Pedophiles: The Ultimate Thief

Evil wears a bland, blank face.

It’s this sort of evil that makes me want to give up on human beings as a species.  First thing though it makes me want to throw up.

Fla. police: Toddler raped at SeaWorld

Suspect saved photos of assault on cell phone, sent pictures to e-mail account, cops say

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida authorities say a 26-year-old man raped a 2-year-old girl at SeaWorld Orlando and saved pictures of the crime on his cell phone, local media reported Friday.

Michael Grzybowicz of Cocoa Beach, Fla., has been held without bail in the Brevard County Jail since Saturday, Orange County sheriff’s deputies said.

Grzybowicz is accused of raping the child on Feb. 17 after her mother had asked him to briefly watch the toddler inside the theme park, according to Orlando TV station WESH.

Pictures of the alleged rape were found on Grzybowicz’ phone and sent to his e-mail account, the sheriff’s office said.

Records state that four photographs in the phone’s memory chip showed the violation of the youngster wearing a diaper and a yellow sun dress while she rode in a dark blue stroller, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

Grzybowicz told investigators that he didn’t know how the photos got onto his cell phone, according to media reports

I’m a man with a great deal of imagination, but I cannot think of a punishment worse enough to make this monster suffer well enough.

Oh, but how I would enjoy trying.

All the “he’s innocent until proven guilty” crap aside (What’s his defense going to be? “Heck, your honor. She looked at least five. She came on to me.”) It should take about 15 minutes to convict this creep. I predict a brief, unhappy, terrifying and hopefully an excruciatingly painful prison experience for Mr. Gryzbowicz.

In prison, fellow inmates derisively call pedophiles “chesters,” “tree jumpers” and “short eyes.”

Prison can be a menacing place for child molesters like the former Roman Catholic priest John Geoghan, who was killed in his cell Saturday — or for other alleged pedophile priests working their way through the criminal justice system.

“If you take out a sex offender like this former priest in Massachusetts, maybe the person who took him out thought he’d make a name of himself,” said Margot Bach, a spokeswoman for California Department of Corrections. “Taking [a pedophile] out would gain [the killer] a lot more respect among the other inmates.”

In fact, Geoghan’s accused killer, Joseph Druce, “looked upon Father Geoghan as a prize,” and plotted his killing for a month, John Conte, district attorney for Worcester County, Mass., told reporters Monday.

Though prison officials in some Northeastern states question the idea of an automatic social hierarchy among prisoners based solely upon their offenses, most agree that if there is one, child molesters and informants — derided as “snitches” — occupy the lowest rungs.

Such offenders, including Geoghan, often are placed into protective custody with other prisoners seen to be under a threat.

“Once their crime has become known, they usually don’t make it” without protective custody, said Lt. Ken Lewis, a corrections officer and spokesman at California’s Los Angeles County State Prison. “There’s a lot of [pedophiles] that can successfully make it … as long as they don’t brag about their offense.”

If they do talk, “they’ll get beat up,” Lewis added. “In some places he may even get his throat cut.”

That potentially could mean a lot of inmates at risk. At the end of 2001, about 83,000 state prison inmates, or about 6.8 percent, were male sex offenders who had committed a rape or sexual assault against a minor under age 18, according to Allen Beck, chief of corrections statistics for the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Just 56 state and federal prisoners out of a population of about 1.3 million were actually killed by other inmates during the yearlong period between July 1999 and June 2000, and it was unknown how many were pedophiles, Beck said.

But unpopular prisoners also can be harassed in other ways.

“[Child sex offenders] are at risk of being murdered, having their food taken, having their cells defecated and urinated in,” said Leslie Walker, a prisoner’s rights activist with the Massachusetts Correctional Legal Society. “Their life is truly a living hell.”

‘Scuse me while I wipe away a tear or two for the poor put-upon pedophiles.

Prisoners, many of whom are fathers, have no regard for this kind of low lives.  The same thing goes for the guards. You think they give a rat’s ass about some scumbag baby rapist screaming bloody murder while he gets gutted like a fish in the shower?  I sure wouldn’t.

The living hell is occupied by the children.  The hope is the child is “too young to remember.”  I have doubts this is the kind of thing even a child’s mind totally forgets happened.

This feeling of undiluted rage is a not very forgiving, but natural reaction to this kind of outrage.  I know I would never do the terrible things I’d like to think I’d do this slime. There is no punishment conceivable for someone who would sexually assault a 2-year-old.   I am only venting in equal parts anguish and frustration because the sad reality is you can’t shame a pedophile.  You can only try to stop them.    .

I can only take some cold comfort in the high likelihood this guy never walk the streets again breathing air as a free man and quite possibly not long as an imprisoned one either.   So please enjoy what I hope will be a relatively short rest of your worthless life, Mr. Gryzbocwicz. I pray your victim heals from both the physical trauma and possibly the mental anguish that may come. I have no such prayers for you.

Dwayne McDuffie 1962 – 2011: Death of an Icon

Dwayne McDuffie: a man, not a superman.

Of the world’s guilty pleasures the guiltiest are comic books.   There are few things more useless than an old comic book.   Certainly, there are a few that are worth hundreds or thousands of dollars to a collector, but with those rare exceptions most aren’t worth the paper they’ve printed on.

But comic books can still be fun and you can’t minimize the value of simple entertainment.   On rare occasions, comics can be more than junk food for the eyes.   They can actually be educating and doggone it a source of enlightenment.

I’m very saddened by Dwayne McDuffie’s untimely passage. I loved his Milestone work, especially Hardware and Icon. I’m going to out on a limb here, but I think it’s a pretty sturdy one: McDuffie was the most important Black man in comics.

It’s difficult to explain why McDuffie made such an impact if you have never read comics or stopped a long time ago.   When Milestone launched its first wave of comic books with Icon, Hardware, Static and the Blood Syndicate, they were simultaneously familiar, yet unique.   Icon was the Superman of the Milestone universe.  Hardware it’s Iron Man.  Static channeled Spider-Man teenage angst while Blood Syndicate was a X-Men mash-up of social misfits gifted and cursed with extraordinary powers.

Simply put, there had never been anything like Milestone Media.  Black super heroes such as Marvel’s Black Panther, Storm and Luke Cage had been around for a while (DC Comics lagged a bit behind with Black Lightning, but gained ground with the introduction of Cyborg in The Teen Titans and John Stewart as a Green Lantern).  Unfortunately, too many heroes of color were written as broadly silly and at times offensive stereotypes by White writers whose familiarity with Blacks seemed to have come from watching too much prime time television.

McDuffie (along with Denys Cowan, Derek T. Dingle and Michael Davis) formed Milestone Media in 1993, as an imprint distributed by DC Comics.   Finally, there were some super heroes for those fans whose reality was  different from millionaire playboys and their boy sidekicks.   Milestone sort of short-changed the sisters with only Icon’s teenage sidekick, Rocket, but it was refreshing to see Black super heroes who weren’t Xeroxed copies of a White one (John Stewart), angry Black men (Cyborg, Rage, Night Thrasher),  overly noble and regal (Black Panther, Storm) or exaggerated buffoons with plenty of muscle but short on brains (Luke Cage).

The problem wasn’t there were no Black super heroes.  The problem was they lacked authenticity.   McDuffie resolved that in the very first issue of Hardware.  The protagonist, Curtis Metcalf was a brilliant engineer who was very much the Angry Black Man, but his rage was spawned not because his parents had been gunned down by a thug or of some grave injustice he had suffered.  Metcalf was pissed at his boss for turning him down for a promotion and wounding his pride in the process.

As an editor and writer at Marvel, McDuffie was relegated to second and third tier comics such as Damage Control and Deathlok.  It wasn’t until later after he had established himself at Milestone and his work as a writer and story editor for the Justice League animated series did he get his shot at DC and Marvel’s premier titles.   I have the distinct feeling when McDuffie penned  these words in Hardware#1 he was articulating through the character he had created the frustrations he felt as a cog in the corporate comics machine.

“When I was a kid, I used to have this parakeet. And sometimes, when I’d open up his cage to clean it… he’d escape. The little bird would see the backyard and make his move. Invariably, he’d head straight for the window, fast as he could. And inevitably, crack his head on the windowpane… a barrier of glass, unseen and incomprehensible to him. So he’d try again, over and over… until, spent and defeated, he couldn’t try any longer. My bird made a common error. He mistook being out of his cage… for being free. The parakeet died a long time ago, without ever enjoying the freedom of the yard. The boy grew into a man, who spent many years bumping his head against a similar barrier: a ceiling of glass, unseen and incomprehensible to him. The lesson is clear: escape is impossible until one perceives all of the barriers. My name is Curtis Metcalf. But you can call me Hardware.”

An Angry Black Man, but one with a plan.

He never turned his back on comics, he worked hard to make them better, more diverse and more representative. He was proud, but not overbearing, even when Marvel gave him a raw deal by yanking him off Fantastic Four to clear the way for Mark Millar and then DC followed suit by mucking up his Justice League run.

He took it in stride. He handled it with class and didn’t stomp off in a huff. And he wrote some damn good comics and animated shows.   But he wasn’t afraid to step on toes and drop the knowledge on some knucklehead when they offended him.  Most famously, McDuffie’s sneering  “Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers” memo skewered the idiotic influx of Black heroes and their pimped out skateboards.

After I became aware McDuffie had passed away from complications following an unspecified surgical procedure, I felt a sense of loss though I had never met the man.   Maybe my familiarity with his impressive body of work made me feel like I had.   Because in the final analysis it’s the body of work that endures even when the flesh no longer does.  That kind of immortality is what every writer hopes for.

McDuffie never publicly called out the White fanboy base out as racists.  He didn’t have to get up in their face to point it out.   There were howls of indignation when he added the Black Panther and Storm as two members of the Fantastic Four and promptly had the Panther punch out the cosmic-powered Silver Surfer.   His multi-racial Justice League was both groundbreaking and infuriating to critics who denounced it as  “affirmative action comics.”  McDuffie didn’t back down or back off as he squarely addressed the issue in this scene from the undistributed documentary, Shaft or Sidney Poitier:  Black Masculinity in Comic Books

It takes courage to bite the hand that feeds you and tell folks hard truths they would rather not here.  Comic books are supposed to be an escape from the real world, but the problems of the real world have a way of creeping into comics.    McDuffie made his point without pointing fingers.    He simply gave the reader a worldview they might never had known existed.    The tagline for the debut issue of Static was a play on the character’s name:  “STATIC:  You don’t start none, won’t be none.”

Sometimes you have to start some static.   Until someone comes along and points out what’s wrong when others see no problem at all, nothing changes and McDuffie was a game changer.   The depiction of Blacks in comics is a bit more sensitive and a lot smarter than it was when Luke Cage was running around exclaiming, “Sweet Christmas” and shuckin’ and jivin’ in ways that were painful to see.    McDuffie made the imaginary world of comics reflect the world a lot more accurately that it ever had before.

Even Clarence Thomas recognized that.   Yeah, that’s right.  That Clarence Thomas.

Godspeed, Mr. McDuffie and God bless your family.   Goodbye game changer.

Slam Jam, Just Don’t Give A Damn.

He shoots...he scores....he bores.

So it’s come to this.   L.A. Clippers rookie Blake Griffin won the NBA Slam Dunk championship by jumping over a car as teammate Baron Davis lobbed an ally oop pass to him while a gospel choir crooned R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Gimme a break. 

What’s next?  Jumping over a flaming pit of oil or filled with live rattlesnakes?  Beyond the Cirque De Soleil meets Harlem Globetrotters shit,  it’s another sign of how unwatchable the NBA has become and the depths they’ve sunk trying to get people to wake up and pay attention.   The season drags on and on with bored players dragging their asses up and down the court, clanging bricks off the rim, missing layups, kicking the ball off their foot on a rare fast break while the paying customers slumber peacefully up in the nosebleed section of cavernous stadiums. 

I don’t recall when I stopped watching pro basketball.   Maybe it was about the time it was more fun playing NBA Live than watching a live NBA game.    The slam dunk contest was a lot more enjoyable when you actually had the league’s best players like Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan participating in it.    The dunk is the most overdone shot in basketball as it is.   A dunk is sweetest when it happens in an actual game and when someone is getting posterized.   At least when Dr. J. and his Airness dunked in the contest it was plausible to take off from the free throw line and soar in for a reverse, double-clutch, windmill dunk.   When was the last time someone parked their car on the court during a game?  

"Pouting? I am not. Stop pickin' on me."

The problem with the NBA lies beyond the usual suspects (too many teams with too little talent spread too thinly between them,  too many young players with lousy fundamentals, no sense of what the game was like before them and piss-poor attitudes currently exemplified by Sacramento Kings 1st round enfant terrible, DeMarcus Cousins, 20-year-old one-and-done wonder from Kentucky who already earns more in one year than most people will in a dozen lifetimes.  

Cousins has been fined, disciplined and suspended several times by the Kings, most recently for coming to blows with a teammate who took the last shot in a game Cousins felt should have been his instead.   Cousins is blessed with an all-star body and cursed by a pre-school attitude.   He’s spoiled, selfish, and has a huge sense of entitlement.  Justifiably so since he returned from his suspension in time to play in the NBA All-Star Rookies vs. Sophomores game where he scored 33 points primarily due to Washington Wizards point guard John Wall dishing out a record 22 assists.

Hopefully, Cousins didn’t punch out Wall’s lights for not exclusively feeding him all those dimes.

There are trouble signs in David Stern’s toyshop.  There’s big-time labor unrest on the horizon with the owners expected to lock the players out next season.  Stern says too many franchises are losing money and the league bought the New Orléans Hornets when no rich sap stepped forward.   The Kings are supposedly contemplating relocating to Anaheim.   Since the Kings have before resided in Kansas City and Cincinnati before cutting and running from those burgs the residents of Anaheim probably shouldn’t invest too much in DeMarcus Cousins approved gear.

Even more troubling for Stern, the longest-tenured commissioner in pro sports is a dire warning from Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights that the NBA’s core demographic, White men, may not be loving this game as much as before.   Writing in The Daily Beast  Bissinger says, “Based on various statistics, the percentage of African-American players in the NBA has remained relatively constant over the past decade, fluctuating between 72 and 75 percent. The number of foreign-born players has increased exponentially to about 18 percent. The number of white American players, meanwhile, has decreased from 24.3 percent in the 1980-81 season to roughly 10 percent now.”

How long will White guys rock LeBron and Kobe jerseys before they look around and notice the NBA has become a game dominated by players that don’t look like them?   The days when great White ballers such as Larry Bird, Chris Mullin and John Stockton dominated has been superseded by far lesser lights such as J.J. Reddick, Kirk Hinrich and Josh McRoberts. You know something is wrong when the Boston Celtics don’t have a single White player.  Take out the NBA foreign-born players and the best American born White player is Kevin Love who toils in obscurity because he plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves.  

Love played in his first All-Star game as a replacement for the injured Yao Ming.  He could have just as well stayed home with his two points and four rebounds in 11 meaningless minutes.    Hey Kevin, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash think you suck. 

If there’s no lockout and abbreviated season, I expect someone knucklehead to try to top Griffin by slam dunking over an Escalade instead of a wimpy little Kia.  Maybe next time pop the hood just before the contestants wearing jerseys covered in raw pork chops with a pack of starving pit bulls chasing them for an extra degree of difficulty.  

The fans will eat it up.  If not them at least the dogs will. 

White men can't jump but they can yank down rebounds.

Raging Against the Machine

The Republicans threw down the gauntlet. Will Obama pick it up?

I thought when you grew older you were supposed to get mellower with age.  That must only apply to wine because I just turned 55 and I don’t feel the least bit more chilled out.  If anything I’m getting even more radicalized and pissed off over injustice, inequity and stupidity.

It has come to my attention that I don’t think of myself as a Democrat any more.   I still vote Democratic if only because though I find myself  less and less enamored by the way they cave in and accommodate their opponents (yeah, Barack, I’m looking at you), I feel more home with Democratic wimpiness than Republican malevolence.   Given a choice between one political party that too often comes off as weak and another that comes off as mean, I opt for weakness.

I’ve meant to read Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? , his 2004 book the pondered how conservatives have mastered the game of grass-roots populism that was once a hallmark of the Democratic Party and won over the White working class all the while pursing economic policies that totally screw them over.   It’s a strange disconnect how people can be led by the nose to place their trust with politicians who  could care less about them.

My own disaffection with Democrats has only increased over the years as I watch President Obama’s fruitless efforts to “go along and get along” with guys like Mitch McConnell and other Republicans who ridicule and rebuff his overtures.   Why bother, Barack?   You know they hate your guts and are working day and night to make you a one-term president.   That budget the House Republicans just approved would slash some $61.5 billion in spending and among the cuts are $747 million for food assistance for the poor, cuts cash for community health centers, blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide and green gasses, zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Planned Parenthood, defunds key healthcare reforms passed by the previous Democratic-controlled House while adding another $8 billion to the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget.

This is your Republican Party:   a party of ruthless bastards who believe Obama wasn’t born here and wants more hungry and sick poor people breathing dirtier air, but at least they can can fuck like rabbits since they won’t be able to go get any birth control from Planned Parenthood.

Welcome to your line in the sand moment, Mr. President.   Hope you’re ready for your close-up.   If you’re not you might be well on the way of becoming that one-termer Mitch McConnell dreams of making you.

The nagging feeling that the Democratic Party is not necessarily the best vehicle of my political philosophy is summed up by Frank when he says, “They aren’t interested in the things I’m interested in. They’re not interested in preserving the welfare state, or preserving the New Deal. They’re interested in something else, in running their political party, and getting their contributions—they’re interested in sort of being Republicans, you know? If you were a man from Mars and you came down and looked at this country, which party would you rather be a hierarch in? Well, duh: the Republicans, they make a lot more money. Who wants to be this other party? You can see why, if the party worked according to the New Deal plan, it’s a party that would win all the time.  That works on paper.  But where’s the payoff?”

Every so often White folks wake up to the reality that their skin color alone does not make them part of the privileged class. They are often oblivious to how they are manipulated and screwed over by the elites until they are smacked in the face by the undeniable truth. White people have often believed being White gave them an advantage over the racial minorities. It still does, but as the pie get smaller they are becoming aware there aren’t enough slices to go around.

The problem is White people in America are often manipulated by the elites to stand and vote against their own interests.

There is this myth that if you work hard, play by rules you had no part in creating and stay in your own lane, you too can rise from poverty to the middle class to eventually, one day you too will be rich.   It is a damn lie.   Not every boy (and certainly most girls) can one day be President.  Not everyone gets to be pretty, sexy, slim and wealthy.   Most of us will never eat Filet Mignon and wash it down with glasses of Dom Perignon.

Most of us certainly will never give millions of dollars to buy politicians who will make sure we don’t pay too much in taxes and push through our little selfish agendas.

But as long as White people and other suckers of color buy into this dishonest myth they will play along  and play the game hoping one day they’ll win at it.   Which they won’t. You’d have better odds if you  took next month’s mortgage payment to Las Vegas and gambled it away.

“It’s a big club and YOU AIN’T IN IT,” George Carlin observed. Working folks in Ohio and Wisconsin are waking up to the cold reality. How many of the rest of usl need to be unplugged from The Matrix?

Carlin was right when he first said it and he’s no less right about it now.   Whose American Dream are we living?   It feels as if we’re not living our own but that of someone else we neither know nor ever see.

Resistance Rises Against Republican Governors Union Busting Agenda

Resistance is futile? Surrender is worse.

If you’re a member of a public workers, teacher, police, fire or any organized labor group and you voted Republican, I have a question for you. With Republicans across the country moving heaven and earth to break, bust and destroy unions are you happy now???

New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie created the template as a budget hawk by balancing his budget by going after the unions.   Now newcomers John Kasich and Scott Walker in Wisconsin are playing follow the leader by ending collective bargaining, stripping state unions of the right to strike and cutting wages and benefits.

State governors have to do what they can to resolve their budget deficits, many of which run into the billions.  But doing it by breaking labor unions is reprehensible.   The right to enter collective bargaining with one’s employer is not a right that once taken away will be easily given back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good, so I have no problem with state workers in Wisconsin raising hell and standing up.

Several former members of the Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers released a statement in support of their fellow Wisconsin union brothers and sisters:

“We know that it is teamwork on and off the field that makes the Packers and Wisconsin great. As a publicly owned team we wouldn’t have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans.

“It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. But now in an unprecedented political attack Governor Walker is trying to take away their right to have a voice and bargain at work.”

“The right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class. When workers join together it serves as a check on corporate power and helps ALL workers by raising community standards. Wisconsin’s long standing tradition of allowing public sector workers to have a voice on the job has worked for the state since the 1930s. It has created greater consistency in the relationship between labor and management and a shared approach to public work.

“These public workers are Wisconsin’s champions every single day and we urge the Governor and the State Legislature to not take away their rights.”


Rights taken away are hard to take back.


The NFLPA, now involved in negotiations with the NFL owners who may lock them out March 4 if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached issued a statement in support of the Wisconsin workforce,  “The NFL Players Association will always support efforts protecting a worker’s right to join a union and collectively bargain. Today, the NFLPA stands in solidarity with its organized labor brothers and sisters in Wisconsin,”

President Obama cut to the chase saying,  “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions.”

The American media–the supposed “liberal” American media–ignores and ridicules the labor movement.   Think about it:  there are plenty of programs devoted to business leaders and their perspectives.  Who speaks for the working men and women?

It’s not the GOP.     Locally,  both the Republican governor and  Republican candidates for city council are declaring war against public employees.

Joseph Healy, an endorsed Republican who is a remodeling contractor, said he would go further, seeking cuts of up to 20 percent in wages and benefits from the city’s unions, including police and fire. City leaders should threaten to cut 10 percent of the jobs unless the unions agree to pay cuts, he said.

“I’d go right to the jugular and challenge the unions,” he said.


Chris Christie is the template other Republican governors are following.


“Right to the jugular?” Nice. Is there any doubt Republicans see organized labor as a blood enemy?   Here in Ohio almost  two thousand public employees dressed in red t-shirts, descended on the Ohio Statehouse to oppose Senate Bill 5.   The bill, supported by Governor Kasich and the Republican-controlled House and Senate would strip state employees of the right to collective bargaining and punish those whom go out on strike.

Unions have a mixed record, but so does business.   When I worked for the state of Ohio I had to pay union dues though I wasn’t a full-time employee with benefits.   I wasn’t crazy about having to pay into a union that didn’t fully look out for me.    However, the Republicans have declared war upon unions and the more they do the more I see the necessity of unions.    The default position of many whom are not in a union or dislike them is to write off the state employees as being selfish and unwilling to compromise in a time of economic hardship.    What Kasich, Walker and other GOP governors are doing isn’t about creating new jobs or a better economic environment.   Their  aim  is to destroy unions.  You  don’t help the middle class by attempting to bust a group of workers whom are middle class.    The logic of destroying jobs to create jobs is ridiculous.

The Republican Party: the friend of the working man. Yeah, right. Those two hands you feel on your shoulders and that slight, but growing pressure at your rear? That’s not your physician giving you an examination.

Workers in Wisconsin and Ohio have met the enemy and the enemy are Republican governors who eagerly and gleefully are pursuing a goal to break unions, privatize state agencies, slash social services and eliminate any health, environmental and workplace regulation that might impede with businesses wanting to do as they damn well please.    For the American labor movement this is their Egypt moment.    They can either stand up and protest, organize and make the Republicans pay dearly in the 2012 elections or they can do nothing and be steamrolled by right-wing governors pursing an aggressive union-busting agenda.
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. ~ “V” for Vendetta

Congratulations, Esperanza Spalding. Who Are You?

The underdog beats the top dog.

Even though I’m not the biggest Esperanza Spalding fan in the world,  I’ve got to give girlfriend some love.   Nobody expected some bass-player with a big ass Afro to beat out this year’s boy toy, Justin Bieber, for the Best New Artist Grammy, but that’s exactly what she did.   Whenever the underdog beats out the top dog,  that’s worth noting.

Facebook and  Twitter blew up with people wishing her well, posting links to her videos and just generally celebrating the sister’s upset victory.   And I’ll bet percent of them have no idea who the hell Esperanza Spalding  is.  If  you could turn those congratulations into actual sales of her albums, she’d really have something to be happy about.

What’s been funny and simultaneously embarrassing to see how many Black people are ignorant of jazz and blues, but can hum every note of the latest Justin Bieber joint.

Like Nikki Giovanni said, “Ain’t we got NO shame?”     When more White folks are hip to jazz than the people who invented the genre in favor of some punk kid with a bad haircut fronted by Usher, it’s time for some mandatory remedial instruction in W.C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton and Edward Kennedy Ellington,  bitches!

I was talking to a woman who owns a really nice local jazz nightclub.  She put a post on Facebook asking people if they could have any act, living or dead, play the club, who would they want to see?   The answers included the likes of Prince, Sade, Michael Jackson, Bryan McKnight to play a 250 seat club.   I was like, c’mon people!   Gimme a break!   The lady sent me a message that she has to book acts with singers or she can’t get a decent turn out.  How pathetic is that?   If Herbie Hancock came to town would he have to start “singing” through a vocoder or do an extended version of “Rockit” before folks would show up?   That is sad, sad, sad.

I have two teenagers, one about to turn 21 and the other 17 in a matter of months, who have no interest in jazz music.  It’s as mysterious and as exotic to them as the Dead Sea Scrolls.   They know about Kanye and Ludacris and Beyoncé.   They don’t know jack about Miles and Nat and Ella.

There was a Bieber Backlash as some asshole fans crashed Spalding’s website, trashed her Wikipedia entry with death threats “YOU SHOULD GO DIE IN A HOLE…WHO THE HECK ARE YOU ANYWHERE” one fanatic posted in all-caps and accused the jazz bassist of “stealing” the award from Bieber.

Esperanza feels the love from the Grammys

The wrath of pimply, pissed-off,  prepubescent  girls under the influence of Bieber Fever is a force not to be underestimated.   Boo-fucking-hoo, ladies.   Your idol’s got a crappy 3-D movie stinking up the theaters.   Go watch that and have a good cry.   That’s show biz, kids.

Ah well, maybe it’s not so important as to shrug off whether Esperanza deserves the big push (“The brightest star on the jazz horizon?”   Please.) she’s getting as it is to applaud her providing what President Obama likes to call, “a teachable moment.”   I’d hate to think all my jazz albums might as well be burnt up right along with me when I kick off and they toast me up in the crematorium.    If Spalding’s success turns a few inquiring minds on to jazz, that’s not a bad thing.

So what if she doesn’t have a feature film or isn’t dampening the panties of 13-year old girls?   Justin Bieber  never got a round of applause from the President of the United States.    It all evens out eventually.

A Liberal In the Right-Wing Lion’s Den

Jesse Lee Peterson: on a mission to out-right wing the Whitest right-winger.

When I went on The Jesse Lee Peterson radio show, the last thing I was expecting was anything remotely resembling an intelligent and reasoned debate.   I knew I would try to  hold up my end, but I had no illusions Peterson, an ardent right-winger and frequent guest on Sean Hannity “let’s bash Obama” television show would do his part.   Conservative talk radio thrives on conflict instead of consensus and ranting at each other instead of reasoning together.

Peterson, an Atlanta-based preacher and right-wing radio host made his dubious claim to fame by saying crazy crap like, “Barack Obama hates White people, especially White men” and “A majority of Whites supported Obama to prove that they’re not racists.   And ninety-six percent of Blacks voted for him because of his race.   More and more Americans, both Black and White are beginning to realize the truth about Obama’s massive welfare plan and his desire to punish the producers in this country.  People are feeling let down by the “Messiah’ and regret voting for this supremely corrupt individual.”

Jesse Lee also says if White folks ever leave the United States and leave it to Blacks to run the country, “they would turn America into a ghetto within ten years.”    He also has thanked Whites for slavery and compared conditions on slave ships to “being on a crowded airplane.”   Peterson is regurgitating the  same old right-wing revisionist bullshit, but this time  in Blackface, but he’s got the microphone, not me.   Smooching White conservative ass has its benefits.

I was invited to appear on the morning radio show following my Sarah Palin article on The Root.   I didn’t expect to be challenged by the host or his callers and I wasn’t.   It was more like a series of jabbing and feinting as we circled around the issues throwing out  talking points.   I’ve done radio and television shows many times over the years and been attacked from the Left as a sell-out “Sambo,” so being ripped from the Right is nothing new.

Jesse Lee and I rapped for a while about the article with him blowing big sloppy kisses to the favorite MILF’s of the middle-aged conservative male, Palin and fellow nutcase, Michelle Bachmann.   What is it about these guys?   Do they need to update their porn collections or what?   I was expecting to spend no more than 15 minutes or so, but I ended up doing the entire hour.  He opened up the phones to the listeners and I sparred with three callers.   The first was more interested in yapping about how the media is trying to silence conservatives (zzzzzzz) and calling me a “piranha” who how I was “feeding on the blood and flesh of conservatives.”

I prefer a ham-and-cheese omelet from IHOP in the morning  to  chunks of bloody conservative flesh, but I wasn’t taking this seriously anyway, so I shrugged it off.   You have to respect someone to be offended by them and this goof was only interested in the sound of his own voice.   He certainly wasn’t interested in anything I had to say.

Brown shoes don't make it.

The next caller was at least polite enough to make his point and allow me to respond.   It was the last caller who almost pissed me off.   He hadn’t read the article.  All he needed to know was I was an eeeeeeevil liberal who was out to destroy America.    I don’t mind a radio show’s callers disagreeing with me.   I know I’m a visitor to his house and I’ve got to deal with his rules.

What I don’t like is some punk calling up and because there are thousands of miles between you and them, grows a pair and talks shit.    “Paul” said I was a “coward” who “ought to be ashamed for trying to lead Black people back into slavery.”  He went off about how Democrats have never done anything good for this country and were the party of racists.    Like every Black conservative who goes on that “racist Democrat” tirade, Paul fell back on listing a few Southern crackers (George Wallace, Bull Connor, Lester Maddox) who each and every one of them were long dead, buried, worm droppings.   Can’t these guys update the list to include a Democrat who hasn’t been dead for 20 years?

A battle of wits with a guy shooting blanks is boring,  so Jesse Lee asked me if I agreed with Evil Dick Cheney’s prediction that Obama would be a one-term president.    I replied how I agreed with Colin Powell when he said about Obama, “we elected a man, not a superman” and how Evil Dick  had been America’s worst vice-president who should have been indicted as a war criminal.

Two can play that “throw ’em some red meat and watch ’em come running ” game.   Jesse Lee went off on how Powell was a traitor to the Republican Party by supporting Obama over John McCain and how he had only voted for Obama because he was Black.   That argument never made sense because the flip side to it is even if Blacks did vote for Obama out of misguided race loyalty, the same  holds true for Whites voting for McCain, but you hear it all the time.

Before we could dialogue further,  the show ended abruptly without so much as a “thanks for coming on”  Jesse Lee had probably run too long or too close to the top of the hour break.  I wasn’t sweating it.  He had treated me fine, pronounced my last name right and allowed me to plug my website (though there has been a disappointing lack of hate mail).   Maybe Paul hasn’t learned how to write?   I hadn’t done anything to embarrass myself.  At least anything more embarrassing than having done the show in the first place.

I did tell Jesse Lee one bald-faced lie.   I said I’d be glad to do his show .   He immediately asked me to come back the next morning to discuss “the Messiah’s” State of the Union address.   Turning down the invitation wasn’t hard.  Whatever minimal entertainment value I had hoped to get from the experience fell far short of my meager expectations.    The show’s  producer sent me an e-mail and blew up my cell with a message  gushing  how Jesse Lee had appreciated me standing up for my tin foil hat, far out,  America hating, Obama loving socialist principles.   How would I like to be on the show again?

Um….No.   I wasn’t expecting Meet the Press, but I had rolled out of bed, done the show in my bathrobe and defended myself from a few grumpy conservatives.   It wasn’t much fun and it certainly wasn’t any sort of intellectual challenge.   .

Talking to Jesse Lee Peterson and the three stooges that make up his audience was like getting a bad blow job:  an experience worth remembering, but not worth repeating.

Hard Times Befallen Blue-Eyed Soul Survivors.

Annie knows androgyny.

I’ve always wanted to play an instrument, but I wouldn’t want to be a professional musician.   It’s hard enough to be a writer and feel your work is ignored.   It’s got to be worse to spend a year recording an album, know beyond a shadow of a doubt you’ve made some good music, hand it over to the record company to promote and then nothing.   

That’s not entirely true.   Simply because it’s become harder to find compelling new artists making interesting music doesn’t mean it’s not out there.   It’s just become tougher to ferret it out.    The record industry is collapsing in on itself.  Radio doesn’t break acts the way it once and today MTV stands for “Moronic  Television,” instead of “Music Television.” 

I used to have a pretty good ear to what could be a hit.   One reason was I used to play music at parties and the other was radio used to be relevant in showcasing new acts and there were plenty of them making great soul, rock n’ roll, jazz and pop.    That was yesterday.  Could someone as unconventional as a Tracy Chapman or Prince make it big now?    I seriously doubt it.   You Tube has become the go-to place for new music now, but you have to go looking for it.   It’s not going to show up on your TV and grab your attention before you cable surf away between commercials or while scanning the stations on the car stereo.      

The sense of discovering something fresh and first before the rest of the world gets hip to it is largely gone and it’s not coming back, at least not in my lifetime and certainly not with the traditional delivery systems of music dying on the vine. 

Such was the case with 2009’s  “Shining Light,” a little slice of pop perfection from Annie Lennox that came from nowhere a few years ago and pretty much stayed there.   Unfortunately I can’t embed the official video here, (which is pretty good) so you’ll just have to go to You Tube  to watch it.  Otherwise, you’ll have to settle for this “unofficial version” instead

It’s no surprise “Shining Light” wasn’t a hit for Annie Lennox here in America.   I’ve loved the song since I first heard it, but since Lennox is at that awkward age (too young to retire and too old to be relevant to anyone who wasn’t listening to her in the 80’s, there was nowhere for  “Shining Light” to go.     When she was strutting around in a suit and tie as one half of the Eurythmics  warbling “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”  nobody had seen a Scottish singer with shocking red hair and an aggressively androgynous persona.   It was one of the songs that just burrowed in your head and made a home there.  Now in a time where Lady Gaga is wearing dresses made of raw meat what once seemed cutting edge is merely kind of quaint.    I’ve never wanted to be that old guy who says “music was better in my day” (though it was), but everything that seems new now was that way when it was new .   

Making a good three or four-minute song was never all it took to find success and maybe I’m just being a bit wistful, but it used to seem as if was enough.     There has always been a place for White artists with soul.   The outpouring of fond memories after the death of Teena Marie reminded me how big the gap is between a Annie Lennox, George Michael, Hall and Oates and a Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke or Justin Bieber.   The bar feels like it’s been lowered, not raised, and not in a good way. 

Annie Lennox is one of my most favorite singers.   She personifies “blue-eyed soul” and if her voice alone wasn’t enough to close the sale, having the balls to go toe-to-toe with not one soul legend, but two (Aretha Franklin and Al Green) certainly should.    I like her activism on HIV awareness and women’s rights.   Musicians aren’t required to have a social conscience, but the ones that do impress me far more than those that don’t.  

The Eurythmics were a band that made good albums and great singles.  As a solo act, Lennox has made both with her first album Diva and Bare,  the third, both being near-flawless gems.  If anything I enjoy her even more now as on her own her voice sounds even more soulful and hasn’t lost any of his power.  

The only thing Lennox has lost is the spotlight, but then nobody holds the spotlight forever.   When Lady Gaga looks back in another 20 years or so she’ll know exactly what I mean.  

Why, yes she does.