Gaza is Bleeding

Caught between long festering hatreds, there is only one certainly in the war between Israel and HamasGaza is bleeding and Gaza is dying.  Over 1000 Palestinians have been killed with losses for the Israelis stands at 43 soldiers and two civilians.

To be opposed to Israel’s offensive does not make one in favor of Hamas’ provocation and I refuse to allow anyone to pigeonhole me into the narrow categories of their own creation.

It’s one thing to advocate for Israel’s right to self-defense against a vicious, implacable enemy and quite another to bomb schools and hospitals in a viciously implacable manner.

For those of us whom aren’t terribly interested in being compelled to choose the white hats over the black hats, when both sides are engaged in despicable acts of mass slaughter and mayhem, neutrality and choosing the middle path where the preservation of life is paramount over someone’s bloody and empty “victory” is the most judicious course.

By the moral yardstick of Israel’s apologists, the Jewish state is obliged to take any step, use any weapon and kill as many as necessary to ensure their continued survival.  By mine, you cede any claim to the high ground once you go to war against civilians.

You know who else does that? Terrorists.

Israel deserves the condemnation they are getting and the more they kill the more they will continue to deserve it.

I understand quite well why others may see a difference between the provocation of Hamas and the harshness of Israel’s response, but from my vantage point Palestinian blood runs as brightly red as Israeli blood and I’m not going to take the side of Israel based upon this supposedly unlimited right to self-defense.

For the true zealot, if Israel nuked Gaza until they turned it into a glow-in-the-dark parking lot, they would find a way to justify it as necessary.

English: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politician

If every Palestinian has to die to keep Israel safe Netanyahu seems willing to accept that.

There is equally no credibility to the falsehood peddled by Israel’s amen corner how the IDF is compassionate in its destruction of homes, hospitals and schools while Hamas acts with ruthless abandon in taking lives.

Deliberately inflicting pain and suffering on the Palestinian people as Israel deliberately shells the hell out of non-military targets could credibly be considered as targeting civilians in revenge for which such tactics should be rationally condemned.

Should be, but won’t be by those for whom no action undertaken by the IDF is ever too extreme and cannot be justified by feebly claiming, “Hamas made Israel do it.”

There is always a choice when killing civilians is on the table. The choice is to kill them or let them live.

We’ve seen what Israel’s choice was. Now both they and their “deeply disturbed” supporters can live with the ugly consequences of that choice.   Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu truly believes the only way to eradicate the threat poised by Hamas is to eradicate every member of Hamas and anyone who might consider picking up the dropped gun of a slain Hamas member. If so, then this mad plan begins to make sense.

The ability of human beings on one side to rationalize their fears and hatreds of those on the other is as ancient as the race.   Once you stop seeing people as people and only the enemy it becomes easy to kill them as they aren’t fully human anymore.

Blood is blood is blood and wrong is wrong and wrong and if you’re so blinded by your allegiance to Israel’s divine right to kill anybody that makes them feel uncomfortable, I wouldn’t expect you to see that. But then, there’s been so much blood spilled over the decades by this unrelenting hate on both sides that I do understand if some splashed in your eyes.

You can no more bomb your way to peace than you can fuck your way to virginity.  Terror chooses no side and both sides of this conflict have terrorized the most innocent and most vulnerable non-combatants.

There is nothing intrinsically better about dying from the weapons wielded by the big army instead of the small army. Dead is dead and death does not discriminate.

If nothing else comes out of this cataclysm when the shooting and bombing and terrorizing and killing finally stops for a while, the preposterous suggestion that in the name of self-preservation a country can do as it pleases without question or accountability will be finally exposed as the contemptible lie it is.

At this point when everyone on both sides is wading in blood and gore up to their knees, why does it matter so much which side is worse when all that matters is who will finally decide to stop the killing?

 

Relax. It Only LOOKS Like Diversity.

These are not your father’s Avengers. Or anybody’s father’s Avengers.

Here’s how the comic books dividing lines worked in my house when I was a kid.    The boys started off with DC and Batman and Superman and Superboy and then we got sophisticated and left Lois Lane’s 1000th stupid scheme to find out Superman’s secret identity and Jimmy Olsen being turned in a cockroach or something and moved over to  Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men,  and the wondrous splendor of Stan Lee/Jack Kirby’s Marvel Universe.

My sisters read Archie Comics.  And they were welcome to it.   Which reminds me…ever notice you never see Jimmy Olsen and Archie at any of the same parties?  Archie Andrews has never been cool, never been hip, or anything but a series of unfunny gags  from the world’s oldest teenager.  The dilemma was how to make anybody give a damn about this terribly trite ccomic book.

The solution to this problem was to create an alternate universe with an adult Archie.   It’s Middle Age Archie is going to get taken out as he courageously bites the dust saving his gay friend, a U.S. Senator from an assassination attempt.

This is the standard go-to move for the comic book companies to drum up buzz.   Take a beloved character  like Superman, Batman, Captain America,  announce they are going to be killed off and wait for the headlines.   And it works!   But what nobody bothered with was diggging into why Adult Archie was really about to bite it and it turns out because the title flat out doesn’t sell.   According sales figures from May, Life With Archie was #386 out of #439 comic books in sales.   It sold an impressive  2,064 copies.

To put it another way, if Adult Archie wasn’t about to die, they would have to kill him.  Shooting Archie is a mercy killing.

Far less of a contrived stunt is the Secret Life of Archie.   What secret?    There’s a pretty good reason he never chose between Betty and Veronica.



Hey kids! Suggestively Gay Comics!  I’m not saying.  I’m just saying.

Whether its offing Archie and Wolverine,  making Captain America a brother or Thor a woman, it’s all about pandering and pandering desperately for a little bit of attention.  Comics exist primarily as intellectual property for films and to tell the same stories in ever more expensive formats.     Whether they call it The New 52 or Marvel Now,  what comics primarily provide is not occasionally innovative fun, but meaningless “event” after meaningless event.

It’s 2014 and there is still only one monthly title from the majors with an openly gay hero. It’s hard enough to get the heterosexual White males that make up the core of the comics audience to support titles with women or racial minority heroes. When Marvel replaced the Ultimate Comics version of Peter Parker with Miles Morales, a Black and Hispanic teen that was a major change and I recall the howls of outrage fueled in part from racist comic fans. It’s no accident a lesbian lead character is as far as pushing the envelope with sexual orientation goes. A homosexual super hero’s got no shot.

Change the gender, change the race, change nothing else.

Change the gender, change the race, change nothing else.

Homophobia is one reason  the concept of gays in comics is confined primarily to second-stringers, supporting characters and heroes which can be created, discarded and forgotten.

The takeaway from all this is its okay to kill off a long-running established characters (because they always come back) and its okay to give over their name and uniforms to a woman or person of color (because they will eventually take the name and uniform back) or to marry them off, rape and murder their wives, husbands and family members, impregnate them, body swap them, paralyze them, lop off a limb, steal their sight, make them old and infirm, and pretty much do any blessed thing to a long-running established character because you can always retcon it out of existence.

Don’t stress over Dead Archie,  Muslim Ms. Marvel, Thor with breasts in her breastplate or Afro Cap.  Before you can start to hate it, it’ll be over.

Just don’t make them gay.  Phony diversity is cool, but that is the Line of Death which must never be crossed.   There are straight fans who would riot if a major super hero came out.   Or create really angry Tweets.   The prospect of  pissing off all those timid editors and misogynist, homophobic fanboys would be reason enough to do it.   Every group wants to see themselves in their heroes and not only the ones whom are popular with the majority and  comics shouldn’t pander  exclusively to the majority while the minority settles for tokens and table scraps.

I would  be a lot more interested if we were about to get a Black writer on Captain America. Or about any comic book from Marvel and DC.  I’m  over diversity for the sake of appearances thing

If Lois Lane can turn into a Black woman it’s equally possible for Superman and Batman to look deeply in the others eyes and tenderly whisper, “I wish I knew how to quit you.”  Is that an image that disturbs you, dead reader?  Perhaps, but enough with  seven decades of the side eye and vague hints. Go big or go home.

It’s only a comic book and comic fans like difference in their comics.  Just not the radical kind.

The Execution of Eric Garner by the NYPD

He didn’t want to be arrested, but he shouldn’t be dead.

It was hard to miss Eric Garner.  He was 6-4 and between 350 and 400 pounds.  He was hard to miss, but easy to kill.

Garner was protesting a NYPD officer’s attempt to arrest him for selling illegal cigarettes.  Several cops wrestled the father of six to the sidewalk as he yelled, “‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe! Get off of me, get off of me.”   Sgt. Daniel Pantelo applied an illegal choke hold on Garner who apparently suffered a heart attack and died.  The event was captured on video as the cops angrily ordered a man recording the assault on Garner to step away.

To serve and protect, huh?  Who protected Eric Garner from the NYPD.

I’m sure some apologist for the cops will say this was all Eric Garner’s fault. He had no business being a 400 lb diabetic with chronic asthma and resisting the po-po.

But mostly he had no damn business being so Black. That’s always a crime.

This story will fade from the headlines. My attention to it will not. I will await to see how justice handles a gross injustice.  On social media I’ve seen talk that Garner’s killing is simply another manifestation of life and death under the oppressive boot of an aggressive, militaristic police force that acts as an occupying force to keep the niggers, spics and poor White trash in their proper places.   Well, there may be some truth to that, but let me say this about the talk of Americans living in a “police state.”

The NYPD has a long and troubling history of police brutality, but there is a difference between police “brutality” and living in a police “state.”

In a true police state, Eric Garner would never be stopped by the authorities, accused of selling illegal cigarettes and die as an officer executes an illegal choke hold and executes him on the spot.

In a true police state, Mr. Garner would not be allowed out on the streets to freely roam as he likes. He would be stopped, compelled to produce his identification, state his business, and suffer detainment and incarceration should the authorities dislike his response.

This is not the reality of the situation. The reality is Black men being belligerent with White cops never ends well and when you’re big and scary-looking on top of being Black that simply compounds the drama.

People are looking for a devious, Machiavellian explanation for the sorry fate of Eric Garner when the age-old, obvious one explains it well enough

This is not a police state.

Unless these cops walk.

As they walked for Clifford Glover.

As they walked for Randolph Evans.

As they walked for Patrick Dorismond.

As they walked for Eleanor Bumpurs.

As they walked for Anthony Baez.

As they walked for Sean Bell.

As they walked for Amadou “41 Shots” Diallo.

THEN it’s a police state.

Garner was summarily executed on a New York sidewalk.

LeBron Proves You CAN Go Home Again.

I’m back. Get it?

It’s a good thing for both LeBron James personally and for the city of Cleveland specifically that after a bitter four-year estrangement, he’s coming back to the Cavaliers to try to finish what he started. It’s an even better thing for those of whom live in Ohio where this whole “is he or isn’t he” scenario has played out in real-time.

The way James handled The Return beat the hell out of the public relations fiasco that was The Decision. Everything about The Decision was overstated, overblown and a barely concealed flipping the middle finger to Northeast Ohio where James toiled seven years carrying a Cavaliers team mostly devoid of talent. Bitter feelings and bad karma abounded on both sides though Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert carried it too far with a poison pen letter soaked in Haterade that could be found on the team’s website as recently as a week ago.

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE

You can take it to the bank.

Not one of Gilbert’s non-James teams finished above .500. The bank stayed closed.

That letter has since been scrubbed from the Cavaliers website, but the Internet never forgets no matter how much Gilbert wishes it would.

LeBron’s words to Sports Illustrated (and quite noticeably not ESPN) were far more gracious in showing the grace, class and maturity he had developed in four years that were missing in Gilbert’s published temper tantrum.    If you haven’t read it you definitely should.   It’s pretty damned impressive reading.

I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?

Michael Wilbon, who is from Chicago, said it well when he noted James has “Midwestern values” and he honestly LIKES living in Northern Ohio. James could live anywhere  on the planet. What’s so terrible about going back home?

When LeBron left four years ago and more importantly, HOW he left was awkward, clumsy and a hot mess of hype, bad juju and ugliness. He went out like a punk. I called him “LeGone” and meant every word of the contemptuous vitriol I spat his way.

But a funny thing happened over the last four years. My harsh feelings toward James disappeared. How he played on the court with the Heat and how he lived his life off the court with his family won me over. We never hear about James getting in trouble, being busted for drugs, shooting up strip clubs at 2:00 am, banging women coast to coast and dropping’ Little LeBrons all over the U.S.A. From all appearances, James is a solid, stable Family Guy who stays out of the headlines with all the usual non-sports related shenanigans.

Will the second time around be just dust in the wind for James?

As regards Dan Gilbert goes he was a total a-hole the way he handled LeBron taking his talents to South Beach. He spewed contempt for his lone superstar. But for all his bluster, Gilbert had to know how screwed he really was once James left town. He said they would win a championship before James did but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Check the Cavs record since the ’09-10 season.

09-10: 61-21 (James’ last year in Cleveland)
10-11: 19-63
11-12: 21-45 (lockout shortened season)
12-13: 33-49

If you were Dan Gilbert wouldn’t you pretty much kiss LeBron’s ass to get him back?

Dwayne Wade weighed in with his own thoughts on his former teammate’s return to the Buckeye State:

As a friend and a teammate, I am sad to see my brother LeBron leave to begin a new journey. In 2010, we decided to come together all for one goal — to win championships and we succeeded. We were friends when we first joined the league and created an unbreakable bond the past four years. Our collaboration will always be very special to me both personally and professionally. We shared something unique and he will always be part of my family. LeBron made the right decision for him and his family because home is where your heart is. I know this was not an easy decision to make and I support him in returning to his roots. As an organization, a community, and as individuals, we achieved the goals we set when we first signed on together. We are champions.

Washington Wizards v/s Miami Heat December 18,...

King James and D-Wade say goodbye to all that.

Classy, but then the Miami Heat is a class organization as other well wishes to Lebron from team owner Micky Arison and general manager Pat Riley have echoed Wade’s sentiments. When James returns to Miami in the future he knows he will hear the boos of the disappointed fans, but they will likely be drowned out by the applause of the grateful ones remembering the four consecutive championship appearances and two wins King James led the Heat to.

If Wade is ready to move on, why should I hate on LeBron for coming home to take care of unfinished business? Sure he may never win a championship with the Cavaliers, but it won’t be because he didn’t come back to try.

There are plenty of unlikable owners who own great teams. I am not going to boo the Cavs because their boss is a jerkwad. Plenty of us have worked for bosses who were bastards, but we did the job and cashed the check anyway. Why should we hold James to a higher standard then we do ourselves?

Let’s be honest here. James did what he thought was best for him and his family.  I know there are “fans” who honestly believe LeBron should have put their needs ahead of his own.   They need to set the alarm clock and wake the hell up.

Welcome Home King James.   Now can I get back to focusing on NFL football camps opening Friday?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the “Return of the King.” You got a problem with that?

 

Paul Hardcastle: The Snoozejazzmaster

You’d slide out of your chair too. From boredom.

Jazz: noun, often attributive \’jaz\ a type of American music with lively rhythms and melodies that are often made up by musicians as they play

Jazz. Say the word. J-A-Z-Z. Paul Hardcastle calls his side project “The Jazzmasters.” If he means he plays instrumentals, it is. If he means truly understanding the idiom, it’s not.

A lot of jazz albums end up in my mailbox.  A few are good.   Some are terrible.  There are some rare gems, but most are competently mediocre.

The Jazzmasters VII is total shit.   It is dull beyond belief.   It is tedium, tiresome and the embodiment of the worst of snooze jazz.   It didn’t even hold my interest long enough to get me to hate it.

The not-so Secret Sauce of Hardcastle’s success is his music is designed, calculated, formulated and manufactured so as not to deviate from the template. There is no discernible difference between a Jazzmasters release and a Hardcastle solo joint. They are interchangeable and the sound faithfully follows Hardcastle’s freeze-dried jazz/chill formula. This sort of Tinker Toy, generic pap is popular in the same way McDonald’s french fries are popular: all the consumer must do is consume. Whether it provides any nutritional value is purely secondary.

The titles are generic. “Unlimited Love,” “Soft Rain” and “Starlight Express” sound like names for bottles of perfume. Songs start, stop tinkle quietly and fade away. There isn’t a single hook or a spontaneous moment. There are no twists, no turns, no diversion, no digression, and no deviation, only cold efficiency.

To be a jazz master shouldn’t you actually play jazz?

If you’re a fan of this sort of thing and dig Hardcastle’s chilled out drizzle and you’ve consumed his past product here’s some more of the same old same old. At this point in his career, Hardcastle can be described as one football coach described the other team: He is who we thought he was. Only in the most liberal sense of the word can the sound recordings of Hardcastle be even remotely considered to be any sort of “jazz.”

It is false advertising to proclaim there are any masters of jazz on The Jazzmasters. Hardcastle certainly isn’t interested in lively rhythms and melodies that are often made up by musicians as they play. This is background music. It’s too mechanical, too bloodless  and too flat-out lazy to be anything more than empty sound.

Duke was a jazz master. Miles was a jazz master. Thelonious was a jazz master. Paul Hardcastle is about as much a jazz master as a Kardashian sister.    Before he dubs himself a “jazzmaster” he should learn how to play some first.

Track Listing: Unlimited Love; Rhythm of Life; Free to Fly; Starlight Express; Soft Rain; Domino Effect; Pulse of the Universe; Unlimited Love (the Strings), Come On; Breathe; Echoes of Eternity; Rhythm of Life (Chill Reprise)

Personnel: Paul Hardcastle: unspecified instruments; Rock Hendricks: saxophone; Paul Hardcastle,Jr. : saxophone idea (1); Maxine Hardcastle: backing vocals (2); Cindy Bradley: trumpet (1); Margo Ledue: backing vocals (3)

Record Label: Trippin n Rhythm Records

A different version of this review originally published at All About Jazz.

 

17 America-Related Things James Baldwin Said Better Than Anybody Else.

 

American Wise Man

Here on the Fourth of July, the day this great nation celebrates its independence with fireworks, hot dogs and collective attack of amnesia over its bloody, violent and racist past, it’s good to read some of the writings of James Baldwin.

1. “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

2.  “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

3. “I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt. Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason… Anyone who is trying to be conscious must begin to dismiss the vocabulary which we’ve used so long to cover it up, to lie about the way things are.”

4. “Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?”

5.  “It comes as a great shock…to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance…has not pledged allegiance to you.”

6.  “It is dangerous to be an American Negro male. America has never wanted its Negroes to be men, and does not, generally, treat them as men. It treats them as mascots, pets, or things.”

7. “It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.”

8. “Not a thousand years ago, it was illegal to teach a slave to read. Not a thousand years ago, the Supreme Court decided that separate could not be equal. And today, as we sit here, no one is learning anything in this country. You see a nation which is the leader of the rest of the world, that had to pay the price of that ticket, and the price of that ticket is we’re sitting in the most illiterate nation in the world. THE MOST ILLITERATE NATION IN THE WORLD. A monument to illiteracy. And if you doubt me, all you have to do is spend a day in Washington. I am serious as a heart attack.”

9.  “The American revolution, the terms are these: not that I drive you out or that you drive me out, but that we come together and embrace and learn to live together. That is the only way that we can have achieved the American revolution. “

10. “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”

11.  “I have met only a very few people – and most of these were not Americans – who had any real desire to be free. Freedom is hard to bear. It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels.”

12.  “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be”

13. “The American ideal is, after all, that everyone should be as much alike as possible.”

14.  “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

15.  “I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it. And I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. “

welcome to america

16.  “A big, sandy-haired man held his daughter on his shoulders, showing her the Statue of Liberty. I would never know what this statue meant to others, she had always been an ugly joke for me. And the American flag was flying from the top of the ship, above my head. I had seen the French flag drive the French into the most unspeakable frenzies, I had seen the flag which was nominally mine used to dignify the vilest purposes: now I would never, as long as I lived, know what other saw when they saw a flag.”

17.  “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”