Shut Up, Fool! The Miley Effing Cyrus Edition

Next stop: IMPLANTS!

I don’t know what shocks me more. That nearly everyone I know is talking about Miley Fucking Cyrus or that someone had the balls to ask me where was my blog post about Miley Fucking Cyrus.

Never let it be said I ignore my public.   Usually I do, but this is me making an exception.

We are truly in the dog-shit days of summer.

Personally, I don’t agree there was anything racist in Cyrus’ (ha-ha) “performance.” It was just an aged-out teen looking for a way to shock and awe the folks at home who have never ever never seen a young woman shake her naughty bits in such a lewd and lascivious fashion and probably fainted dead away at the sight of sweet and innocent Hannah Montana’s FLAT ASS all up in their face.

Racist? No. Nauseating? Definitely. Great publicity? Certainly.

Twerking is just a dumb way of dirty dancing. Go to a strip club and you’ll find strippers that have shaken their hind parts for years before Miley Fucking Cyrus learned about this mysterious Negro dance style. If being prim and demure were all it took to get over, Cyrus would do that. She tried that so now she’s sticking her tongue out, wiggling her non-butt, and desperately trying to hide her total absence of musical talent beyond Disney tunes.

Nobody has walked up to Miley Fucking Cyrus and told her she can’t dance that way. But somebody should because she looks like a hot-ass mess.

“We Can’t Stop?” TRY.

I long for the good ol’ days when old Madonna sticking her tongue down Brittney Spears‘ throat was considered outrageous.

Wait. No I don’t.

One looks good with butter and syrup on it. The other does not.

What’s lame is biting off a culture you don’t know shit about and then going on a video music award show on a channel that barely shows video music worthy of awarding and showing the entire world just how little talent you actually have.

Not to make this a racial thing (though it is), but from Negro spirituals to the blues to jazz to rock n’ roll to soul music to rap to hip-hop, Whites have always imitated, adapted or flat-out stolen from Black artists. Pat Boone is one of the most egregious offenders and few dispute his cultural thievery, but throw in Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Michael Bolton, Vanilla Ice among other musical thieves, and don’t stop until you get Miley Cyrus “twerking” her non-existent ass.

As long as there’s been American music and a Negro making it, there’s been a White person who’s figured out how to cash in on it. As Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager observed, “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.”


But I’m gonna ease up off Miley Fucking Cyrus. She can’t sing. She can’t dance. She sure can’t twerk. About all she does do well is stick her tongue out. Ooooh. Lookit at me! I’m nasty! Don’t you think I’m nasty? Nasty girls stick their tongue out. Lookit! I’m doing it again! I am such a nasty girl. I’m not Hannah. I’m Miley and I’m NAAAASSSSSSSTY!

One rarely witnesses such a public act of self-humiliation. Poor thing. She needs to come back when she hits puberty because looking at what she calls a “body” and that poor girl got cheated.

We should cut Cyrus some slack for her overt lack of rhythm. And soul. And talent. But that thing with the tongue is working my last good nerve and if she keeps sticking it out somebody is going…well…somebody is gonna DO something to her and that dirty, nasty, bad, filth-flarn-filthy mouth of hers!

What I’m dreading is I know in a week or so, there’s gonna be a new exercise infomercial airing at 3:00 in the morning where some washed-up Z-list, “celebrity” will breathlessly claim to have lost 20 lbs not through sit-ups or diets, but by twerking!

“Hi! I’m Gary Busey, star of stage, screen, television and the L.A.P.D. drunk tank, and I lost 30 lbs of ugly fat by twerking! The hell with Zoomba. Let’s TWERK!”

At that point I will gouge out my eyes with a rusty spoon. I will be blind and it will all be Miley Fucking Cyrus’ fault.

By the way, don’t waste your time complaining to me, “Hey, you’re being sexist because you’re talking about her butt!”  Hey, I’m not the one who went out in public dressed like an undernourished hooker with two sore left feet.  Blame her, not me.  I didn’t dress her and apparently nobody else did either.

Hundreds died when Miley Twerked.

MLK and The Fierce Urgency of Now

The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be… The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was 50 years ago through the blood, sweat, time, toil and tears that a 34-year-old Baptist preacher stepped to the microphone on the Mall in Washington and for the next 17 minutes he gave what is perhaps the greatest speech in America’s history.

Five years later, Martin Luther King would lie dead from an assassin’s bullet and much of his Dream of a better world for children of all races, creeds and colors died with him that day as his blood drained from his body on the balcony of a second-rate motel in Memphis.

From the moment life left King’s body in the process of celebrating the Dreamer forgot all about our responsibility to make his Dream come to fruition.   King challenged all of America to step its game up and be better and kinder to each other, but instead he has been appropriated into a dumb game of “What Would MLK Say About…?”

I refuse to play this silly game.

If Dr. King were alive today, he’d be 84 years old. I can’t begin to speculate how an 84-year-old man feels about anything. At that age you’re probably happy if you can make it to the bathroom with peeing on yourself.   He would be deserving of a little quiet in his sunset years instead of being badgered for a comment on the issue of the day.

An equally dumb game is the “Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican” crap advanced by colored conservatives like Alveda King, the loudmouth niece of the slain civil rights leader who will tell anybody who asks, “Dr. King was a Republican!  I know it.”   How she knows this when King never said he was a Republican, his wife never said he was a Republican and his children never said he was a Republican is anybody’s guess.

Saying it doesn’t make it so. Providing proof makes it so.  PoltiFact deems the claims of MLK as a Republican to be FALSE:

…in a 2008 Associated Press story, King’s son and namesake Martin Luther King III said: “It is disingenuous to imply that my father was a Republican. He never endorsed any presidential candidate, and there is certainly no evidence that he ever even voted for a Republican. It is even more outrageous to suggest he would support the Republican Party of today, which has spent so much time and effort trying to suppress African American votes in Florida and many other states.”

Was MLK a Republican? No. But if Alveda King wants to believe he was I’m okay with that.  If she wants to believe MLK would make a better Batman than Ben Affleck  that’s fine too. It’s nuts, but so is the suggestion one of the greatest and most committed activists of his age, would be watching Fox News religiously.

If the Right-Wing Noise Machine had existed then as it exists now they would denounce King as a Black racist, a malcontent, an agitator, a race hustler who was stirring up resentment against Whites.  The Dr. King the right-wingers have attempted to appropriate for their own is one they have turned into a harmlessly naive toy figure whom when you pull his string he says, “I Have A Dream.”

What they don’t realize is King wasn’t simply a dreamer and his Dream was rooted in harsh reality.

King dreamed of a better America than the one he lived in, but he wasn’t asleep to how pernicious and persistent an adversary institutional and individual racism truly is.  Those who would manipulate King invoke his most famous speech to chastise Blacks but deceptively overlook  King put Whites on the spot when he said,  “The Negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the Negro to free him from his guilt.”

“I have a dream” isn’t my favorite part of the speech, but the less optimistic and slightly ominous caution of growing Black restlessness and discontent as King challenged America to confront its shabby treatment of its Black citizens.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

That part of MLK’s speech is a callback to Frederick Douglass’ admonishing White Americans that there could be no progress without a struggle, but even more pointedly, Douglass warned, “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.”

That is as true now for America now as it was 50 years ago on a beautiful day in Washington.  The misery of Black people should not make White people happy.  People in misery are volatile people and people with grievances are subject to be manipulated and misled by opportunistic extremists who stoke the fires of racial resentment for their own cynical purposes.

That’s not the kind of extremism King was advocating.  His was a creative extremism where love drove out hate, the artificial divisions of racism, sexism, and classism would fall away before the soldiers of peace, progress and prosperity.     They call Martin a “dreamer” but he was wide awake.   It was the rest of us who had drifted into a slumbering stupor that required him to stir, awake and arise to make a better world.

We are closer today than we were 50 years ago, but close isn’t the same as being finished.


The End of “Breaking Bad” Is Where I Begin.

“What do you mean you haven’t been watching the show, Jeff?”

Five years ago, The Shield, perhaps my all-time favorite television show, turned in its badge with a conclusion that was both satisfying and among the definitive ends of any TV show.   When the end came for The Shield, there was literally nowhere else for it to go.   There are only so many narrow escapes even a character as cunning as Vic Mackey can plausibly pull off before what was once quality gradually descends into self-parody.

It’s been a merry search for another show to follow I could get into the way I got into The Shield.  Though I’ve tried to fill the void with Justified, Spartacus, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story as well as a few episodes of Boardwalk Empire and even a box set of The Wire box, but try as I might to get that old feeling again, nothing has stepped up in the place of The Shield.   Everything came up a bit short.

Nothing about Breaking Bad comes up short.    It is one of those rare shows you can’t call people when its’ on.  “I’m watching Breaking Bad,” they’ll snap and you know the conversation is over right there.

I can’t imagine what took me so long to start watching Breaking Bad.  It might have been the teaser where Walter White is tooling around in a RV and stumbling around in his tighty whiteys.  “The dad from ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ as a cancer-ridden chemistry teacher who cooks meth?  Meh.  I’ll pass!”

When teachers finally get paid.

Totally my bad..  There’s nothing about Walter White to remind me of the doofus dad of a bad sitcom.  Walter White would murder that guy and sleep well after doing it.   The transformation of Bryan Cranston from comedy nebbish to award-winning serious actor (who is about to get seriously paid as the new Lex Luthor in the next Superman/Batman flick) is one of the most radical make overs since….well, since Michael Chiklis shaved his head and went to the gym to emerge as a bald, buff bad-ass.

I have one problem with Breaking Bad and its a big one.   The show is in its fifth and final season, but it’s the first season I’ve watched, which is like walking in on the last 30 minutes of The Godfather and trying to figure out what the hell is happening.

In the first episode of the last season, Walt, with a mop of unkempt hair and trunkful of weapons, drives up to his now-shuttered home and finds the name “Heisenberg” spray-painted on the wall.   Who’s Heisenberg?  I didn’t know Walt was Heisenberg, the master meth cooker his DEA brother-in-law has tried to nail (and just found out not long before I did).

I didn’t know why Jesse was nearly catatonic and trying to literally throw away his millions.  I didn’t know who characters were, why they were doing and saying what they were doing and saying.  To say I am late to the party puts it mildly.  The party’s almost over and here I finally show up.   Thank goodness there are no shortage of Breaking Bad primers for hapless newbies.   Smart writing, complex characterizations, and damn good acting are universally recognized and you know it when you see it.  No history lesson necessary.


What will probably happen is I will either go find the first four seasons of Breaking Bad on DVD or wait for Christmas and hope there is a boxed set  available with all of them.   Admittedly, this is the ass-backwards way of getting into the show.

Three episodes in out of the last eight and the action has been a little light with even the big shoot-out of the second episode being heard and not seen, but top-notch acting and writing has made up for the slow burn of the endgame.  Walt’s “confession” last week was as funny as it was a brilliant turning of the tables on     As Jesse learns just how deceptive Walter is, shit is about to get real.

If Walter White, the corrupt teacher, were to meet Vic Mackey, the corrupt cop, in a restaurant, they would probably chat amiably over how good men go bad recognizing in each other kindred spirits.   Then recognizing they are also like two scorpions in a jar, they would pull out their guns and try to put a bullet right between the eyes of the other guy’s bald head.

Bat Affleck? The Internet Does Not Approve.

And a million nerds wailed in rage and impotent fury!

Ben Affleck is your new Batman.   In the summer of  2015, Superman will throw down with the multiple Academy Award winner.   This may not be the hero Gotham wanted but it is the hero it is going to get now and the Internet handled the news in its usual calm,  mature and reasoned way.


Their wrath took shape as a petition on declaring:   His acting skill is not even close to being believable as Bruce Wayne and he won’t do the role justice. He’s not built, nor is he intimidating enough for the role of Batman. His portrayal of Daredevil was atrocious and he’s not remotely close to an action star. Please find someone else.

The petition has close to 50,000 signatures and that is close to 50,000 people who seriously need to get a life.

Twitter started trending as soon as the news broke and the best comment I read was in reaction to the irrational hateration, “There is no one who could have played Batman that the internet would have liked. The internet hates things. It’s what the internet does.”

Which isn’t completely true.  If Warner Brothers had been able to get Christian Bale to put back on the Bat-suit for another turn or been able to get Joseph Gordon-Levett to put it on at all, The internet would be VERY happy.

If I were an executive at Warner Brothers, I would be high-fiving every hand in sight over the Internet losing its collective SHIT about the Affleck-as-Batman “controversy.”

It is a bad idea to make any decisions based upon what the Internet does or does not like.  The Internet liked Snakes On A Plane and you see how well that turned out.   Heeding the advice of someone who knows what is in every compartment of Batman’s utility belt and Aunt Harriet’s last name but has never produced, written, directed or raised one dime to make a summer tent pole film is probably not the smart move to make.

The same fanboys who are bitching relentlessly today are the same ones whom in 2015 will have their moms drive them to the multiplex on the opening night of “Superman vs. Batman” where they will buy a giant tub of popcorn, soak it in faux butter, buy a 40 oz Coke and plant their asses in the first row so they can bitch relentlessly how bad Affleck is as Batman.

Just remember this:  As Gawker points out, the Internet hated the announcement of Heath Ledger as the Joker too.

Seems to me that turned out pretty much okay.

I’m sure Affleck will be fine.   All he has to do is be better than Daredevil.

How hard could that be?   Bat… Ben Affleck addressed the angry hordes amassed against him.

You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me. Set the dogs on me. Because that’s what needs to happen.  You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength. I like this job – I like it!  And… here… we… go!

Which Private Manning Is Being Locked Up?

Which Manning is which?

Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking thousands of classified documents.   This week, Manning wrote a letter to President Obama requesting a pardon.  That’s not going to happen.   Manning will be eligible for parole in seven years.    But that wasn’t the biggest news to come from the convicted soldier.

Manning’s attorney released a letter where his client declared “I am female” and wished to be referred to as “Chelsea.”

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).

Frontline has profiled Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning twice and if you’re curious about how Manning came to this, I suggest watching either “The Private Life of Bradley Manning” or “WikiSecrets.”

She is in for a rough time in Leavenworth.

Manning is set to serve her sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. It is a male-only facility; female military prisoners are all housed at the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego. Though Manning and her lawyer have announced hopes to begin her physical transition while locked up, an Army spokesman said that hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery would not be available to her. Some jurisdictions across America now require facilities to provide hormone therapy to trans inmates as a part of their routine medical care, but Leavenworth is not currently compelled to do the same. It appears that Leavenworth’s plan is to treat Chelsea Manning just like a man.

That’s a problem for Manning, but it could end up being a problem for Leavenworth, too. As a trans woman living in a men’s prison, Manning will not only be denied hormone therapy. She will also face an elevated risk of harassment and sexual assault behind bars from both fellow inmates and members of staff. One 2006 study of California prisons found that trans women housed in men’s prisons are 13 times as likely to be sexually abused than other prisoners. That year, 59 percent of transgender women in the system were abused. And Just Detention International, an organization dedicated to ending sexual abuse behind bars, notes that once “targeted for abuse, the majority of transgender survivors are subjected to repeated sexual assaults.”

Manning is a hero to some, a villain to others.

Manning would have likely been targeted for even before her announcement. Only 5’2″ in height and slight of frame, based upon what she was convicted of, Manning was already facing a troubled stay behind bars.   Manning may be in desperate need of psychological help and treatment more than punishment.

Yet, my sympathy for this tortured, troubled soul is mitigated by my utter and complete contempt for her decision to break her sworn oath to this country and leak secret and confidential information.  Manning broke his vow to protect his country and that is not something that is easily forgiven or forgotten.  The megalomaniac Julian Assange preyed upon Manning’s vulnerability for his own vain self-aggrandizement.  Assagne preyed upon Manning’s naivete and once he extracted as many secrets as he could get from her, threw her to the tender mercies of an enraged Army.

It is a mystery to me why someone so obviously unsuited for military life as Manning clearly was, enlisted in the first place. It is equally baffling as to why no one in military ever saw fit to discharge Manning before events swirled completely out of control.

There is plenty of blame to portion out but the biggest slice belongs on Manning’s plate.   She could have applied for a discharge.   She should have found another way to express her concerns about the United States actions in the Iraq war before she decided to pass on sensitive information to an unprincipled sleaze like Assange.

Now Manning will pay a heavy price for the poor decisions she made.   She or he, Manning has 35 years behind bars to figure it out.

Good-bye and good luck.

Donald Trump Is Talking. Don’t Listen.

“I’m rich, White and I have terrible hair, so listen to everything I say.”

The President is on vacation.  Congress is on vacation (not that they’re doing much when they aren’t on vacation).   No real news is being generated, but if you work in the media that covers Washington politics, you’re not on vacation.  You still have to generate stories even when there are no stories.

So what do you do?   Make up stories and call that “news.”

August in Washington is always a slow dead month and the “lame-stream media” is always struggling to find something to put on to get the one or two folks not gearing up for football to watch or read their crap.   In the absence of real news they have to come up with some fake news.   Speculating about who might run for president is an easy way to fill space and kill time.  If you’re wrong in 2013, who’s going to remember three years from now?

Iowa and New Hampshire are two of the dullest states in America, but because that’s where the road to the White House begins if a politician flies over them, there’s a reporter waiting to write a story about “So-and-so is testing the waters.”  Yawn.  It’s boring, trivial, and trite, but it’s easy work to speculate over what Rand Paul or Ted Cruz might be up to though nobody not named Rand Paul or Ted Cruz thinks they have a snowball’s chance of becoming President.

Donald Trump went to Iowa to speak to a bunch of Republicans.   The rampaging egotist with the world’s worst comb over had stunning news to share with them.

It’s August. It’s too hot for this sort of stupidity.

Looking forward to 2016, Trump said he knows Hillary Clinton “very well,” and asserted that she’s “probably” going to be the Democratic candidate.

“It’s going to be in my opinion a tougher race than the last race,” he said. “Really tough. And somebody’s going to have to emerge who’s really strong. … The Republicans have to do what’s right. If they don’t pick the right person – it’s got to be the perfect person – they are going to get drubbed in the 2016 election.

Who doesn’t know Hillary Clinton is enormously popular, highly likely to run for president again and would be much tougher to beat?   After getting their ass handed to them twice by Barack Obama, is there a Republican living who thinks beating Hillary will a stroll in the park.

You’ll never guess who Trump believes who the “perfect person” is to beat Hillary in 2016?  Oh, go ahead!  You’ll never figure it out.

Trump has been wrong so many times about everything why do Republicans continue to treat him like a wise man?   I get they want him to write big checks for them, but I thought the idea was to stop being “the stupid party?”

Want to be taken seriously by the press?   First, be a White male if you can help it.   Then you need to be rich.   Money and the right color are prerequisites to be considered you know what you’re talking about.

Nobody said you had to be smart.

That’s all it takes.   Next thing you know you will be flown around the country and people will pay all your expenses for you to come and tell them things they already know.   Reporters will stick microphones in your face, furiously scribble down your ever word, and take you very seriously even when they should know better.

Thank you, Captain Obvious!  Next week Trump is going to announce the world is definitely round and eating too much chili will give you the runs.  Watch for Wolf Blitzer and CNN to break into their regular programming to bring you around-the-clock, in-depth, saturation coverage.

You can tell we’re in the silly season of the year.  Donald Trump is talking.  That doesn’t mean we have to listen.

“Donald…delete…Bill…delete…Barack…let it go to voice mail…”

The Strange Logic of Obama Haters


Your threats to impeach me are highly illogical, but fascinating.

It’s time for this week’s Crazy Republican Idea and it comes by way of Fox Nation turning over a rock as a nobody named Frances Rice and her group of fellow cranks, the National Black Republicans Association who got the bright idea to file articles of impeachment against Barry Soweto, aka. Barack Obama.

The National Black Republican Association (NBRA) based in Sarasota, FL, headed by Chairman Frances Rice, filed Articles of Impeachment against President Barack Obama with the following language:

We, black American citizens, in order to free ourselves and our fellow citizens from governmental tyranny, do herewith submit these Articles of Impeachment to Congress for the removal of President Barack H. Obama, aka, Barry Soetoro, from office for his attack on liberty and commission of egregious acts of despotism that constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.

It’s been  a right-wingnut’s fantasy to impeach Obama.   It’s not going to happen even with this crazy Congress.   The Republicans know the last time they tried this stunt with Bill Clinton they got their ass handed to them.   The same thing would happen now and with Congressional elections coming up in 2014, they aren’t about to fire up the country to rally behind a president being targeted by an overtly partisan lynching.   They would pay a terrible price at the ballot box, so they’ll allow Rice and her fellow Negro malcontents to have their moment in the sun, but this is going nowhere further than one whacked out woman’s fever dream.


Impeaching Obama is not the first dumb idea the NBRA has had.

Rice’s crazy-ass group is based in Florida, where brain cells go to die.   With all the other things he has to be worried about it’s a safe bet the president hasn’t devoted two seconds of thought worrying about the NBRA’s impeachment threat.

Coming from the Left flank, director Oliver Stone, probably missing his dead homey Hugo Chavez, spat a little venom Obama’s way hissing, “Obama is a snake. He’s a snake, and we have to turn on him.”  You mean the same way audiences have turned on your last few movies, Ollie?

It doesn’t hurt the president to be scorned by a has-been like Stone who hasn’t made a good film in since JFK some 22 years ago and a non-entity like Rice whose importance exists exclusively within her own head.   The disapproval of the Right is nothing new for Obama.  They always have viewed him as the Anti-Christ.   The rebuke from the left-leaning fringe is equally unsurprising

People who imprint their own cloudy and unspecific agendas upon Barack Obama are doomed to disappointment when he fails to act on them. Perhaps they are longing for the good ol’ days when Tavis ” Sub-Prime Smiley” would conduct his corporate underwritten State of the Black Union where every problem Black folks ever faced was magically dispersed by talking it to death.

The same people who grumble, groan and gripe about the failure of Obama to advance their agenda are the same ones who have not elected more conscious and proactive Blacks to the House, the Senate or statehouses across America. They fail to back efforts to repeal punitive badly written laws like Stand Your Ground and mandatory drug sentences. They know their rhetoric, but don’t know the names and phone numbers of the Congressional representatives. While White Tea Party right-wingers were sweating their elected officials at hotly contested town meetings where were all the Black folks? Staying home and watching “Love and Hip-Hop?”

When you don’t understand politics you will always be disappointed by how unresponsive politicians are. Why should they be when you aren’t putting money in their pockets or holding their feet to the fire? Some of those disappointed in Obama really thought he was the Far Left Liberal Progressive Radical Centerfold Cornel West originally fell in love with. Truth be told, Obama has always been a moderate and cautious man. When he was in the Senate he didn’t align himself with reformers like Russ Feingold, but traditional pols like Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid. Why would anyone expect a dramatic shift to the Left now?

If Obama assumed the Left would have a hissy fit about how he ran things, but still vote for him, he assumed correctly. The only alternative as the Republicans have been body-snatched by their most extreme elements is to stay home, vote for a Third Party loser or hold your nose and hope for that Change to come. Most of us have faced reality and gone with the Least Bad Choice.

“Obama is a snake and this helmet looks dumb as hell.”

I understand and I even share some of the discontent with President Obama as those who can’t stand him. But faced with a racist, reactionary Republican opposition and a occasionally soft, easily pushed around, but frequently effective Democrat, my choice is clear, if not always easily made.

In 2009, writing in The Progressive in an article entitled “How To Push Obama”, John Nichols wrote:

After his election in 1932, FDR met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders, many of them active Socialists with whom he had worked over the past decade or more. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans they wanted the new President to implement. Roosevelt told them: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”

Maybe the problem with Obama not making your dreams come true is you never made him do it.

“20 Feet From Stardom” (It’s Just A Kiss Away)

We’ve got nothing but love for Darlene Love

You are forgiven if the names of Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Claudia Lennear, Judith Hill and the Waters family doesn’t mean anything to you.  Unless you’re the type of person who reads the liner notes of album, you probably have never heard of any of them.

But you have heard them.  You have certainly heard of some of the people they have backed up.  Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, The Rolling Stones and just about anybody who’s ever needed somebody to add a “woo”, “doo-doo-doo” or “yeah” backing vocal.

It’s not the stars who shine in the documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom, but those who support the stars who get a  chance to step into the spotlight.  For someone like Darlene Love who began singing as part of the  but didn’t start as a solo artist until she was in her 40’s, her day is long overdue.   The failure of Love to launch her solo career  is in no part due to the malevolence of Phil Spector, the super-producer of multiple hits in the ’50 sung by Love, but fronted by other women lip-synching to her vocals.

I remember buying albums by Merry Clayton and Claudia Lennear, but I don’t remember any of the music and that’s where an indelible truth emerges of why the women of 20 Feet From Stardom never became stars of their own right because when Prince observed, “Everybody can’t be on top,” he was speaking the undisputed truth.

“Stay cool, stay humble, stay beautiful, and just do the work” was Clayton’s philosophy and it served her well starting out with Ray Charles to Carole King, Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” which she almost turned down until her husband urged her to take the gig.

Clayton and Jagger recall her showing up in a Los Angeles studio in silk pajamas, a mink coat, with curlers in her hair, pregnant and a determined to “blow ’em out the room.”  She did just that while singing the lyrics, “Rape, murder!/It’s just a shot away/It’s just a shot away” with such  sheer power her voice cracks at one point (the Wikipedia entry for “Gimme Shelter” throws in the unsubstantiated rumor that Clayton had a miscarriage from “straining” to hit the high notes).

Patti Austin has spent much time in studios as a background singer herself and something she told me once in an interview explains why Clayton, Lennear, Love and so many others just don’t bust into the Big Time.   Austin stressed how important it is for a singer to have great material to sing and that material fits their style and too often there aren’t enough great songs to go around and as I recall a lack of first-rate songs plagued Clayton and Lennear’s albums.

It's not just the song, but the singer too.

It’s not just the song, but the singer too.

From all outward appearances Lisa Fischer should have blown up.  She had the sultry looks.  She had a great voice.  She even won a Grammy for her song, “How Can I Stand the Pain.”  But after her debut album, So Intense, there was no follow-up record and her solo career vanished.  Fischer returned to backing up Jagger and the Stones as Clayton’s replacement on “Gimme Shelter.”

Don’t get the wrong idea about 20 Feet From Stardom.  It’s not a sad story of failure or a scathing expose of the music biz.   It’s a celebration of the women who chose to start as background vocalists and then found it difficult to transition to solo artist success.   The film concludes with Judith Hill, a young singer whose big break seemed imminent as Michael Jackson’s duet partner.  Unfortunately, the King of Pop’s untimely demise disrupted Hill’s career arc.

For me, Hill’s story is the least interesting one.  She’s got the look and the chops to make it, but in comparison to Love, Clayton or Fischer, she’s a rookie.   I know why Hill is in the movie.  She’s the youngster trying to claw her way to the top as she struggles to be taken seriously as a talent, but her resume is still a bit too skimpy for me to find her story compelling   I wish her luck, but the time director Morgan Neville devotes to Hill could have gone to somebody else who has paid more dues.

Fame was more than a shot away for Merry Clayton.

The interviews with Austin, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger are well done as are the briefer insights shared by other background vocalists including Cissy Houston,  Tata Vega, Martha Wash, and The Waters (Oren, Maxine and Julia).

20 Feet From Stardom was playing in only one theater for one week and that’s the definition of a “limited engagement.”   That’s unfortunate as the movie is never less than compelling viewing.  The stories of Love, Clayton, Fischer and the others will resonate with anyone whose talent was recognized by their peers, but went unacknowledged by the public.    Fame and fortune may have eluded these incredibly accomplished women, but now they finally get their turn in the spotlight.

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