Monthly Archives: May, 2013

No Love from the Patriots for Kyle Love’s Diabetes.

“I lose 20 pounds and you’re cutting me? What’s up with that?”

If May is such as slow month for the NFL why am I riffing about it twice this week?  Mostly because when one of the league’s premier franchises decides they want to do Evil just to be Evil, it really works my nerves.  Especially when it hits me in a personal way.

Two weeks after he was diagnosed with diabetes, former New England Patriots defensive tackle Kyle Love was released by the team via a non-football injury designation.

Okay.  Now that’s just wrong.

“This comes on the heels of Kyle having been diagnosed within the past two weeks with Type-2 diabetes,” Richard Kopelman, Love’s agent, told ESPN. “Naturally, we are disappointed that the Patriots decided to part ways with Kyle, especially in light of the fact that a number of elite professional athletes with diabetes – both Type-1, which is known to be far more difficult to manage than Type-2 diabetes – have had very successful careers in professional football, hockey, baseball and basketball.”

“Prior to the diagnosis, Kyle recently experienced unexplained weight loss, but since being diagnosed and having altered his diet, Kyle has regained most of the weight he lost, is in good health, and was not limited in any way during offseason workouts in which he was engaged up until being told he would be released.”

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has Type 1 diabetes which is much harder to control, but it’s easier to cut a starting defensive tackle than a quarterback.  Love has lost 20 pounds while dealing with his Type-2 diabetes.   The Patriots cut Love loose for trying to get healthy.  How cold of a move is it to kick a guy to the curb because he is trying to save his life?

At 6-foot-1, 315-pounds, Love is a big man, but the NFL is full of big men who are sloppy fat. Others are almost freakishly fast and strong even while carrying over 300 pounds.   Many football players develop diabetes and other chronic diseases when they retire from the game.  It seems to me Love is being penalized by the Pats for putting his immediate health first and they didn’t even give him a shot to see if his on-field performance suffered any drop-off.   Forget about Tim Tebow.  THIS is what being blackballed looks like.

“Mumble…mumble…wonder if they’ll have soup tonight at the shelter…mumble…”

Like 28 million other Americans who suffer from diabetes,  I am a Type 2, insulin-dependent diabetic and it bothers me that a NFL team can cut a player loose for sharing my sickness.  The thought that my employer would up and fire me because I have a disease sends a cold chill down my spine.   If you have diabetes and you’re a NFL player, you might want to keep that to yourself.   You might be  better off coming out as gay than a diabetic.

I’m hopeful some other team not as coldly ruthless as the Patsies will give Love a change to renew his career.  He should get a shot somewhere.  Love has played in 41 regular-season games over the last three seasons, with 25 starts, and was credited with 36 tackles and 5.5 sacks.  Love has flourished as a space-eater in 3-4 defenses where he frees up linebackers to make plays.  I’d love to see Love wearing 49er crimson-and-gold, but I would bet some other team with a worse record signs him off the street first.

“Having consulted with leading authorities on the effects of Type-2 diabetes, we have every reason to believe that Kyle will, in the immediate future, be at 100 percent, and will be prepared to participate in training camp in a couple of months,” Kopelman said. As Kyle said, ‘there is no way something like this is going to stand between me and a long and successful NFL career.’”

On the off chance he doesn’t have a long and successful NFL career because nobody picks him up after he clears waivers, Love might consider looking at suing the Patriots for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.   At the very least, the NFLPA should step in for Love and sue the living snot out of the Patriots over this dick move.  If they don’t, the players should disband their union because it is as useless as it is impotent. Deadspin read the EEOC regulations just to be sure:

Diabetes also is a disability when it causes side effects or complications that substantially limit a major life activity. Even if diabetes is not currently substantially limiting because it is controlled by diet, exercise, oral medication, and/or insulin, and there are no serious side effects, the condition may be a disability because it was substantially limiting in the past (i.e., before it was diagnosed and adequately treated). Finally, diabetes is a disability when it does not significantly affect a person’s everyday activities, but the employer treats the individual as if it does. For example, an employer may assume that a person is totally unable to work because he has diabetes.

I ‘ll add this to the reasons I hate the Patriots.  I already hate Bill Belichick for being a slob who dresses like a homeless person, cheats and is an arrogant asshole.  I already hate Lady Tom Brady for being compared to Joe Montana and being the biggest crybaby and a bit of a punk (I haven’t forgotten the play where he dropped into a slide with his spikes up and gouge Ed Reed in the man package).  I already hated their owner Robert Kraft for all those years I ate Kraft Macaroni and Cheese when I was a poor, starving college student.

Now I can hate the Patriots for being discriminatory dicks as well.   Best of luck to Mr. Love with both next season and the rest of his life.

“Kyle Love? Jeff Winbush wrote about you too?

When the Hammer Falls: The 1985 Bombing of MOVE

MOVE bombing

The good thing about not being tied to the daily grind of the professional chattering class is you’re no longer compelled to add your commentary to their issues.   What do I have to say about Benghazi, the I.R.S. investigating right-wing groups or the Justice Department monitoring the phones and e-mails of the Associated Press?

Benghazi is political theater designed to embarrass President Obama and weaken Hillary Clinton in 2016.   The I.R.S. has some explaining to do, but it did the same thing to left-wing groups during the Bush Administration and I need more details before deciding where the blame lays on the Justice Department vs. Associated Press mess.

At present, I’m more interested in not allowing the 28th anniversary of a terrorist attack directed by American politicians against their own citizens go without notice the way the scandal-seeking mainstream media is ignoring the bombing of the radical MOVE group.

Every now and then the forces of authority send a clear, unambiguous message that they have the ultimate power to decide who lives and who dies.  It was 28 years ago in Philadelphia when the people in power declared war against a ragtag group of Black survivalists with a militant streak.   Mayor Wilson Goode authorized his racist police chief,  Frank Rizzo to take out a back-to-nature commune called MOVE by literally dropping a bomb on their house. It’s a shameful episode of American history many Americans don’t know a damn thing about.

In 1972, an urban commune called MOVE took root in the City of Brotherly Love.   Members gave up most modern conveniences and took up the surname of “Africa” on the orders of their leader, James Africa.    When MOVE moved in to Powellton Village in West Philadelphia, they came with an agenda and an attitude to match.

MOVE bombing2

MOVE members surrender to the police after the 1978 confrontation.

MOVE members staged bullhorn-amplified, profanity-laced demonstrations against institutions which they opposed morally, such as zoos (MOVE had strong views on animal rights), and speakers whose views they opposed. MOVE made compost piles of garbage and human waste in their yards which attracted rats and cockroaches; they considered it morally wrong to kill the vermin with pest control. MOVE attracted much hostility from their neighbors.

You’re probably not going to be the most popular house on the street if you’re cursing out your neighbors with a bullhorn at all hours of the day and night and on a hot summer day they are treated to the unlovely scent of fecal material gently wafting through the window.   But then the members of MOVE wasn’t trying to be featured in Better Homes and Garden anyway.

The tensions between the cops and MOVE had smoldered since 1978 when Officer James Ramp was killed during a confrontation after MOVE was ordered by Mayor Frank Rizzo to leave their compound.   Eleven MOVE members were convicted in Ramp’s death.

Rizzo ordered the MOVE compound burned to the ground in a eerie foreshadowing of things to come.   In 1984, Rizzo was out and W. Wilson Goode, was elected as Philadelphia’s first Black mayor.   New year, new mayor, but the same old MOVE headaches remained.   The remaining members of the group relocated to 6221 Osage Avenue.   MOVE continued to harangue their neighbors with profanity-laced, political speeches delivered at all hours of the day and night and their compost piles of waste products.   They ignored citations from the city about health code violations.

Finally, on May 13, 1985, police attempted to arrest several MOVE members indicted for parole violation, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms, and making terrorist threat.   When the cops attempted to enter the MOVE compound the residents fought back and a gun battle ensued.

W. Wilson Goode

A commission set up to investigate the bombing determined the Philly cops fired some 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the house.  The commission found  Goode and police commissioner Gregore Sambor and fire commissioner William Richmond, had been “grossly negligent” and called the deaths of the MOVE children “appeared to be unjustified homicide.”

Sambor would resign six months later, Richmond retired in 1988 and Goode was reelected the same year after making a tear-filled apology on television.  No officials faced criminal charges.  The city would pay out $1.5 million to a survivor and relatives of the victims after a jury in federal court determined “excessive force” had been used by the police.

From a helicopter, police dropped an explosive device on the MOVE row house killing six adults and five children, the youngest being a toddler.   The resulting inferno caused a six-alarm fire resulting in 61 houses burned to the ground.   Goode supposedly gave orders to put the fires out, but for some reason they were allowed to burn unchecked.   The bodies of the five children were found huddled together in the charred remains of the basement.

Using archival footage, filmmaker Jason Osder’s documentary, Let the Fire Burn, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.  “I was frightened that kids died. I don’t think I saw it in the way that most adults did – that is, through the lens of race relations, or the lens of class, or the lens of police brutality. All of those are issues that adults think about,” Osder said.

“I was just a kid, and kids were killed and their parents didn’t help them and the police didn’t help them, and that was scary to me. I thought, ‘Could that happen to me?’  The answer is “Yes it could if the powers that be determine you are a nuisance and a threat to be eliminated.”

MOVE was a cult as much as a revolutionary group.  Relations between the Black community and the Philadelphia police were as bad as anywhere in the country.   This made for a volatile mixture that eventually culminated with the unprecedented step of a mayor authorizing the bombing of a building in his own city.

Frank Rizzo

While MOVE’s predilection to resort to intimidation, harassment and violence makes them unsympathetic victims, the lethal response of the Philadelphia city officials was a complete and heavy-handed overreaction.   You don’t use a shotgun to kill a house fly and you don’t bomb a house where you know children live to get to their parents.   Before going to such extremes,  the city officials should have exhausted every other option to bring about a peaceful resolution, but they chose to drop a bloody hammer down on the heads of their own citizens.

Blame can be assessed to both sides, but the final responsibility for the tragedy of May 15, 1985 forever remains on the blood-stained hands of Wilson Goode and his fellow terrorists.

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Is It Tebowing or Teblowing?

tebow

Welp, guess it’s time to take my talents to South Beach. Or South Dakota.

This is a slow time of the year for a sportswriter on the NFL beat. Free agency movement has dried up to a trickle. The draft is over. Training camps don’t open for months. What is there to write about?

If you’re Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports you dream up with a conspiracy theory. It’s not that Tim Tebow can’t find a job in the NFL because of his notable deficiencies as a quarterback. It’s because the 32 teams in the NFL got together and blackballed Tebow.

Silver has no quotes from anyone on the record.  He hasn’t stumbled across a secret memorandum or e-mails.   Tebow didn’t sit down and bare his soul wondering what had he done to provoke such unfair treatment.   All Silver has is vague speculations and few facts.

As a journalist who has consistently experienced the wrath of Tebow Nation — mostly for passing along the slings and arrows voiced by various NFL players, coaches and talent-evaluators — I’m well aware that many devotees of the world’s most celebrated unemployed quarterback carry a heavy persecution complex.

Yet as Tim Tebow‘s career wheezes to an underwhelming halt, with less apparent interest in his services than Massachusetts funeral parlors have in Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s remains, something strange is happening. Against all odds, I’m starting to wonder whether the man who helped the Denver Broncos become one of the league’s most stunning success stories in 2011 is getting unjustly blackballed.

This is some straight-up b.s. from yet another acolyte of the Church of Tebow. How can you decry the “cult-like following and media frenzy” that goes along with Tebow and then suggest Tebow is being blackballed?

Tebow is not being “blackballed.” His situation is the same as Charles Woodson, Vince Young, Michael Turner, Dwight Freeney, John Abraham and Brian Urlacher. He’s like hundreds of other homeless NFL veterans looking for a team to latch onto. In the time after the Super Bowl ends in winter and before training camps open in summer, teams cut loose players due to salary concerns, injury, age and for the reason Tebow was told to hit the bricks: lack of production.    Tebow was let go because he didn’t get the job done.

It’s as if Tebow is the unwanted love child of Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell.

So, even though I sort of understand why Tebow is toxic, the fact that he’s not even being given a chance to compete for a third-string job is troublesome. And just as I feel compelled to call out the league when it comes to injustices like the dearth of minorities in offensive play-calling roles, the apparent blacklisting of a quarterback who went 7-4 as a starter in 2011 and won a memorable playoff game over the Pittsburgh Steelers doesn’t seem kosher to me.

Let me see if I can explain this to you, Mike.

Silver babbles about Tebow’s 7-4 record and playoff win over the Steelers when he was with the Broncos. Well, whoopie-damn-doo and So what? The NFL is not a “what have you done?” league. It is a “what have you done lately?” and Tebow was presented with a situation with the Jets to take the starting job away from incumbent Mark Sanchez and he couldn’t take the job. Tebow was so bad, loudmouth braggart and foot fetish freak Rex Ryan looked down his bench, saw Tebow collecting splinters and tapped third-stringer Greg McElroy to start against the Chargers.

Tim Tebow-

“Compare myself to Jesus Christ? I’d never do that.”

“I liked what I saw from Greg against Arizona. And I like what I see on the practice field. I truly believe it’s best for our team right now. That’s how I feel about it,” Foot Freak Ryan said at the time.

That tells you everything you need to know about Tebow as a quarterback. He won, but he isn’t a winner. He wears a quarterback’s number, but he isn’t a pro quarterback. Not in the National Football League, not in the Canadian Football League and not even in the Lingerie League.

I’m not trying to hear this line about Tebow not getting a fair chance. What’s fair? He practiced with the team, the coaches had a chance to evaluate how well he did. Even a team as desperate for productive play at the most critical position looked at what The Chosen One and chose another option. It wasn’t a better option, but McElroy doesn’t come with baggage store that accompanies the Tebow Circus.

When its time to ride or die, Ryan had to decide between the second-string scrub with the drama or the third-string scrub with no drama.  For the Tebowmaniacs that was the ultimate insult, but being bad at his job doesn’t deter the Tebow groupies like Silver. They desperately want to see their hero back in the league and desperation makes you do desperate things. Like trotting out bogus “expert” opinions to support your own.

Isn’t there a coach out there who can help Tebow get the most out of his abilities? Logic would suggest that someone with his level of commitment would be a strong candidate for improvement.

It may have already happened: After Tebow was released by the Jets, one of the franchise’s former quarterbacks, Vinny Testaverde, expressed his disappointment to ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini. Testaverde, who had just spent a week working with Tebow in Florida, said he and another ex-NFL quarterback, Chris Weinke, made a key footwork adjustment that produced noticeable results.

“Chris and I looked at Tim careful and we were both amazed,” Testaverde told Cimini.

“Everybody has been focusing on his throwing motion, trying to fix that, but nobody had picked up his footwork. His footwork was all screwed up …

“We got his footwork fixed. His throwing motion is now a non-issue. He throws with what we call ‘effortless power.’ He doesn’t have that elongated motion anymore and his head isn’t moving two-and-a-half feet when he throws it.”

According to Pro Football Reference.com, Vinny Testaverde played for seven teams in his 20 year NFL career. He played in two Pro Bowls and no Super Bowls and his career record is 90 wins, 123 losses and a tie. In 2001, Chris Weinke was the starter for the Carolina Panthers. He won his first pro game 24-13 over the Minnesota Vikings. The Panthers would drop their next 15 consecutive games. In five seasons in the NFL, Weike would win only one more game and no, that is not a misprint.

These are the holy men who are going to resurrect Tebow’s career from the dead?

Another former Jet quarterback Boomer Esiason had an opinion about Tebow. “You can say whatever you want about Tim Tebow,” Esiason said. “He played some of the worst football that any quarterback has ever played in the history of the game last year at times.”

“… All you have to do is watch him throw the ball. Just watch him.”

I have and Michael Silver has too. I don’t know what he’s seeing that I’m not.

Is Tim Tebow a nice guy? Never heard a bad word about the guy as a person. Is his Chrisitan faith being held against him? No more so than it was against Reggie White, another religious player who made no secret or apology for his beliefs.    As long as he was getting the job done on the field, if Tebow were to drop to one knee, throw up devil horns and give praise to Satan,  most NFL coaches and owners could care less.

Pro football is not played in May.   When the doors open to training camp, it’s not only possible Tebow is invited by some team, it’s likely.   It’s a long season, quarterbacks get hurt and when one does,  Tebow will get a shot to latch on somewhere.    It will be up to him to earn a job.  Nobody owes him one.

Can you hear the Tebowphiles, chanting in the background? All we are saying … is give Tim a chance.

And is it possible — scarily — that I’m singing along?

Yes you are Brother Silver and please turn to the Book of Tebowing.   Or in this case, Teblowing.

“I’m coming to your team to take your job. Praise the Lord!” “Hope you’re renting, not buying, Jesus Jr.”

Paul Hardcastle’s No Stress Success

Paul Hardcastle‘s greatest strength? Consistency. Paul Hardcastle’s greatest weakness? Also consistency. Before you applaud or boo Hardcastle you must admit this: the man knows what he does best and he is not about to stop doing it based on what critics say when his global audience tells him that’s exactly the way they like it.

There is essentially no difference between Hardcastle’s solo and his Jazzmasters releases. The same musicians appear on both. The music is interchangeable as well. Even the album covers have similar generic art of sunsets, waterfalls and dreamy-eyed models deep in reflection.

Is it formulaic? Yes, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He delivers what his fans want: consistency and professionalism. Hardcastle is still a one-man band weaving smooth jazz and chill with a gutsier version of New Age soundscapes mashed up with electronic beats, airy wordless vocals, bubbling keyboards and silky saxophones riffs. This sort of workmanlike approach goes against the grain of the jazz aficionado, but that’s probably not Hardcastle’s target demographic anyway.

That doesn’t mean Hardcastle is averse to incorporating a few variations on his successful theme. On VII he goes long; as in 11 minutes long on the lead-off “The Truth (Shall Set You Free)” and a few other tracks blow past the six and seven-minute mark. Everything you would expect from Hardcastle is here. The beats, the vocals, the keyboard, the sax and that ever-present mood of dreamily lying in the grass staring up at the clouds as they roll by is here in abundance.

paul_hardcastle_vii

Where “The Truth (Shall Set You Free)” goes beyond expectation is it is a song suite without being called one, as it changes in subtle shifts and displays a greater than usual degree of innovation and complexity. Hardcastle layers the instrumentation and vocals with a change-up near the 8:00 minute mark. If it never quite achieves grandiosity, “The Truth (Shall Set You Free)” is proof Hardcastle is willing to push himself from time to time.

Nothing else on VII aspires to that level of ambition, though “No Stress At All” is admittingly inspired by the Kool and the Gang‘s “Summer Madness” it has some fine moments. The remainer of the album is the usual indistinct soundscapes.

Hardcastle may never have another big hit like “19” or “Rain Forest” in his repertoire, but maybe he doesn’t need one as long as he keeps his devoted following happy even as his continued popularity baffles his critics.    You can fight  but you’re not going to make Hardcastle switch.  He knows what he knows and he does what he does.

Track Listing: The Truth (Shall Set You Free); No Stress At All; Summer Love; Crystal Whisper; Easy Street; Dance of the Wind; Apache Warrior; Stepping On Shadows; Love Is A Power; The Truth (Shall Set You Free) Reprise

Personnel: Paul Hardcastle: keyboards, programming, unspecified instrumentation; Rock Hendricks: saxophones; Maxine Hardcastle: lead and backing vocals; Paul Hardcastle, Jr. : unspecified instruments; Helen Rogers: vocal samples, Mark Hasselbach: trumpet (2, 7)

This review originally published at All About Jazz.

The Hunting of Assata Shakur

From Revolutionary Icon to Most Wanted Terrorist in 40 years.

Suddenly hearing the name of Joanne Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur in the wake of her dubious distinction being named to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List jerked me back to the Seventies when I was young man.   I was never a true Black militant like Shakur, but I knew who she was, identified with her fight against a racist, oppressive U.S. government and saw her as a strong sister who had escaped the reach of the system by leaving the country only to turn up as an honored guest in Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

The feds are serious about branding Shakur as an enemy of the state.  The FBI placed a $1 million dollar reward (or bounty) for her arrest which along with the money New Jersey has kicked in puts a $2 million price tag on her head.

What did Shakur do to make her the only woman on a list of primarily Arab terrorists including Ayman Al-Zawahiri,  the replacement for Osama bin Laden as the leader of Al Qaeda?   The details why are found on Shakur’s wanted poster with the FBI’s version of events.

Joanne Chesimard is wanted for escaping from prison in Clinton, New Jersey, while serving a life sentence for murder. On May 2, 1973, Chesimard, who was part of a revolutionary extremist organization known as the Black Liberation Army, and two accomplices were stopped for a motor vehicle violation on the New Jersey Turnpike by two troopers with the New Jersey State Police. At the time, Chesimard was wanted for her involvement in several felonies, including bank robbery. Chesimard and her accomplices opened fire on the troopers. One trooper was wounded and the other was shot and killed execution-style at point-blank range. Chesimard fled the scene, but was subsequently apprehended. One of her accomplices was killed in the shoot-out and the other was also apprehended and remains in jail.

In 1977, Chesimard was found guilty of first degree murder, assault and battery of a police officer, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to kill, illegal possession of a weapon, and armed robbery. She was sentenced to life in prison. On November 2, 1979, Chesimard escaped from prison and lived underground before being located in Cuba in 1984. She is thought to currently still be living in Cuba.

Shakur was prosecuted, but is she now being persecuted?

A few of the details missing from the FBI’s version of events is Chesimard/Shakur was shot while seated with her arms raised, her fingerprints were not found on any guns nor was any gunpowder residue detected on her hands.   Despite the curious lack of evidence against her, in 1977 Shakur was convicted and sentenced to 33 years plus life

“No person, no matter what his or her political or moral convictions are, is above the law. Joanne Chesimard is a domestic terrorist who murdered a law enforcement officer execution style,” said FBI Special Agent Aaron Ford at a press conference announcing Shakur’s addition to the Most Wanted Terrorists list.

In an interview with Democracy Now,  Shakur’s attorney Lennox Hinds and Angela Davis,  another target of the government’s wrath, J. Edgar Hoover’s racism hatred, COINTELPRO and other initiatives declaring open season on Black revolutionaries denounced the renewed  hunt for Shakur.

“…It was a major shock to hear that Assata Shakur has become the first woman to be added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list and then to learn that they’re adding another million dollars to the reward, the bounty. Really, it seems to me that this act incorporates or reflects the very logic of terrorism. I can’t help but think that it’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today. Forty years ago seems as if it were a long time ago, four decades; however, in the 21st century, at the beginning of the 21st century, we’re still fighting around the very same issues—police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison, and so forth. So I see this as an attack not so much on Assata herself, although of course she deserves to be brought home. She deserves to be able to live out her life, and with justice and peace. It was wonderful that you allowed people, through this program, to hear Assata’s words, because, 40 years later, people really don’t know the details of the case and are not aware of the extent to which she was targeted by the FBI by the COINTEL Program, as Lennox pointed out. And it’s amazing that in 2013, where she is living in Cuba as a political refugee, having given—having been given political asylum by Cuba, she is still pursued. And actually, this is an invitation for anyone to travel to Cuba illegally and to kidnap her and bring her back to the United States, if not shoot her dead. This is—as I said, was an extremely shocking revelation.”

Angela Davis knows something about being a political prisoner.

I cannot fathom what Attorney General Eric Holder thinks going after a 65-year-old fugitive is going to accomplish.   Cuba won’t extradite Shakur and she certainly isn’t about to return to stand trial.  Sending the Navy SEALS in after her might work in the movies, but odds are it wouldn’t work as well as Zero Dark Thirty.

Perhaps what’s driving this renewed effort to get Shakur now is in the wake of the Boston bombings the Obama Administration is in search of another head to mount on the wall.   Shakur has successfully evaded the grasp of her pursuers for decades and they’re still ticked off about it.   Break out of prison, evade your captors, escape to Cuba and you’re not going to be forgotten by your enemies.   They will remember your name.

What does it gain the Obama Administration to pursue a vendetta against Shakur?   Is this Holder and Obama trying to look tough?   Is this their “Sistah Souljah” moment where they show how they won’t play favorites even when the terrorist (that’s a laugh) is a Black woman?

If Shakur was a threat to the United States before, she certainly isn’t now.   She isn’t mailing any letters contaminated with ricin or bombing any marathons.   The timing of branding her a terrorist is as curious as it is misguided.   Shakur has gone from a young revolutionary to a political prisoner to a old woman who will likely as not live out her last years in exile 90 miles away from her homeland.

Shakur should be left alone.   The good guys don’t always win and in this case, it’s not clear who the good guys are.

“Hi, I’m Iron Man. Give Me All Your Money.”

Just a couple of bros hangin’ out chillaxin.

The calendar says May but as far as Hollywood goes it’s officially summer.   That’s what happens when the first huge movie of the year  comes out and stomps the snot out of every other film in sight.   Iron Man 3 has big heavy metal boots and with a $175 million opening week and over $600 million worldwide, it’s stepping all over what we will laughingly call “the competition.”

The family rolled out for a Sunday matinee and everyone  seemed to dig the hell out of the latest adventures of Tony Stark and friends.  I’ve waited three years to wipe away the bad taste Iron Man 2 left . And since it pulled down $175 million in Week One, it’s set the bar high for “Man of Steel.”   IM3 had the same problem the Bond franchise had with “Quantum of So What?” All  Skyfall had to be was better than that  last piece of crap and that was a low bar to clear.

It was definitely more entertaining than The Dark Knight RisesYeah I went there because that was the last super-hero movie I saw with a crime-fighting billionaire in the lead so it’s a natural comparison to  IM 3.   It’s been almost a year and I’m still convinced  Christopher Nolan didn’t stick the landing to his  end of  the Batman trilogy.   Iron Man 3 improved on everything that was weak about Iron Man 2.  The villains were better.  Don Cheadle was better replacing Terrence Howard as James “Rhodey” Rhodes.   Even Gwenyth Paltrow was better as Pepper Potts (Pepper Potts…oh, that Stan Lee!) and usually all Paltrow elicits from me is drumming my fingers impatiently until she’s off-screen and Iron Man is hitting something.

The problem now for Marvel is can they resign Downey for “Avengers 2.”  He’s certainly in an excellent negotiating position if he’s interested in returning.   Why shouldn’t he be?  Downey’s resurgence as a superstar is based upon how natural he is as Tony Stark.  The executives at Disney may have a short list of possible replacements for Downey if he doesn’t return and Kevin Feige, the main man of Marvel Films has hinted the ability to swap out actors as their heroes is a cue they have taken from the James Bond franchise.

Maybe Marvel is right.  Maybe Downey is replaceable as Tony Stark (because anyone can play a computer generated Iron Man).   Since Christopher Reeve made us believe a man can fly in Superman, two other actors have sported the “S” on the chest in feature films.  Four actors have suited up as Batman,  three as Bruce Banner/The Hulk and two swinging around as Spider-Man.

But no actor has inhabited the alter ego of the hero as well as Robert Downey Jr.  has worn the skin of Tony Stark.  Stark is more essential to the success of the Iron Man franchise than Iron Man is.  If Stan Lee, Larry Lieber,  Don Heck and Jack Kirby didn’t create Stark with Downey in mind, they should have.   When you’ve made a movie that has grossed a billion with a big “B” as The Avengers has, do you really want to risk that success of the franchise based upon an actor’s possible salary demands?

Downey pocketed an amazing $50 million payday for The Avengers, more than the rest of the principal actors put together and is the unquestioned first among equals.  In a GQ interview, Downey indicated he might be nearing the end of his super-hero days as the 47-year-old wondered how many more times he wants to suit up in the red and gold armor.  The ankle injury he sustained on the set of IM3 during a stunt shut down production for several weeks and put Downey in a reflective mood.

“It got me thinking about how big the message from your cosmic sponsor needs to be before you pick it up. How many genre movies can I do? How many follow-ups to a successful follow-up are actually fun?”

Downey says he wants to win an Oscar some day and it doesn’t matter if playing Iron Man is a license to print money.    Playing a billionaire has made Downey a millionaire, but it won’t win him the prize and recognition he really wants.   However, don’t take that to mean if he’s done with all this super-hero stuff he’ll walk away without a few regrets.

“At whatever point I’m done with this, I’m going to have a bit of a crisis, because I probably haven’t even fully ingested how much I’ve enjoyed it, how much it’s meant. It so came out of kind of relative obscurity as this second-tier character from the Marvel universe, and I feel I was part of making it something more. But it also to me was just good filmmaking,”  Downey said.

If The Avengers is going to make its 2015 release date, Disney won’t have too long to make up their mind whether they’re going to need a fleet of Brink’s trucks to get Downey to re-up.    Whether or not he does is an open question.

As for the big SPOILER in the movie I’ll say this much about it.  The only people who will be left slack-jawed and pissed off by it are comic book purists.   Nobody else will notice or care.   Not one blessed soul.

Iron Man 3‘s $175 million opening is second only to The Avengers.  Does that make IM3 as good as The Avengers.  No, and it isn’t even  a close call.   The Avengers was something unique and I think it’s only competition is itself in the same way The Dark Knight can’t be matched.   As the end of the trilogy where does Iron Man 3 stack up?   It’s been a long time since I watched the first, but from what I can recall, Iron Man was a lot more fun than 2 (a root canal would have been too), but only slightly more than 3.

The Avengers
Iron Man
Captain America
Iron Man 3
Thor
Iron Man 2
The Incredible Hulk (but only because I have it on DVD and have never watched it).

I almost forgot the absolutely Very Best Thing about Iron Man 3.  Not once did I hear AC/DC’s “Back in Black” or Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”  Talk about overexposure!

ironman-3

Boney and “The Beat”

“I bet you think I’m wearing a hat because my head is cold, right?”

In the crowded field of 50,000 smooth jazz saxophones, only a handful are blessed with a distinctive sound of their own and if Boney James isn’t first in his class he should be high on the list. James can play with both raw power and gentle, soulful restraint. There’s more restraint than power on The Beat, the 14th album by the New York-born saxophonist, but James has always opted for underplaying a bit than roof-raising soloing.

James’ background in soul music playing keyboards and sax for Morris Day, the Isley Brothers, and Bobby Caldwell has weighed heavily in his fondness for R’n’B and hip-hop, but The Beat drops a few hints of his love of Latin rhythms as well best evidenced in a laconic version of Stevie Wonder‘s “Don’t You Worry About A Thing” and on the boppish “Batucada (The Beat)” where James works out with his frequent collaborator, trumpeter Rick Braun. Though they won’t remind anyone of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, the James and Braun pairings tend to bring out the most purely “jazz” moments in each other.

It wouldn’t be a Boney James record without a few guest vocalists dropping by and The Beat is no exception with three; “Missing You” featuring guitarist Jarius Mozee and Abi Mancha’s nicely understated whisper, “Maker of Love” gives Raheem DeVaughn an opportunity to give praise to an attractive lady’s attributes, and Natalie “The Floacist” Stewart gives the gents equal time on “The Midas (This Is Why).”

boney james_the beat

If you aren’t already a member of Team Boney, The Beat may not be the release to get you to sign up. For the faithful who helped propel the album to the top of the charts James remains a formidable force in contemporary jazz, standing at the top and giving his competition an even steeper hill to climb.

Track Listing: Don’t You Worry About A Thing; Sunset Boulevard; Missing You; Batucada (The Beat); Maker of Love; Mari’s Song; Powerhouse; The Midas (This Is Why); Acalento (Lullaby); You Can Count On Me

Personnel: Boney James: soprano, tenor and alto saxophone, flute, keyboards; Brandon Coleman: keyboards (1, 2); Vinnie Colaiuta: drums (1, 9, 10); Lenny Castro: percussion (1-4, 6-10); Rob Bacon: guitar (2, 4, 7, 10); Dewayne “Smitty” Smith: bass (2, 10); Omari Williams: drums (2, 4, 7); Jarius Mozee: guitar, keyboards, programming (3); Abi Mancha: vocals (3); Tim Carmon: keyboards, keyboard bass (4, 6, 8); Alex Al: bass (4, 6, 7, 9); Rick Braun: trumpet (4); Raheem DeVaughn: vocals (5); Phil Davis: keyboards, programming (5); Mark Stephens: keyboards (7, 9); Natalie “The Floacist” Stewart: vocals (8)

This review originally appeared at All About Jazz.com

Trapped In the Closet When Bigotry Blocks the Door

"Multiple sources say I'm a damn fool."

“Multiple sources say I’m a damn fool.”

Sometimes the backlash to a news story interests me more than the story does.

Veteran NBA journeyman Jason Collins coming out as the first active player in the NBA is a big deal.  It’s  not a new deal.  Women have come out for years in tennis and basketball, but this is a man’s world so apparently nothing means anything until a guy does it first.

Collins has bounced around the NBA with six teams and the kindest thing you can say about his game is he’s tall and far from a prime-time player.  As a NBA insider, Chris Broussard is a prominent figure in ESPN’s army of experts.   During a discussion on Outside the Lines with LZ Granderson, a fellow ESPN contributor and former Journalist of the Year as named by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Broussard showed another side of himself; a devout Christian who condemns homosexuals  for “openly living in unrepentant sin.”

“I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is. L.Z. knows that. He and I have played on basketball teams together for several years. We’ve gone out, had lunch together, we’ve had good conversations, good laughs together. He knows where I stand and I know where he stands. I don’t criticize him, he doesn’t criticize me, and call me a bigot, call me ignorant, call me intolerant.

jason_collins-si

“In talking to some people around the league, there’s a lot Christians in the NBA and just because they disagree with that lifestyle, they don’t want to be called bigoted and intolerant and things like that. That’s what LZ was getting at. Just like I may tolerate someone whose lifestyle I disagree with, he can tolerate my beliefs. He disagrees with my beliefs and my lifestyle but true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle that as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names.

“… Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an opnely premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”

– Chris Broussard, ESPN, 4/29/2013

Jason Collins in “action.”

Throwing in premarital sex between heterosexuals with an “openly homosexual lifestyle” is a slick bit of false equivalency by Broussard but I don’t see him criticizing an “openly HETEROsexual lifestyle. ”  Not everybody believes in the Bible, Jesus Christ or God and their lack of belief deserves the same tolerance as Broussard’s  devout Christian beliefs.

The capper is this bit of smug intolerance by Broussard, “So I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”

Religious Theory 101 taught by Professor Broussard will be beginning in 10 minutes class, so please take your seats!

It’s good Broussard can contain his disgust with Granderson’s sexual orientation long enough to play a pick-up game of basketball and swallow a sandwich afterwards without gagging on it, but he’s still playing the “love the sinner, hate the sin” card.   How’s that shake out for the millions of other gays who Broussard doesn’t break bread with?  To me it sounds like some of that bigotry, ignorance and intolerance Broussard doesn’t want to be associated with, but pointedly perpetuates is kicking in.

Broussard could have–SHOULD have–said he had “no comment” and kept his religious dogma to himself. Instead he chose to cast the first stone.

He can’t complain now when he gets stones flying back in return.

We’re all entitled to our opinions and they can be as strong as vinegar, but when we put those opinions out there on Front Street, we’re RESPONSIBLE for what we say and write. Broussard is an employee of ESPN and if they choose to defend or suspend him that’s their call. There will be consequences either way. But when you go on national TV saying things about homosexuals that Broussard did, you aren’t going to win that fight. Homophobia is indefensible and even when presented as “God’s will” it remains so.

If Broussard is so religious, how does he square the NBA playing games on Sunday, the Lord’s Day?  Doesn’t the Bible frown on tattoos?  If it does LeBron James is going to hell.  I look forward to Broussard’s future expose of NBA Baby Daddy drama caused from all the horny heterosexuals spreading their seed in the wombs of willing women across America

That should be upcoming sometime soon.  Like NEVER.  Thou shalt not infringe upon the prerogative of straight men to screw around.

The beliefs of Christians should be respected, but their faith does not trump another human being’s rights to live and love how they choose. Aren’t there enough dire emergencies for people of religious faith to worry about than what consenting adults do?

I no more want a “gay agenda” intruding upon my life than I do a “Christian agenda.” This is an excellent opportunity for people to mind their own business. They should take it.

Let Jason Collins live his life. You don’t have to applaud his decision to come out but to stand in judgment of it risks your own moral standing as your own sheets may not be as spotless as you imagine them to be.   The end of the world has been prophesied since the first man looked up at the darkening sky in fear until he realized it was only the sun setting and night falling.

One day the world will end.  I sincerely doubt its cause will be because two people of the same sex fell in love.

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