Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's playing in my deck - songs for you

"Out of snappin, my God tried to talk me/But what could get me half way calm, was this Donny Hathaway song/The tape that it was on, I had wanted while I was gone" - Common

As far as holiday music goes, I don't think I want to hear any song other than Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas." On a continuous loop. Well, maybe with some "Temptations Christmas" thrown in the mix to change things up.

No one has ever had a voice like Hathaway. I came to this conclusion earlier this week, when I stumbled across his remake of Stevie Wonder's classic "Superwoman" on YouTube. Honestly, I might buy an album that consisted of Hathaway singing his way through bread recipes.

Anyway, because it's my iTunes and I can do what I want to, here's a small sample of what I've been listening to from Mr. Hathaway:

1. Someday We'll All Be Free - For years, I believed this song was written as an anthem for the Civil Rights movement. Mostly because it was featured at the end of Spike Lee's biographical film about Malcolm X. Not so, at least according to wikipedia. It's such a hauntingly beautiful song. Despite the uplifting lyrics, I can't help but feel melancholy. Too foreshadowing.

2. I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know - Is this not what a man would (should) say to a woman he loves? "I'm only flesh and blood/But I can be everything that you demand/I can be king of everythang/Or just a tiny grain of sand."

3. Love, Love, Love - One of the more light-hearted, playful songs in his catalogue. I wonder what sort of singer Hathaway might have been without the hurt, though?

4. To Be Young, Gifted and Black - Just seems appropriate in a year that America elected a black president. "We must begin to tell our young/Don't you know there's a whole world waiting for you?/Don't you know the quest has just begun for you?"

5. I Believe in Music - More of that grimy shit. Donny does this best.

By the way, do you roll your eyes at the woman in your choir who insists on squeezing every last bit out of each lyric? Are you irritated with "American Idols" who seem more interested in hearing their own voice? Have you been to chitlin-circuit musicals where some of the characters keep trying to one-up their co-stars by holding ridiculously long high notes?

To me, Hathaway is to blame. His influence on music has lived on in ways, both good and bad. Lesser singers have tried to mimic his beautiful sound with little success over the years. It's just damn near impossible to replicate the anointed instrument that was Hathaway's voice. Continue Reading »

Too black for BET

That's me. I just scored 100 percent on one of those stupid little quizzes on Facebook, one that asks "How Black Are You"?

I went 8-for-8 on the questions in 56 seconds. Impressive, no? Just call me Carter G. Woodson.

Of course, this comes a couple of days after I scored 62 percent on a similarly titled quiz.

But I still believe that Redman has smoked more dope over the course of his life than Snoop. That's Redman, who has co-starred in a movie and TV show both titled "How High."

I stand by my initial answer. And I should know: I am 100 percent black, after all.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Thanks, but no thanks

Of all people, Newt Gingrich has offered to reach out to the black community on behalf of congressman-elect Joseph Cao (R-LA).

Uh, I think Cao got this.

Not only did Cao knock off Democratic incumbent William Jefferson in a congressional district that is 64 percent black but he has already taken the initiative to make inroads with black folks.

All this just begs the question: is Gingrich delusional, stupid or a little of both?

(h/t Think Progress)
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Bailout thought

Why do Republicans hate American autoworkers?

UPDATE: Maybe they just hate unionized American autoworkers. From Steve Benen: "Right now, Democrats in Congress and the presidential transition team are crafting an agenda to help respond to the financial crisis, while Republicans in Congress are using the financial crisis to undermine unions. It's a very odd time for GOP lawmakers to invest so much energy in ensuring American workers receive less money. And yet, here we are." Continue Reading »

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Year in the Life

A year ago on this day, I finished off the final six hours of a 15-hour trip. Shreveport to Tampa, with a short night's rest in Loxley, Ala., just outside of Mobile.

I was finally home. And away from home.

For the most part, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was taking a chance on a great, though struggling newspaper that was taking a chance on me. I'd never lived as much as eight hours away from my hometown of Houston, let alone the Eastern time zone. But at first glance, Tampa seemed like my sort of place - balmy winters, fresh seafood, Gulf breezes, and lots of folks.

Nothing has changed that initial impression.

But the change in my life has come about in other, more substantive and interesting ways than I could have envisioned (isn't that the way it always happens?): I came to think of a life without journalism; I could not think of a life without the First Lady; I found out I could appreciate living someplace other than Texas or California; Key West exceeded all my expectations, which were already very high; Miami, too; I added some reggae and dancehall to my iTunes; I turned 30; I missed my family and friends more than ever; I studied more in four months than I did in four and a half years of college; I helped turn a swing state blue; I pretty much stopped watching SportsCenter; I got frustrated enough with not having an outlet for my random thoughts; I started a blog; I saw the alligator resting near our pond only a couple times but never saw a feral pig; I visited the top-floor of the Sears Tower and had an authentic, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza; I made some new friends; I played pick-up hoops once - all year; I bench-pressed 300 pounds for the first time since I was 20; I didn't spend nearly enough time at the beach; I met the dwarf from "Bad Santa" on the top floor of the Shreveport Hilton; I wished I'd had a camera; I started a Facebook profile - who knew I had 321 friends?; I stopped taking out the garbage in the evenings after an uncomfortable showdown with three raccoons; an angry reader called me a "brownie"; I spent countless hours sitting in the living room with my patio door open; I wrote, maybe, five stories that I was proud of; I paid off my car note; I paid more than $400 in gas for a couple months; I was a full-time dog owner for the first time in my life; I wrote a really long blog post about my year in Tampa.

And here we are. I'm six months from turning 31. I'm engaged with a wedding in the works for next summer. And I'm thinking long and hard about whether I have a future in newspapers. Plan B is slowly but surely taking shape.

The next year will have quite an act to follow.
Continue Reading »

Barry Jr.

If I was the son of a Hall-of-Fame athlete, I'm not sure that I would chose to play the same sport as my father. Let alone play the same position.

But Barry Sanders, Jr., ain't afraid of the expectations. Only a high school freshman, Barry Jr. looks like he's at least inherited his father's feet and balance. I know somebody who knows somebody at TCU who needs to be called about making him a scholarship offer - STAT.

On another note, there's a little debate in a comments thread at TBL about the best running backs of all-time. I'll humbly submit my top five in ascending order: 5. Earl Campbell; 4. Barry Sanders; 3. O.J. Simpson; 2. Walter Payton; 1. Jim Brown. Continue Reading »

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The obligatory Blagojevich post

Seems that everyone has a stone-cold opinion about the corruption case against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Well, count me out of this one.

You'll find that I'm pretty consistent in this regard, whether it's O.J. or Plaxico Burress or Sarah Palin in "Troopergate": let's allow the case to run its course before reaching a judgment. Someone smarter than me in these matters agrees, sort of:

Despite the sensational treatment given the arrest of Blagojevich and aide John Harris in today's New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune, the governor has yet to be charged with attempting to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. All those juicy details about Blagojevich making plans to trade the Senate seat for a position in the Obama Cabinet, another job, financial support, or jobs for his wife appear in the complaint brought yesterday.* But U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald has yet to file charges over the alleged attempt to sell the seat.

... Before we turn down the sheets on Blagojevich's prison cot, let's see transcripts of him actually making a money deal or power deal with somebody for the Senate seat. Even U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald says his office isn't "trying to criminalize people making political horse trades on policies or that sort of thing."

True, true, three times true. The presumption of innocence is one of the bedrock principles of our courts. I realize the scope of the case seems damning at first glance and that, at a minimum, Blagojevich seems absolutely insane. But that's different from being guilty of criminal behavior.

The burden of proof is on Fitzgerald. Let him lay out a case, hear some rebuttal and then allow a verdict to be rendered. Until then, please spare me the obnoxious outrage. I've grown especially tired of our lynch mob mentality.

UPDATE: I should clarify, though - I do think it would be wise if Blagojevich would resign. If only so he doesn't hold up the process of naming a replacement for Obama's seat in the Senate. Continue Reading »

Stewart KOs Huckabee

If you didn't catch Jon Stewart's evisceration of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, then you should check out the following clip from last night's interview on "The Daily Show."

As politely and thoughtfully as possible, Stewart manhandled Huckabee on the issue of gay marriage.

My favorite moment: Huckabee infers that homosexuality is a choice and Stewart responds with "I think religion is more of a choice than homosexuality" and then asked Huckabee at what age he decided not to be gay.

I think, more than anything, that's the disconnect in the logical argument against gay marriage - social conservatives like Huckabee consider homosexuality a lifestyle choice. If gay rights activists and those interested in civil rights push back on that front, explose the flaw in that logic, I'm thinking some progress could be made in the debate.

Anyhow, I think the interview was important because Huckabee seems to be a truly good, kind, thoughtful man. Yet he's dead wrong on this issue. And he's on the wrong side of history.

Jon did a very important thing last night. And he made the case with equal parts kindness, intelligence and snarkiness. Gold star for him.

Continue Reading »

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Discouraged in Dallas

On days like these, I really miss living in Dallas. Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the annual torment that the Cowboys put their fans through in December and January. The fun started again this Sunday, with the epic fourth-quarter meltdown in Pittsburgh.

Even better are the outraged fans who call into the sports talk radio stations. You've never heard a more frustrated bunch. It's truly audio gold.

However, one station in the D-FW market does better than all the rest at fanning the flames. Every Monday following a Cowboys game - or Tuesday, if Dallas played on MNF - the morning-show hosts bring on "Jerry Jones" and a special guest and have them talk it out. Sometimes, it gets ugly.

This week, it was Jere and Wade Phillips. Enjoy.
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What's playing in my deck

A special iTunes edition.

After yesterday's riff about my rediscovered love for BBD's "Do Me," I came up with five songs buried in my playlist that had to meet only one requirement: the title had to be a two-word directive ending in "me."

1. Sex Me by R. Kelly - I've previously discussed how "12 Play" was truly a pivotal moment in my childhood. There just couldn't be a list without this slow-jam classic from Kels.

2. Tell Me by Groove Theory - For the longest, I had a crush on Amel. I wonder whatever happened to her? She had a really chill vibe.

3. Groove Me by Guy - For real, Guy was one of the all-time best R&B groups of my lifetime. No foolin'. I miss New Jack Swing.

4. Freak Me (remix) by Silk - I've often wondered how many of today's teenagers were conceived to this song. It was a mixtape staple back in the day.

5. Show Me by John Legend - A little something to cool out to. One of my favorites from, to me, his best album. Continue Reading »

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ronnie DeVoe

Apropos of nothing.

Glad to see Ronnie has moved on instead of making the rounds on the chitlin' and casino circuit with Ricky and Mike. (Lots of people liked "Poison," but I always preferred "Do Me.")

But, you know, someone sent this bit of online gold to me in an e-mail about four years ago. I wonder if The DeVoe Team survived the real estate crash of the past couple years?

Continue Reading »

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Jesse, MLK and ... O.J.?

On a 1974 episode of "Good Times" that I happened to catch late last night, little Michael Evans was laboring over whom to profile in a school assignment that asked him to identify the man he most admired.

Michael briefly thought about Jesse Jackson. I think someone mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr. Thelma suggested a woman. And J.J., showing himself to be a questionable judge of character, went with O.J. Simpson.

It was the year after O.J. became the first NFL running back to surpass 2,000 yards in a season, after all.

And, for all that's happened in the years since, let us not forget that O.J. was one of the best athletes to ever slip on a pair of cleats and one of the first marketable black athletes in this country. Below is some proof that there were better days for the Juice.

O.J. was really something of a hero to the children of another generation. It really wasn't too far-fetched at the time - I mean, as recently as my childhood days, I only knew of him because of his athletic legacy, Hertz commercials and from playing Nordberg in "The Naked Gun."

But as we know, the only real, earthly diviner of the truth is time: O.J. might be the most disgraced, former great athlete of my lifetime. And I don't even know if it's close.

As for the show, I fell asleep - or the First Lady changed the channel - but I think Michael went with his pops. Continue Reading »

Deep thoughts

Within days, nine-months-pregnant Bristol Palin will probably give birth to another in a long line of moose hunters, hockey stars, beauty queens, champion snow mobile racers, ass-kickers and all-around "f'in rednecks."

  1. So when's the wedding?

  2. Other things on my mind this afternoon, a lazy Sunday if there ever was one:

1. I see that Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State, has offered himself up as a candidate for Republican National Committe chair. Which made me wonder: is it me, or have I seen every black Republican in the nation on TV at some point this fall? That would bring the total to eight, I think.

2. I'm not sure that Caroline Kennedy is the best Gov. Paterson can do in his search for Hillary Clinton's replacement in the Senate. I tend to agree with Jane: other than being born into Camelot, there's not a lot to suggest she deserves the seat more than some of the other high-profile contenders.

3. In the midst of these very scary rounds of layoffs and record unemployment numbers, Atrios reminds us why McCain's employer-based proposal for health care was such an awful one: when people lose their jobs, they also lose their health insurance.

4. See? Louisianans don't tolerate all their politicians being corrupt. Only the memorably colorful ones. Good riddance, Dollar Bill.

5. We should all be thinking about ways to improve educational achievement in America. One issue, of particular interest to me, is how to lower tuition rates at colleges (and, uh, post-grad schools). I couldn't believe this stat from the Center for American Progress: tuition has grown by 439 percent over the past 25 years while family incomes have increased by only 147 percent. Seems to me lots of middle-class and lower-income families are being priced out of higher education.

6. In a year filled with them, last week was a particularly terrible week to be a journalist. Thousands were laid off - even a couple handfuls at my old Gannett-run shop in Shreveport - and thousands more will probably face pink slips in the coming months. I offer them my prayers and deepest condolences during this, the worst of times in my relatively short lifetime, to be looking for employment.

7. What happened to Obama Girl? Looks like she was so excited about the election, she could barely keep her shirt on.

8. A high school friend of mine and a faithful reader of this blog is celebrating a birthday today. To honor the occasion, here's a video that reminds us Notre Dame was once a relevant football power. And that Lou Holtz was once lucid.

Continue Reading »