s time to provide solutions to the genocide in Darfur and the problem of global warming, to name a few. Raising his voice above an angel that sat atop a column above him, moving into the rhetorical flash they had come to see, he told a mostly young crowd:

"People of Berlin – and people of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again."

The senator’s speech was interrupted many times with wild applause. Yes, Obama mania has come to Berlin. There are two reasons for this: First, Germans,like the rest of the world, has grown tired of the Bush administration’s war over diplomacy, cowboy approach to foreign affairs. They’ve grown sick of an unending Iraq war with no political solution in sight. Politically astute, they also know that Bush’s obsession with an illegal, presumptive war and continued occupation of Iraq has not only helped to bankrupt the U.S. economy. It has helped to destabilize the economies of other European nations as well, not to mention distract them from other pressing maters such as world poverty, genocide, the AIDs crisis and global warming.

Second, Germans, no strangers to war, feel a strong need to be hopeful; and, in Sen. Obama, they see not only the probable next president of the United States, but a ray of hope in an otherwise dismal future. They see an opportunity to once again be proud of German and U.S. relations. His positive message resonated especially with young Germans who seemed to welcome his challenge to them to step up and make a difference in the world. Thus, when Obama said, “This is our moment, our time,” they felt he was speaking especially to them.

Yes, Berliners seemed to love this African American, this citizen of the world and soon to be next president of the United States of America.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No, Katie, it's not the sexism

I'm feeling this post from Tami over at whattamisaid:

No, Katie, it's not the sexism

I seethed when I read (over at The Field Negro) that CBS anchor Katie Couric said the following in an interview with an Israeli publication:

"Unfortunately I have found out that many viewers are afraid of change. The glory days of TV news are over, and the media landscape has been dramatically changed. News is available now for everyone, everywhere, all the time, and everybody fights for the last pieces of the shrinking pie. The corporate pressure and the ratings terror are intensifying all the time, and the situation is not simple. I find myself in the last bastion of male dominance, and realizing what Hillary Clinton might have realized not long ago: that sexism in the American society is more common than racism, and certainly more acceptable or forgivable. In any case, I think my post and Hillary's race are important steps in the right direction."

Deep sigh...Really? Are we still going there? I will not stop being offended by women who do not experience racism, but in their privilege feel comfortable deciding how common or forgivable it is. But that is not the only thing that bothers me about Couric's statement. Emily Yoffe at's XX Factor women's blog touched on the problem:

I find it unseemly for people like Couric and Clinton, who have been rewarded greatly for their talent, skill, and drive, to complain that sexism is the reason when they don't succeed at absolutely everything. (Couric is paid $15 million a year, a higher salary than her male counterparts.) Read more...

To be sure, Hillary Clinton, a formidable and smart politican, faced sexism during her presidential run. But it did not doom her campaign. Staff infighting; failure to plan past Super Tuesday; the adoption of racist Southern strategy that alienated black voters; failure to utilize grassroots organizing and leverage new media; reliance on greasy, old school politicos like Mark Penn; failure to adopt a cogent message until the last months of the primary; Bill; and a tough opponent with a stronger, more strategically run campaign--that is what doomed the Clinton campaign.

Similarly, Katie Couric, who has undoubtably blazed trails for women in journalism and who has undoubtably faced much sexism along the way, has much to answer for in terms of journalistic integrity. Recent case in point? The recent interview with Barack Obama where she doggedly seemed to defend escalated military action in Iraq. At the same time, we have her news program's attempts to hide John McCain's recent gaffe about the "surge."

I am not afraid of change, as Ms. Couric suggests, but interviews like these are not the sort of journalistic change we need. If Couric requires an explanation for the record low ratings of her newscast, I suggest she look to its substance and not sexism. After all, folks (including me) can't wait to see fearless Rachel Maddow with her own show on NBC. Maddow...who smacks down Pat Buchanan on the regular...who makes me not miss Keith Olbermann...who always has brilliant insight...who speaks truth to power. I don't know anyone who wouldn't love to see Maddow snatch dreary David Gregory's spot.

And if it was hard for Katie Couric to get to where she is, I will bet that it has been even harder for Maddow, who is also a woman. But Maddow is a woman who has resisted the blond highlights and flirty skirts news directors love to slap on female journalists. (Can't report the news, girls, unless you're sexxxay!) She is also an out and proud lesbian. I am going to bet that Maddow has faced bias toward both her gender and sexuality. But I'm sure Couric would boldly say that homophobia in our country is not nearly as bad as the sexism she faces.

If sexism trumps all else, perhaps Couric can explain that to Gwen Ifill, a black woman who despite a long history of excellent news reporting is called a "cleaning lady" by Don Imus and didn't get the call for a big three network anchor seat, while "America's Sweetheart" from a soft morning talk show did.

I guess what I'm saying, Katie, is that maybe it's not the sexism...maybe it's you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lucille Clifton; Part II: A Poem from Clifton, a Poem from the daddy

"Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language."

homage to my hips

by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved.
they go where they want to go.
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

My Sassy Lucille (for Lucille Clifton)
by Mac Walton (MacDaddy)
they say you won’t do your sister will.
I say you just sassy, a might brassy
and I likes my black coffee
just the way it is.

I likes your thick lips, that big butt,
them wide, swinging hips.
I likes your ear fine-tuned, your eyes deep-set
them eyes that see past me: me
and my white shirt pilling; me
and my top button missing; me
and my ring around the collar getting
darker and darker; me and my sweet dreams of you, me
and you listening to each other, me and you hearing each other,
the way it once was, the way it always outta be—free.

they say you won’t do your sister’s will.
I say keep juicing them thick, red lips.

Keep rocking that wide butt; keep swinging them fine hips.
Keep hearing my loud laughter over BB's singing
over barbecue steaming from mama’s warm kitchen.

Keep feeling my stomach pains, my hungry hearth crying out again
for hot collard greens and new tomorrows under
damp dark bridges, cold cardboard boxes, lonely park benches
in half-frozen, muddy trenches.

they say you won’t do your sister’s will.
I say you just sassy, a might brassy,
and I likes my black coffee
just the way it is.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lucille Clifton-- Part 1

Poet Lucille Clifton is the winner of the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets. In the year 2000, she won the National Book Award for her poetry book, Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000. Two of her poetry collections (Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980, and, Next: New Poems), were chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She was elected Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 1999. She served as poet laureate of Maryland from 1974 to 1985.

Clifton’s writing is personal, but it immediately connects to readers and their lives.

The daddy is thinking about two of her poems: “she loved” and “at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south Carolina, 1989.”

As Clifton explains it in “The Language of Life,” Bill Moyer’s book about 34 poets, she is a widow of more than a decade. She said that, when her husband of some 30 years died suddenly, a part of her didn’t want to go on. Eventually, however, she decided to honor him and their good marriage by continuing to live; and she expressed her feelings in “she lived.”

she lived

after he died
what really happened is
she watched the days
bundle into thousands,
watched every act become
the history of others,
every bed more
but even as the eyes of lovers
strained toward the milky young
she walked away
from the hole in the ground
deciding to live. and she lived.

But Clifton admits that this decision wasn’t an easy one-- that remaining present, staying calm and sane in a world filled with so much hate can be challenging and takes courage. She put it this way:

“…every day there are things that would make one hate. So you have mention them and as much as possible to not to hate. Every day there is something that would make you afraid, and you have to try not let it stop you…That’s where the honor is. Honor is not in not acting because you are afraid. Nor is there honor in acting when you are not afraid. But acting when you are afraid, that’s where the honor is.”

And Clifton’s attempt to talk to slaves at a cemetery on a former slave plantation, to get them to say their names, recalls poet Rita Dove standing in the middle of battlefields in France, communing with the spirits of black soldiers who fell there fighting for a freedom that they would never know at home.

at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989

among the rocks
at walnut grove
your silence drumming
into my bones,
tell me your names.

nobody mentioned slaves
and yet the curious tools
shine with your fingerprints.

nobody mentioned slaves
but somebody did this work
who had no guide, no stone,
who moulders under rock.

tell me your names,
tell me your bashful names
and I will testify.

the inventory lists ten slaves
but only men were recognized.

among the rocks
at walnut grove
some of these honored dead
were dark
some of these dark
were slaves
some of these slaves
were women
some of them did this
honored work.

tell me your names
foremothers, brothers,
tell me your dishonored names.
here lies
here lies
here lies
here lies

Thank you, Lucille Clifton

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Prayer for Peace in Iraq, for Peace in Our Souls

A Prayer for Peace in Iraq

Lord of hope and compassion, Friend of Abraham

Who called our father in faith to journey to a new future,
We remember before you the country of Iraq from which he was summoned
Ancient land of the Middle East,
realm of the two rivers,
Birthplace of great cities and of civilization. May we who name ourselves children of Abraham, Call to mind all

the peoples of the Middle East who honour him as father.

Those who guard and celebrate the Torah, Those for whom the Word has walked on earth and lived among us.

Those who follow their prophet, who listened for the word in the desert. And shaped a community after what he heard.

Lord of reconciliation, God of the painful sacrifice

uniting humankind
We long for the day when you will provide for all nations of the earth your blessing of peace. But now

when strife and war are at hand, help us to see in each other a family likeness,
our inheritance from our one father Abraham.
Keep hatred from the threshold of our hearts, and preserve within us a generous spirit which recognizes in both foe and friend a common humanity.
This we ask in the name of the one who came to offer us the costly gift of abundant life.

(In Arabic Abraham is often called "El Khalil" which means 'the Friend [of God]'. Ur and Haran, the cities from which, according to Genesis, Abraham was summoned by God both lie within the territory of modern Iraq.)
(Alan and Clare Amos)
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