A Case of Cause and Fatal Effect?

DT_Kimani Gray

Kimani Gray was either the villain or a victim.

If you’re a young Black or Latino male living in New York City, your color makes you a suspect and suspects get stopped and frisked.

Some get dead.   Can I say for a fact the heavy-handed Stop and Frisk policy of the New York City Police Department that carries the blessing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a contributing reason to why Kimani “Kiki” Gray is dead after being gunned down by two undercover cops?   No, I can’t say that.  What I can say is when the police are given a blank check to stop whomever they want for whatever reason they want, they will abuse  the policy and when people are always considered a suspect eventually one of them is going to get hurt.

Or blown away in a hail of 11 bullets like Gray was.   This is what we know so far:

 Kimani ‘Kiki’ Gray was shot several times by two officers patrolling East Flatbush in an un-marked car around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night.

According to the NYPD’s account, the officers spotted Gray standing with five other young males in front of a home at E. 52nd St., near Tilden Ave. As the officers approached, Gray separated from the group and adjusted his waistband in a manner the officers deemed suspicious, the department says.

“After the anti-crime sergeant and police officer told the suspect to show his hands, which was heard by witnesses, Gray produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers, who fired a total of 11 rounds, striking Gray several times,” Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department, said.

Gray was taken to Kings County Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The officers–one a veteran of eight years, the other a veteran of five–have not been identified. They have been placed on administrative duty while the shooting is investigated.

The kid was “adjusting his waistband” and he “produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers.”  What’s the problem here?  Sounds like an open-and-shut case.  The cops did their jobs and a thug is pushing up daisies.   Next!


Following Gray’s death there have been protests and clashes with cops.

But the devil is always in the details and some of the details don’t line up with the official version.

Tishana King claims to have watched the entire scene unfold from her window. She told the Daily News she is “certain [Gray] didn’t have anything in his hands” when he was shot.

King says Gray was backing up when the officers began shooting. “Kimani started backing up,” she said. “The cop took out his gun and started firing at Kimani.”

“His [Gray’s] hands were down,” she said. “I couldn’t believe he let off [fired] his gun. There was no reason. No false move.”

A police source told the Daily News the officers who killed Gray initially reported to supervisors that he pulled a gun. King gave a tape recorded interview to the NYPD hours after the shooting and never mentioned the teen possessing a firearm.

A .38-caliber Rohm’s Industry revolver was found at the scene.

Multiple witnesses have claimed Gray begged not to be killed.

Sharon Smith told the Voice she witnessed the shooting and said her daughter was outside when it happened; “[She] heard him say ‘don’t kill me, don’t kill me.’ And they say ‘stay still’ or they going to shoot you again.”

Eventually, I can accept the truth.  It may take me a while before I do and I’ll get there after kicking and screaming all the way, but even when it ticks me off, I’ll accept the truth no matter how unpleasant it is.

In Mike Bloomberg’s New York,  if you’re young and Black you’re guilty of something until you prove you’re not.   Kimani Gray was young, Black and now he’s dead.  That IS the truth.

Is the mayor more worried about Big Gulps or bad shootings?

Who was Kiki Gray?   It depends on who’s asking the question.   When it’s his friends Gray is just another 16-year-old hanging on with his boys smoking some marijuana when the cops roll up and the drama starts.   There are reports in the New York Daily News that Gray might have been a member of the Bloods.  There is a video  of  a teenager who looks like Gray seen taunting and slapping a rival Crips member.

There are two problems with this.   The first is a lot of kids  look just like Gray.   The second is even if Gray was in a gang, did those cops know that before they shot him?

This is exactly what is wrong with these “official investigations.”  The names of the cops haven’t been revealed.  What’s in their personnel files?  Have they ever been involved in any shootings before?  Gray may not have been an angel, but what dirt is under the fingernails of the guys who killed him?

The  NYPD’s official policy is one of intimidation, harassment and confrontation.    Did Gray run because he was afraid of being stopped and frisked while he was carrying a gun?   Did he compound the mistake by pulling the gun and pointing it the cops?   The NYPD and the newspapers are saying that’s exactly what he did and that’s why he’s dead now.  Eyewitnesses tell a different story.   Whose version of events will be the final one?

You're not under arrest, but you are under suspicion.

You’re not under arrest, but you are under suspicion.

We already know that answer, don’t we?   In a surveillance society where a large portion of your population are permanent suspects the policy of  Stop and Frisk can be the cause with fatal side effects.

March 14, 2013 —  The NYPD is set to record its 5 millionth stop-and-frisk encounter under Mayor Bloomberg today, according to an analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union based on an extrapolation of Police Department data.

About 4.4 million of the stop-and-frisk encounters, or 88 percent, were of innocent people as they did not result in an arrest or summons. More than 86 percent of people stopped were black or Latino.

“This disturbing milestone is a slap in the face to New Yorkers who cherish the right to walk down the street without being interrogated or even thrown up against the wall by the police,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “The NYPD’s routine abuse of stop-and-frisks is a tremendous waste of police resources, it sows mistrust between officers and the communities they serve, and it routinely violates fundamental rights. A walk to the subway, corner deli or school should not carry the assumption that you will be confronted by police, but that’s the disturbing reality for young men of color in New York City.”

The NYPD have stopped the citizens of the city they are charged with protecting over 5 million times.  That’s more than the combined populations of Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

That’s something to think about.  In a city where the color of your skin constantly makes you a suspect it’s easy for a routine stop-and-frisk to escalate into a fatal encounter.


Hiromi’s Slow Burn to Success

There are two things I’ll miss when I give up reviewing jazz this year.   The first is simple: free CD’s?   Who could gripe about that?   The second is the sublime joy of discovery that comes when a previously unknown musician is introduced to your musical world and eventually takes up permanent residence there.

It was ten years ago when Hiromi Uehara released her debut, Another Mind.   I was on my way to Nashville for a journalism workshop and I tossed the album in the bag along with the rest of the music for the road trip.   The acoustics of a car are not the optimum listening environment, but  traveling for six hours and almost 400 miles gave me plenty of opportunity to thoroughly explore the Japanese born, Berklee College of Music educated pianist.

It’s easy to view Another Mind as Hiromi’s graduating thesis paper set to music.   Among her mentors at Berklee was jazz bassist Richard Evans who taught arranging and orchestration, two skills she has put to fine usage.   Evans produced his student’s debut along with his friend and colleague, Ahmad Jamal, another stylish and visionary pianist whom Miles Davis name-checks several times in his autobiography as a major influence.

“She is nothing short of amazing,” Jamal said, “Her music, together with her overwhelming charm and spirit, causes her to soar to musical heights.”

Eight albums, two in-concert details, and collaborations with Chick Corea (Duet) and Stanley Clarke as part of an acoustic trio with drummer Lenny White on the exceptional Jazz in the Garden and again on Clarke’s “last” electric album, The Stanley Clarke Band, Hiromi is firmly established as one of the brightest young talents playing today.    Esperanza Spalding, her record label mate, gets most of the publicity as the latest “savior” of jazz, but that’s too big of a burden for her to carry alone.   Spalding should share the load with Hiromi, Robert Glasper, Stefon Harris and Jason Moran to name a few of the young lions holding true to the tradition even as they push it forward.

The opening notes of “Move” from Hiromi’s newest album of the same name start off with one note being repeated like water drip-drip-dripping from a faucet until Simon Phillips on drums and Anthony Jackson on contra-bass join together to create what she calls “three-dimensional sound.”   Clocking in at over eight minutes in length,  Hiromi constructs an elaborate pastiche of elaborate soloing, funky grooves and an interplay with Phillips and Jackson that is both exciting to hear and astonishing to see.

There is always an overarching theme to Hiromi’s recordings and Move is no different.  The nine tracks are focused on living life on a normal day.   “You wake up and go to work and then hang out, she says.  “The album is like a soundtrack for a day.”

If Move is any indication Hiromi’s days must be pretty busy.    She’s a serious person who takes the music seriously but she has always balanced her creative temperament by not taking herself too seriously.     Her approach to the music has always been while a song like “Move” is a labor of love, it is labor.   “It’s one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever written,” Hiromi says.  “I had great musicians with me, and we worked hard on that song.   In the studio and rehearsals, we spent a lot of time to play it right.  It’s very tricky because when a song sounds difficult, it’s not fun.   It has to groove and it has to go beyond ‘this is a difficult song.’  It has to make you groove and feel the rhythm.  To reach that point really took some time. ”

You mean you can’t just walk on the stage and just start playing?  You have to rehearse and learn how to play the song?    No wonder jazz gets treated like an ugly puppy nobody wants to play with.  It takes work.

Those that can’t do teach and those that can’t teach, review those that do.  That’s what my small little contribution to the health and well-being of jazz has been.   It is a source of satisfaction to know I’ve hipped others to Hiromi such as the music critic from the daily newspaper who sat with me at the annual Jazz and Rib Festival and grooved along to her live performance which is as inventive and energetic as her recordings.   It’s a good feeling to spread the knowledge about a true  talent that actually has paid her dues  and is goes about her business without  flashing skin, starting beefs, and making a spectacle of herself.

Hiromi’s way is a slow burn to success..  Letting the music instead of the hype do the talking .  It seems like such an old-fashioned approach to allow the substance to match the style,  but this is what is Hiromi is doing and  she continues to do it well.    Not everything she tries always works, but it never fails to keep me interested in what she’s doing next.    The anticipation of “what’s next?” is what motivated me to follow Miles Davis, Prince and Santana even when they led to creative blind alleys.     It hasn’t happened to Hiromi yet.   Hiromi has held my interest for a decade now and my trust has been rewarded by her continued innovative, adventurous and dazzling originality.

Andrew Bynum: I’m Robbing You Without A Gun and My Hair Looks Fabulous

The Jackson 5 called and they want their hairstyle back.

I’m not much of a NBA fan and not even much of a Philadelphia 76ers fan.   Some of my favorite players won Sixers uniforms.   Moses Malone.  Charles Barkley.  Maurice Cheeks.  Allen Iverson.  Julius Erving.   There isn’t anyone on the 2012-13 edition of the Sixers remotely approaching those guys.     The NBA is full of teams with dummies in the front office, coaches whom  haven’t won a thing yet are on huge ego-trips, poorly put together rosters, overpaid players loafing through the grind of the season  and it all cascades into a waterfall of failure.    This year’s 76ers accomplished all of that by making one wrong move.

That was supposed to change this season.   Having made some progress in the playoffs last year the Sixers got the idea they were only one player away from really making some noise and possibly challenging the mighty Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy.   So they let Lou Williams, their leading scorer, leave as a free agent.   They used the amnesty clause to cut starting power forward Elton Brand loose.  Finally, they traded their best defensive player, Andre Iguodala as part of a three-team deal that brought the last piece of the puzzle to Philly, a legitimate 7-footer in the middle, Andrew Bynum.

And they lived miserably ever after.    It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  Sometimes you try to go big and make a big deal only to have  it go as horribly wrong  as possible.   That’s what happened to the Sixers.

Bynum hasn’t played a second for the Sixers due to his lingering knee issues and it looks like he never will.    The Sixers have the fifth-highest payroll in the NBA and over $32 million of it is tied up between two guys, Bynum and Brand, that haven’t played one second for them.   That goes beyond simple bad luck to bungling on a grand scale.    Having paid Bynum $16 million to do nothing but re-injure the knee he was supposed to be rehabbing while  bowling and to show off his hairstyles, the 76ers now find themselves in the awkward position of probably overpaying to keep him for next  season.

The person who will likely be blamed for this debacle is head coach Doug Collins.   Not a bad guy or a bad coach, but part of a “brain trust” that brought Bynum in, shipped a lot of players out, and all they have to show for it is a 23-38 record, losing 11 of their last 20 games, no playoffs and a nice seat at the NBA Draft Lottery.     This isn’t all Collins’ fault, but a lot of it is.   He wanted Bynum in the worst way and that’s exactly how he got him.

It’s sad to think there isn’t a coach in the NBA who could win with this team, but let’s face it when Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown are getting major minutes in your frontcourt you are doomed.  Collins envisioned a Hawes/Bynum duo with Hawes playing the Pau Gasol role,  a skill set Hawes has never shown he has.  They would have been better served trading for Pau Gasol.

Barring a signed (not a sure thing) and a healthy (even less of a sure thing) Bynum, odds are the Sixers aren’t going to be any better next year even with a high draft pick because  Collins hates  giving minutes to young players.   Too bad because the Sixers need to ship out much of the scrap and spare parts that clog up the roster now.

The Sixers should bring back Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie.   With the exception of Holliday, none of them are All-Star material, but they could form the nucleus of a team that might one day be competitive if it decided to build its own talent through the draft rather than look for quick fixes that aren’t like Bynum.   I left off first round pick Evan Turner because while he may not be a bust,  he is beginning to look like he’ll never be a star either.    It’s  hard to since Turner is  trying to show what he can do without much help from the coach and a roster starved  of talent.

Either way, the Sixers have been bad enough to justify firing Collins and there’s got to be someone that can build something resembling a competitive team. Toward that end with   games left the talk is starting would it be better for the team if they started losing more in order to improve theirNBA draft lottery chances?

Collins would sooner commit ritual suicide than deliberately tank games to do…well, to do what exactly?  Add a few more ping-pong balls in the hopper?

“Stressed out? Do I LOOK stressed out?”

At some point you would think someone in the front office would go to D.C. and say, “Doug, we love ya man, but you gotta get over your infatuation for creaky old vets who can’t play anymore and ‘talents’ who really aren’t.   You’ve got to get younger, you’ve got to follow the formula of the Oklahoma City Thunder where you draft and nurture your own talent.   If you absolutely must make a deal for a veteran to fill a perceived need, don’t overreach to the point it sets you back instead of moving you forward.

LeBron James summed up The Sixers season in 20 words:  “Holiday is a great player, but he needs help,‘’ James said. “We all thought Bynum would be a huge piece for them.”   So did the Sixers.

This is the guy the Sixers wanted..

Another year of The Andrew Bynum Show starring his bad knees and fabulous hair styles would be reason enough to sue to have the 76ers broken up for rank incompetence and gross stupidity.

No way can you give this guy a max-deal contract.   It would be like giving a flame thrower to a pyromaniac.   You offer him a short three years and if he doesn’t like it, let him walk and Houston  or some other sucker can overpay him.

Remember the words of the former teammate who said of Bynum  “I’ve never met another player in the league who likes basketball less.”  Is that a guy it sounds like you want to build around?

We’ve seen ample evidence Bynum has no heart for the game, no loyalty to his teammates and whenever an opportunity arises to look immature and selfish he takes it.     The temptation is to write this season off as a lost cause, back up the Brink’s truck, shower Bynum with guaranteed millions and hope like hell he plays hard.


This is the one they got.

Nate Thayer Bites the Hand That Doesn’t Feed

Mr. Thayer doesn’t do freebies.

The sad story of one Mr. Nate Thayer and his experiences with The Atlantic magazine will sound very familiar to any freelance writer whose hopes of writing for a major, high-profile publication were dashed by the sad reality of learning they weren’t going to be paid for doing so.

Thayer’s somewhat tense exchange  with an editor of The Atlantic went viral and provided an example of the freelancer’s frustration in finding paying markets for their work.   Thayer published the entire correspondence on his blog.

Thayer: Hi Olga: What did you have in mind for length, storyline, deadline, and fees for the basketball  diplomacy piece. Or any other specifics. I think we can work something out, but I want to make sure I have the time to do it properly to meet your deadline, so give me a shout back when you have the earliest chance.

The Atlantic: Thanks for responding. Maybe by the end of the week? 1,200 words? We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month. I understand if that’s not a workable arrangement for you, I just wanted to see if you were interested.

Thanks so much again for your time. A great piece!

Thayer:  I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children. I know several people who write for the Atlantic who of course get paid. I appreciate your interest, but, while I respect the Atlantic, and have several friends who write for it, I have bills to pay and cannot expect to do so by giving my work away for free to a for profit company so they can make money off of my efforts. 1200 words by the end of the week would be fine, and I can assure you it would be well received, but not for free. Frankly, I will refrain from being insulted and am perplexed how one can expect to try to retain quality professional services without compensating for them. Let me know if you have perhaps mispoken.

You don’t give your magazine away, so why should you expect writers to give you their work for free?

She hadn’t misspoken and Thayer went nuclear on The Atlantic after the editor-in-chief, James Bennett said in a statement,  “The case involving Nate Thayer is unusual. We did not ask him to report and write an original piece for us, but we did ask if he’d be interested in posting a condensed version of an article he had already published elsewhere, which we would have done with full credit to the original publisher. We rarely do this outside our established partnerships, but we were enthusiastic about bringing Thayer’s work to a larger audience — an outcome, I guess, we have now, backhandedly, achieved. We’re sorry we offended him.”

For their part The Atlantic says Thayer did not inform them he would be publishing the entire correspondence.   Thayer’s response to New York magazine was both more colorful and far more profane.

I was under the assumption that such practices were abolished when the [13th] amendment to the Constitution was ratified,” he said. “I don’t need the exposure. What I need is to pay my fucking rent. Exposure doesn’t feed my fucking children. Fuck that!” Thayer said adding he could  not afford to go online . “I actually stick my fucking computer out the window to use the neighbor’s Internet connection. I simply can’t make a fucking living.”

As a freelancer myself, my sympathies are decidedly with Mr. Thayer.  However, I don’t know if I would have disclosed and published the exchange with the editor.   Perhaps Thayer will find more paying opportunities coming his way as a result of going public with his beef, but I’d bet there will be as many editors who will lose his address because he aired his grievance in this way.   There is a reason you don’t crap where you eat.

Anyone who has been a freelancer for any length of time knows how it feels like you’re beating your brains out in hopes to land a paying gig.   Whether Thayer has enhanced or lessened his chances remains to be seen.    Every writer who places a value on their work wants to get paid for it.  But does publicly trashing a magazine help your chances?

Probably not, but  Thayer is my new, if slightly tarnished, hero! He said in print what I know by heart.   I would sooner line the walls of a gas station men’s room with my writings than to give them to a millionaire like Arianna Huffington  who can afford to pay me, but won’t.

The hell with exposure. I can’t EAT with “exposure” and I can’t pay my BILLS with “exposure.” The idea that I should give away my stuff for free is ridiculous. Unless you and I are friends or we have some sort of arrangement, I could see doing freebies, but otherwise, I’m no different than any other professionals and PROFESSIONALS get paid!

Related articles

How Can We Miss Mitt Romney If He Won’t Go Away?

For reasons known only to Fox News, the conservative news channel decided it was important to find out what Mitt and Ann Romney had been up to since losing the election.

Yeah, I don’t know why either.

Romney, the man who would be president except Barack Obama is  sounded very much like a loser who still hadn’t figured out why he lost.

Chris Wallace asked the Republican standard bearer did he go into Election Day thinking he was going to win?

MITT:   Yes, I think we were convinced that we’d win.  We saw that the polls were very close. But we knew the energy and passion was with our voters and my heart said we were going to win.


At one point, Ann Romney explained why she and her husband are struggling to accept the sad reality of defeat,   “In our church, we’re used to serving and you know, you can be in a very high position, but you recognize you’re serving. And now all of a sudden, you’re released and you’re nobody … And we’re used to that. It’s like we came and stepped forward to serve. And … the other part of it was an amazing thing, and it was really quite a lot of energy and a lot of passion and … a lot of people around us and all of a sudden, it was nothing.”

That’s because you are nothing, Ann.  Nothing special.   You’re jut another wealthy, pampered White woman in a country full of them.    You’re both nobodies now.  

Pay no attention to the man in the painting. Or the other guy either.

Wallace played an audio tape of Romney speaking to supporters a week after the election and blamed his loss on minorities expecting President Obama to give them things. “It’s a proven political strategy which is, you have a bunch of money from the government to a group and, guess what, they’ll vote for you.”

MITT:  The president had the power of incumbency. ObamaCare was very attractive, particularly to those without health insurance. And they came out in large numbers to vote. So that was part of a successful campaign.

Still not getting it, huh, Mitt?

MITT: Well, I recognize that as the guy who lost the election, I’m not in a position to tell everybody else how to win, all right? They’re not going to listen and I don’t have the credibility to do that anyway.

First thing you said I can’t disagree with one word of.  You got that right, Mittens.  The Republicans can lose all by themselves.  They don’t need a loser telling them how to lose.

WALLACE: Why do you think he lost?

ANN ROMNEY: I think they had a better ground game. And I think we were not aware — you know, we certainly had the passion coming from our side, and I don’t think we were as aware of the passion that was coming from the other side. I think we were a little blindsided by that.

How’d that happen, Ann?  Didn’t you know Obama was the incumbent and he’s had four years to build up some passion on the other side?  

MITT: I look at what’s happening right now, I wish I were there. It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done.

Yeah, well, that’s not happening.  You lost.  The Black guy won and I know that kills you even more.  Next time, win more votes.  Oh, that’s right…there isn’t a “next time” for you, is there?

MITT:  The president is the leader of the nation. The president brings people together, does the deals, does the trades, knocks the heads together. The president leads.

Yes, the president does.  You’re not the president.  And you never will be.  

MITT: And — and I don’t see that kind of — of leadership happening right now —

Aaaaaaannd we won’t being seeing that kind of leadership from you either, Mitt.   That’s a done deal, closed chapter, over and out.

ANN ROMNEY: I’m happy to blame the media.

Well, why not?   That’s what losing candidates always do.  It’s easier than blaming yourself.  

Then Wallace rolled tape on Romney’s now notorious “47 percent” crack.

 MITT: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.

WALLACE: George Will said you’ve got a problem when voters don’t like you. You’ve got a real problem when voters think you don’t like them.

Because he didn’t like them.  At least the non-wealthy,  non-White voters.

MITT: Yes, it was a very unfortunate statement that I made. It’s not what I meant. I didn’t express myself as I wished I would have.

Bitch, please!  Man up and don’t play dumb.  You said exactly what you meant and you didn’t stutter.  

MITT:  You know, when you speak in private, you don’t spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and — and it could come out wrong and be used.

Oh, this is a very sad story.  If you’re running for president and you don’t spend as much time thinking about how what you say could be twisted and distorted, maybe you shouldn’t be president.   

It isn’t that it came out wrong, Mitt.  It’s that it came out at all and the whole country found out how much contempt you have for almost half of America.

MITT: But, you know, I did. And it was very harmful. What I said is not what I believe. Obviously, my whole campaign — my whole life has been devoted to helping people, all of the people. I care about all the people of the country.

I call bullshit.  If you said it and didn’t believe it, why were you lying to all those nice people in the audience listening to you?   Or are you lying now?

MITT: But that hurt. There’s no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.

I’m sure the Obama Campaign appreciated your self-inflicted wounds.   Put on your magic underwear and deal with it.

WALLACE: Looking back, how do you rate yourself as a presidential candidate?

MITT: Well, I see my mistakes and I see my flaws and I did better this time than I did the time before.

Oh, good for you! 

MITT: And — and I won’t get a third chance. I’m not doing it again.

You promise?   How many more times do you have to get your ass beat before the message finally sinks it: AMERICA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO BE ITS PRESIDENT!

MITT: The weakness that our campaign had and that I had is we weren’t effective in taking my message primarily to minority voters, to Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, other minorities. That was a real weakness.

We did very well with the majority population, but not with minority populations. And that was a — that was a failing. That was a real mistake.

Now that is funny.  The Whitest White Man in America can’t figure out why “minority populations” rejected him.   

WALLACE: Why do you think that was?

MITT: Well, I think the ObamaCare attractiveness and feature was something we underestimated in a — particularly among lower incomes. And we just didn’t do as — as good a job at connecting with that audience as we should have.

Not going to give up on that “gift” thing are you?

WALLACE: What does the Republican Party need to do to reach out and attract more voters?

MITT: Well, first of all, I lost and so, I’m not going to be telling the Republican Party, come listen to me, the guy who lost is going to tell you how to win.

Then why not be a gracious loser and shut up?  Nobody’s dying for your advice.  

WALLACE: But you must have — you must have some ideas.

MITT: But — of course. But among those ideas, clearly, we have to do a better job bringing minority voters in to vote for Republicans and that’s Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, other minorities. We’ve got to do a better job taking our message to them to help them understand why we’re the party with the ideas that will make their life better.

Here’s an African-American that understands you and your party’s “ideas,” just fine and I don’t see them doing me or my family any good.  

“Oh, look Ann. That’s where our dreams went.”

MITT :  …I’m not going to disappear. I’m not running for office. I don’t have a big organization that’s out speaking in my behalf.

But I care about America. I care about the people that can’t find jobs. I care about the fact that we’re wracking up larger deficits and — and putting the peril of — of — of the future generation very much in play.

I really care about this country. I care about my 20 grandkids, the kind of America they’re going to have. And sitting on the sidelines when so much is at stake is just not in my nature.

You might care about the country but the country does not care about you or anything you have to say.   

If you have 20 grandkids you should be caring for them and leave the rest of us the hell alone.  

It may not be in your nature to sit on the sidelines but that’s where you are and that’s where you’re staying. 

Bye-bye, Mittens.  Enjoy forced retirement.  Get naked and roll around in your money.  Just leave the rest of us along and we’ll do the same for you.

Earth, Wind and Fire Gets Lost in “Boogie Wonderland”

Earth, Wind & Fire on their way to shop for jeans at Wal-Mart

I’ve caught up with Rashod Ollison’s “Behind the Groove” column in the Virginia Pilot‘s online edition where he displays his vast and impressive knowledge of the sweet sounds of old school soul music.   Rashod knows his stuff and it’s a trip to go back in the day when there was almost an embarrassingly diverse choice of artists.    I highly recommend the column.    It makes for a fascinating read.

It got me thinking of how so often even the best bands can slip and trip when they start tampering with the musical formula that made them successful.    When Maurice White and Earth, Wind & Fire succumbed to disco fever it produced one of their biggest hits as well as the start of their creative slide.    This was a great band that with “Boogie Wonderland,” had success with a really lousy song.

At their pinnacle there was no bigger band in Black music than Earth, Wind & Fire.  George Clinton sneered they were Earth, Hot Air and No Fire, but that was just jealously talking.   The genius of EWF leader Maurice WhitePhilip Bailey’s soaring alto vocals.  The polish and professionalism of Al McKay, Larry Dunn and Verdine White.   EWF had it all going on in a way nobody had before and nobody has since.

It doesn’t make a difference how old a great Earth,Wind & Fire song is.  “Mighty, Mighty”, “Fall In Love With Me,” “Reasons,” “That’s the Way of the World,” “Can’t Hide Love.”  Man, I love all those old joints.  They still sound good to me.

I do not love “Boogie Wonderland.”  I wasn’t feeling it in 1979 when there were still discos you could boogie in and 34 years later it’s still a song I’ll skip when it comes on.

I don’t dislike “Boogie Wonderland.  I HATE “Boogie Wonderland.”  It’s not even the worst EWF song, but it’s the worst hit they ever had.   Everything about it screamed the worst of the disco era.  Trite arrangements.  Swirling synthesizers and four-on-the-floor drumming.  Swooping strings.  Blaring honks.  Background singers.   It’s like a life sentence in Overproduction City.

Boogie Wonderland

Even the title is a lame cliché.  Where the hell s Boogie Wonderland anyhow?   That song represented a jump-the-shark moment for EWF and signaled a creative decline they never pulled out of.    Back in my D.J. days when I played that song the floor would clear like there was a fire drill going on.  I had to slap on some P-Funk to get the dancers away from holding up the wall.

I can imagine “Boogie Wonderland” was a good song to roller skate to, but I didn’t roller skate.   I’m not a “disco sucks” guy.  I like a lot of disco music.  What I  hated was when everybody and their brother felt like they had to cut a disco song even if they had no feel for it.

The insipid lyrics of songwriters Ailee Willis and Jon Lind and warbled by Mo White and The Emotions are stuck on stupid.

Dance boogie
dance boogie wonderland
Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts,
of men who need more than they get
daylight deals a bad hand,
to a woman that has laid too many bets

The mirror stares you in the face and says
“baby, uh uh it don’t work”
you say your prayers though you don’t care
you dance and shake the hurt
dance boogie wonderland
dance boogie wonderland

Sound fly through the night
I chase my vinyl dreams to boogie wonderland
I find romance when I start to dance in boogie wonderland
I find romance when I start to dance in boogie wonderland

Now that’s heavy, man!   🙄

“Jeans and T-shirts? NEVER!”

I differentiate between real bands with live instruments like EWF that were definitely slumming with “Boogie Wonderland” and playing follow the leader with the various disco groups that were largely studio bound, producer creations. Chic was one of the few disco groups with musicians who had killer chops, but for the most part the best disco was primarily a studio creation.   EWF seemed properly embarrassed as bassist Verdine White fessed up when he said,  “I guess you could say we were at the party but didn’t get on the dance floor.”

I ain’t mad at Maurice and company for chasing the disco train, but it’s so obvious it was just a play for some of those disco ducats and is about as sincere as Rod Stewart, the Stones and all the other wannabees that tried to cash in by cranking out a dance track.

It would take more than the calculated lameness of “Boogie Wonderland” to sink Earth, Wind and Fire once and all.   By the time they lumbered to 1983’s uninspired, hit-free Electric Universe it was all over but the shouting and endless “greatest hits” repackages.

Yet for one bright, shiny moment there was a happy place named Boogie Wonderland where for a while you could let the sheets of sound wash over you and distract you from all your cares.   Great band.  Lousy song.