Obama’s Amazingly Graceful Eulogy

The fallen, but not the forgotten.

Familiarity doesn’t only breed contempt. It creates expectations. Barack Obama has been president for just short of seven years. I read somewhere during his time in office he has made statements at  memorials and  mass shootings in America  19 times. He has to extremely tired of this part of the job.

Yet Obama does it anyway because while it’s a dirty job, somebody’s gotta do it. Somebody has to remind the rest of us America isn’t a great big unlocked insane asylum where the inmates are armed and running buck wild in the streets though it probably looks that way to the rest of the world.

The President isn’t only the Commander-In-Chief of the nation’s armed forces. He’s also the Counselor-In-Chief when yet another senseless act of violence occurs such as the killing of Susie Jackson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lee Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Rev. Clementa Pinckney by a murderous White supremacist.

Obama led a bipartisan group from Washington for Pinckney’s memorial service, and he gave praise to the fallen pastor and those of the parishioners who fell with him.     The president used a country preacher’s cadence that while solemn was  full of hope, healing and grace and  grace particularly was on the president’s mind as he lauded Rev. Pinckney.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life–a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

It was no surprise the president spoke plainly and forcefully on the unaddressed issues laid bare by the Charleston church shootings including the bloody rebel flag the killer wrapped himself in.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise–as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.

Americans have a remarkable ability to focus on something with great intensity and then move on from it. Here today is Rachel Dolezal and tomorrow’s she’s a trivia question. But nobody paid attention when NYPD patrolman Peter Liang was indicted for shooting Akai Gurley That’s the sort of thing which matters while Dolezal’s subterfuge and family matters don’t. The President reminded us there’s still a lot of unfinished business.

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system –and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

Then Obama did something no president ever has done before and may never ever do again. He began to sing. The President of the United State sang “Amazing Grace.”

“Amazing grace —  how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. “

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.

It’s been a long time since I was in church but Reverend President took me there.

I teared up AND got chills. This was the Obama I voted for. Every now and then my president makes me proud and he reminds me why. I could never imagine President McCain or President Romeny responding the way Obama did. Would Rand or Jeb or even Hillary preach and sing from the pulpit? Maybe they would, probably they wouldn’t but whatever they would do they could never do something so perfectly human.

We may not know it yet, but we’re  going to miss Obama when he’s gone.   He’s done some very good things, some very bad things, been exceptional, been ordinary, been inspiring and been infuriating.   Coming off a week where he had won fast- track trade authority in Congress (mostly with Republican support) and two monumentally important decisions by the Supreme Court making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states and preserving Obamacare,  the president had enjoyed some significant wins.   We’ve seen many of Obama’s predecessors enjoy good weeks.

What Obama hasn’t been is anything like we’ve ever seen in any American President.    That’s a good thing and a uniquely Obama thing.

The President Said “Nigger” and the Sun Still Rose Today.

“Ya know, it feels pretty good to be able to say whatever the hell I want.”

Freed from the need to bite his  tongue, President Obama got raw in an interview for the podcast,  WTF with Marc Maron.

“Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public,.”

“That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”

 OMG! The POTUS said the N-Word!   Of course the press lost their damn minds and the Infantiling of America continues.

My reaction is BFD and GTFU.

In this stiflingly politically correct age it’s refreshing to hear the President talk like real people do. I don’t use the ethnic slur nigger often (and I gave my daughter the Death Stare when she did at the dinner table the other night), but I NEVER use the weak and wimpy “N-word” if I can help it. It’s a phrase with no guts and no balls and a total dodge.

Obama_bullshit

Free History Lesson for anyone Shocked and Awed when Presidents stop pretending and start getting real.   We know White Presidents have said “nigger.” Many of the early Commander-In-Chiefs owned slaves and  Andrew Jackson was a slave trader!  The first White President held slaves and George Washington probably hung out between sessions crafting the Constitution bitching to another Founding Father how stupid, shiftless and lazy his niggers were.

A White President can say “nigger” and they have and will again. If they don’t want to be racist about it all they need to do is say it in context the way the Black President did. Then sit back and watch the media lose their minds about that.
Everything Obama said has been reduced to one stupid word. Faux Noise Network is positively wetting themselves with indignant harrumphs. As if they’ve never generously applied the word to the president in editorial meetings.

Sucker bet.

Fox News contributor Deneen Borelli, who is black, expressed outrage during a discussion on the Fox News show “America’s Newsroom.”

“He has really dragged in the gutter-speak of rap music,” Borelli said. “So now he’s the first President of rap, of street? I mean, come on, he has lowered the stature of the high office of the President of the United States.”

“The President-in-chief, the rapper-in-chief now, is further dividing our country,” Borelli continued.

All eyez on me.

Borelli, a Conservative Review correspondent, said Obama’s use of the word spoke “volumes” about who he is as a President.

“The man is divisive and he has taken the level of the office of the presidency down to another level by saying these words and he’s continuing — listen, class warfare — you name it,” Borelli said, trying to list what Obama has done wrong. “He’s dividing the country. … He makes it seem like our country is the racist (sic) country in the world, and it’s not.”

Host Bill Hemmer contributed his take on the use of the word.

“I mean as a white American, my entire life I know that this is an electric word,” Hemmer said. “And you stay away from it. … This is something that we thought was entirely off-limits and now you have the President using it.”

Shut the hell up!  Your stupidity offends me.   Damn Fox News!

As many times as Obama has been called a nigger, if he can’t say it, nobody can.

“Jeepers, Wally. I never thought I’d ever hear the President drop an N-bomb.” “That’s because you’re a total fucking tool, Beaver.”

No Safety. No Sanctuary.

Emanuel AME Church: Peace was stilled with gunfire.

There is no sanctuary.  There is no safety.  There is no mercy.    We were once again reminded when nine members of the Emanuel  A.M.E. church in Charleston, S.C. had gathered in a place of worship and were slain by  a 21-year-old gunman with White supremacist ties who turned it into a gory slaughterhouse.

I think the world has gone mad. We amuse ourselves with b.s. trivialities, pseudo-celebrities and media-manufactured “scandals” until something evil comes creeping out of the dark to rudely remind us nothing is sacred, nowhere is safe, and everyone is a target.

There’s a special place in hell for someone who would commit mass murder in a church.

Police say the suspect, pictured in the surveillance photograph above, sat in on a prayer group at the Emanuel AME Church for at least an hour before initiating the shooting.

At least nine people—six women and three men—were killed in the mayhem. That count reportedly includes State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who also acted as the church’s pastor. According to an NAACP official interviewed by the Post and Courier, the shooter told one female survivor “he was letting her live so she could tell everyone else what happened.”

Pinckney’s cousin tells MSNBC witnesses say the gunman’s message was clear:

“He just said ‘I have to do it.’ He said, ‘You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go’.”

Dylan Roof: The wolf stalks the flock.

Those chilling words as well as the deed itself made it clear:  this was a hate crime and the congregation was deliberately targeted.

President Obama has made far too many remarks following mass shootings after the Gabby Giffords was critically wounded and two more were gunned down in Arizona, the Aurora movie theater massacre and the Sandy Hook school shootings and today he made another one.

At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.

I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

Wherever there is blood spilled there’s America’s Most Trusted Name in Right-Wing News on the spot to offer  yet another Obama-bashing talking point and  Bill O’Reilly used his opening monologue to say sympathetic things about the nine slain parishioners, but not without calling the President “misguided”  for pointing out the frequency of shooting sprees in America.

O’Reilly is too egotistical to bother with a little thing like getting his facts straight.  He’d have to pull his head out of his ass first,  but even this swaggering braggart should be able to do the research Slate did and come up with 27 acts of racially-motivated slaughter and domestic terrorism since the Oklahoma City bombing  which killed 168 in 1995.

Rev. Clementa Pinckney: Pastor, Politician, Victim.

You might think…you would hope…in the midst of a still-developing story where critical facts and vitally important details are still forthcoming, a sober and responsible media would tread carefully and avoid superimposing their own agendas and biases to a tragedy.

Fox News is neither sober nor responsible.  There is nothing—literally NOTHING—that is bad which Fox News can’t make WORSE.

On “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, co-host Steve Doocy said it was “extraordinary” that Police Chief Gregory Mullen referred to the massacre of nine black churchgoers by a young white male as a “hate crime.”

The segment began with Bishop E.W. Jackson, the senior pastor at Hope Christian Church, opining that he was concerned that this wasn’t a racially motivated crime, but a religiously motivated one. “There does seem to be a rising hostility against Christians in this country because of our biblical views,” he said.

“I would urge pastors in these churches to prepare to defend themselves,” Bishop Jackson added. “It’s sad, but I think that we have to arm ourselves.”

Pastors packing heat in the pulpit?    Anywhere else in the civilized word that would be considered an insane thing to say.   On  Fox it makes sense.    I bet Dylan Root spent a lot of time watching Fox News.

Doesn’t Fox have any decency?   No.  They really don’t.

So it’s not a race thing, okay, folks? Just another common, garden variety mass shooting spree and nothing to get hyped about by calling it a hate crime. I can’t wait for Fox  to explain how it’s all Obama’s fault.

A far more sensitive and thoughtful was provided by came  from Beyonce’s sister, Solange Knowles on Twitter.

Was already weary. Was already heavy-hearted. Was already tired.Where can we be safe? Where can we be free? Where can we be black?

Nowhere.   There is no sanctuary. There is no mercy.  Not even in  God’s House.

The meek will inherit nothing.    Only death from a racist’s gun.    Our pain is unrelenting.  Our prayers are with the grieving in Charleston and for the soul of a deeply sick America as well.

How many more times must the President try to console a traumatized nation?

Rachel Dolezal: Double Agent or Race Traitor?

(photo by Thomas Robinson)

If The Racial Draft really were a thing I’d want Rachel Dolezal on my team before Clarence Thomas.

I read this story elsewhere and when I finished I had one question and one question only.

Is  Dolezal doing a good job? If she is, then what’s the rumpus?

Oh sure, I can imagine there are many reasons why the head of a NAACP chapter should be Black instead of passing for Black, but the only question worth asking and answering is “Is she doing her job?” Not whether she’s really Black or should the NAACP have Whites in prominent leadership positions.   The organization has always been racially diverse and inclusive.  Dolezal took it to an extreme.

When Walter White became the organization’s first Executive Secretary in 1916, some wondered why a dude with blonde hair and blue eyes was running a civil rights organization for colored people. Turns out White wasn’t White, but Black. The NAACP has never been exclusively for Blacks only. The national office may have to address this matter to quell the controversy.

She wouldn’t be the first White person to long for an identity other than the one she was born with to get lost in a romance with Black culture.    Deceitful? Probably.  Deceptive?  Certainly.  Harmful?  Illegal?  If so, no one has made the case.

Is my hair Black enough for you?

The most troubling thing about Dolezal are the misrepresentations and lies she came up with to mask her passing for Black. This seems to me to be more of an ugly family matter than a willful attempt to deceive, but unless she has broken the law, I fail to see why Dolezal should be faulted for being a White woman concerned about fighting discrimination against People of Color.

The takeaway is I’m getting is transgender is okay for White men but transethnic is not okay for White women. Race is an “artificial concept” that doesn’t matter is what the Right wingers love to say.   Or at least it is right up until the time you try to transcend it. Assimilate! That is what Blacks are told they need to do. Assimilate into a White culture that doesn’t want you, resent you, and says you only got there through an affirmative action program. Woe betide anyone who forgets assimilation is strictly an “on” ramp into the White world and never an “off” ramp.

Where was all this offense and indignity about cultural appropriation when Iggy Azalea got off the boat became the latest non-Black star to get rich and die tryin’ by Outblacking the Black Folk (hello, Nikki Minaj. Little Richard would like to talk to you about Pat Boone). It wasn’t too long everyone seemed to think Miley Cyrus invented a new dance move in twerking? Is it okay if White people bite from Black culture and cash in on it as long as they don’t go too far and start thinking they ARE Black?

No. You can’t.

It may be delusional when a White woman working for the NAACP begins to identifies with Blacks so much she starts passing herself off as Black, but since she seems to be helping and not hurting I say “thanks” for the help. That’s the part that seems hardest for some both White and Black to wrap their heads around. Why would anyone go to such lengths to “be” Black? Of course Dolezal built a house of cards on sand in the middle of a hurricane and now that it’s coming down around her ears (in no small part due to the malicious actions of her family), there’s a lot of pleasure being taken by outsiders as her lies and fabrications are exposed.

It there is no evidence Dolezal broke any laws, what’s the controversy. Perhaps when she speaks publicly on Tuesday an admission may be forthcoming, but if fudging an employment application is a crime, there’s gonna be a lot of liars doing time in the slammer.

Something Dr. King said about the content of our character mattering more than the color of our skin seems relevant right about now.

If it worked for Caitlyn it can work for Rachel.

We’re Gonna Have A Racial Profiling Pool Party!

YOU! You’re not Black! Please stop filming and have a nice day, sir.”

Corporal Eric Casebolt, formerly of the McKinney, Texas Police Force and The Biggest Thug in America,  resigned this week when the world reeled back in disgust from the video of his bestial and merciless of Dajerria Becton, 15, clothed only in a bikini.    Dishonored and disgraced by his savage attack, Casebolt left an indelible mark as the face of the callous and cold-blooded Warrior Cop who sees law enforcement as a call to battle .

Casebolt wouldn’t be the first goon to say “My bad” after proving how  much of a pitiless monster he could be,  but this may have been the WORST public apology ever!

Let us count the ways.

1. The lawyer for a McKinney, Texas, police officer who has become the country’s latest exemplification of bad cop behavior on Wednesday blamed her client’s aggressive actions on emotional stress. “He never intended to mistreat anyone,” his attorney, Jane Bishkin, said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. “He apologizes to all who were offended.”

Casebolt didn’t attend the press conference. Why wasn’t Casebolt present for his own apology? Why not offer a personal apology to Becton? His attorney “apologized,” not Casebolt himself. Which is like sending your mom to apologize to the neighbor for the window you broke. It’s insincere, it’s cowardly and it’s gutless.

Any “apology” that isn’t delivered BY the person who has harmed someone TO the person harmed by their actions is worthless.  

What Casebolt did to Becton was  far beyond which would leave her “offended.” She was physically manhandled, verbally demeaned, assaulted, and humiliated.   Casebolt treated Becton like  Patsy in 12 Years A Slave.  He pulled his gun and pointed it at two boys. He cursed and threatened every Black kid he could and nearly turned a neighborhood squabble into a full-blown race riot.

Dajerria Becton: Threat or Menace?

That goes way beyond being “offensive.” Belching at the dinner table or picking your nose is offensive. This was savage brutishness.

2.Bishkin said Casebolt had worked one suicide and one attempted suicide in the hour prior to being dispatched to the pool party that reportedly involved teens fighting. “The nature of these two suicide calls took an emotional toll on Eric Casebolt,” Bishkin said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

That’s rough. That’s tough. That’s the JOB and if you’re not prepared to do the job, take the rest of the day off. Go home sick. Tap out. Don’t take your aggressions out on a 15-year-old and inflict an emotional toll on her because you can’t hang.

3.Daniel Malenfant, president of the McKinney Fraternal Order of Police, said Casebolt has been receiving daily telephone and email death threats. “He’s worried for his family,” Bishkin said. “He’s worried that he may be followed.”

Oh, so now I’m supposed to feel sorry for Casebolt? Tough noogies, dude. Actions have consequences and yours put you and your family in the glare of the white hot spotlight. Casebolt made himself the poster boy for racist, vicious and bad policing. He can find the cause of his troubles in the mirror.

4. Casebolt, the city’s patrolman of the year in 2008, was reluctant to even go to the pool disturbance, but “felt it was his duty to respond” once the call escalated to reports of violence.

“He believed that those who fled were possible suspects,” Bishkin said. “He was not targeting minorities. In fact, he also detained a white female.”

How colorblind of Casebolt. Maybe this until now unidentified detained White female will step forward or star in a You Tube video on some right-wing website. For now this sounds like a lawyer trying to do her job and apply some lipstick to a pig of a case.

Bishkin says Casebolt was going to tap out of the run at first but “felt it was his duty to respond” and boy, did he! Like Rambo on PCP.

5. His first call of the night was to a suicide where a father had shot and killed himself poolside at an apartment complex in front of his family and others, Bishkin said. “Eric assisted them in securing the scene, photographing the body and collecting statements,” said Bishkin, noting that the deceased was black.

Oh, so your client wasn’t targeting Blacks at the pool party, but where a father offs himself poolside in front of his family, you emphasize the deceased was Black. So when your client is engaged in some heavy-duty racial profiling race doesn’t matter, but you don’t want your client to look like a raving bigot so race does matter. That about right, mouthpiece?

Maybe he should stay away from pools?

6. “Eric also spent a considerable amount of time consoling the man’s grieving widow.”

Plus, LeBron James is Eric’s favorite basketball player, he loves the new Kendrick Lamar album and some of his best friends are Black too!

Protecting and Serving your ass to death.

7. On his next call, Bishkin said Casebolt helped successfully talk a suicidal teenage girl down from her parents’ roof. “Eric’s compassion during these two incidents are a testament to his character,” Bishkin said. “While police work is often dangerous, it is fraught with emotions and family tragedy.”

Once he talked the girl down from the roof, did he body slam her to the ground, pin her down pressing his full weight into her back, handcuff her, and generally treat her like dogshit under his shoes?

Bishkin is right about police work being fraught with emotions and family tragedy. Casebolt almost caused a tragedy for several families when he lost control of his emotions.

8. Asked by a reporter if any other officers had been on the suicide calls and at the pool melee like Casebolt, Bishkin declined to answer. “Because there’s still an active investigation by the McKinney Police Department, we think it’s inappropriate to comment as much as we’d like to,” she said.

Then why comment about the active investigation by the McKinney Police Department in the first place? How’s that not inappropriate?

9. Bishkin said Casebolt has received little information about the investigation.

Why should the subject of an investigation be receiving information about the investigation? It’s not as though he’s still a cop.

10. “It is his hope that by his resignation the community may start to heal,” Bishkin said.

From the wounds he inflicted in the first place.

The “apology” was a  toxic waste spill  from start to finish. Any attorney worth their law degree should know the best way to help Eric Casebolt is to engage in some serious damage control. Bring him out before the cameras in a suit and tie with the wife and kids standing by their man. Have him read his own apology and make it clear because the investigation is ongoing, Casebolt isn’t taking any questions.

Talking about the stresses Casebolt was under before making the pool party run would and showing the world he is a caring and thoughtful police officer and not a raving Loony Tune would go a long ways in humanizing Casebolt. Instead he just comes off as a 14 carat phony.

I could have humanized and made Casebolt a more sympathetic figure than Miss Bishkin did and I don’t have any sympathy for him. For his sake, should charges be filed, Bishkin had better be a better attorney than she is p.r. agent.

Time and again, we’ve seen this same story play out with depressing frequency and time and again, it keeps  circling back to the same old scenario of angry/frightened armed White cop versus an angry/frightened/unarmed Black suspect.

The targeting of Black people  is not  the misdeeds of a few “loose cannons” or  due  to  a handful of  “bad cops.”   That was a tired cliché  and now it’s a bald-faced lie.  Casebolt  was named Officer of the Year in 2008, and his duties included neighborhood patrol and  community policing.

Casebolt was held up as the model of a good cop. What he lost control this was Casebolt the REAL cop.

“Winelight” Was Grover’s Greatest Groove

When jazz musicians pass away there’s an unfortunate tendency to put them in one of two categories, the never to be forgotten giants and then there’s everyone else. For the few artists who enjoyed a degree of mainstream success, if not always critical acclaim, they are forgotten fastest. This is not right.

When Grover Washington, Jr. passed away in 1999 the jazz world lost one of its most successful and talented creators, and in his wake a slew of saxophonists have stepped up to fill the void. None have. Philadelphia jazz deejay Bob Perkins said, of Washington, a native of the City of Brotherly Love, “He was the originator of smooth jazz, and all the rest—Najee, Kenny G—followed him.”

It is absolutely true that Washington was, along with George Benson, one of the founding fathers of smooth jazz and after the monster hit that was the Grammy-winning Winelight it wasn’t long before the saxophone became, along with the electric guitar, the two most preeminent instruments in the genre. For better or worse (and there’s an argument to be made for either side), Washington blazed a trail many others have followed, with varying degrees of success.

Within the crowed group of smooth jazz saxophonists there are a few originals following their own muse and blazing their trails of their own. Regretfully, the majority of bland cookie cutter clones slavishly hacking out infinite versions of the R&B/jazz fusion of “Mister Magic” and “Just the Two of Us” without bringing anything fresh to the table. Smooth jazz is stuck in a rut of safe sax where nothing is risked and nobody wants to step out of their comfort zone. Real jazz is all about taking risks, not playing it safe.

Washington was not so much a daring innovator as much as he was a solid musician who had paid his dues as part of Creed Taylor’s CTI and Kudu record labels, where the music was glossy and the album jackets were distinctive. Washington was labelmates with Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard, Bob James, Hubert Laws and Esther Phillips to name but a few of the artists on the CTI roster.

With his move to Elektra Records, in 1980 Washington uncorked Winelight. Predictably, it reached number one on Billboard’s Top Jazz, but then it crossed over to other charts. The album went to number five on Billboard’s Pop Albums, number two Top Soul Albums and “Just the Two of Us” reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and stayed there for three weeks. The album would go on to win two Grammy awards.

The quiet greatness of Winelight has not faded 35 years after its release. It’s far and away the best album of Washington’s long career. The slip n’ slide funk of “Mister Magic” put Washington on the map, but Winelight was the evidence he could flat out play.

Washington would go on to record 11 more albums before his horn fell silent, but none approached the all-time high of Winelight. Not much of Washington’s extensive catalog garners much airplay beyond “Mister Magic,” “Let It Flow” and “Just the Two of Us,” and that’s a shame because he continued to make some interesting albums at Columbia which deserve to be heard. Perhaps this new reissued and limited edition multichannel 5.1 SACD release will rekindle a discovery of the extensive Washington discography.

The Surround Sound remix was produced by Ralph MacDonald, the renowned percussionist who also co-wrote “Just the Two of Us” and shared production duties on Winelight with Washington. MacDonald died in 2011. Other notable musicians include drummer Steve Gadd, guitarist Eric Gale and a 21-year-old wizard on bass by name of Marcus Miller.

The only complaint with the remastered release is the absence of any bonus tracks or new liner notes. It is a missed opportunity not to offer some details and insights into the recording process or how Washington and McDonald convinced the reclusive Withers to provide the vocals for “Just the Two of Us.”

When most lists of the Top 25 Jazz Albums of All Time are compiled, Winelight is nowhere to be seen. It likely wouldn’t make the top 100 for the truly hardcore fan who likes their music with a rougher edge than smooth jazz provides. No way does it knock a Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, Time Out or Blue Trane off the list, but when the list includes the 25 most influential jazz albums, Winelight belongs in there as much as Head Hunters or Breezin’ for taking jazz into a brand new direction even if everybody wasn’t happy with where it went.

Track Listing: Winelight; Let It Flow (for “Dr. J”); In the Name of Love; Take Me There; Just the Two of Us; Make Me A Memory (Sad Samba).

Personnel: Grover Washington, Jr.: soprano, alto, tenor saxophone; Bill Withers: vocals (5); Ralph McDonald: congas, percussion; syndrums; Steve Gadd: drums; Marcus Miller: bass; Eric Gale: guitar; Paul Griffin: Fender Rhodes (2, 4), clavinet (1); Richard Tee: Fender Rhodes: (3, 5); Bill Eaton: synthesizer (5); Ed Walsh: Oberheim 8-voice synthesizer; Raymond Chew: clavinet (1); Robert Greenidge: steel drums (tuned by Rudolph Charles); Hilda Harris, Yvonne Lewis, Ullanda McCullough: background vocals.

Record Label: Audio Fidelity

Style: Contemporary/Smooth

This review originally published in a different form at All About Jazz.

 

We Are All Witnesses…But Not Much Longer.

But I don’t WANT the playoffs to be over!” says Sad LeBron (photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

As Game Two of the NBA Finals looms, things aren’t looking real good for the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers. Unlike his boast when he  took his talents to South Beach  there  would be “Not one…not two…not three.. ” championships with the  Miami Heat, LeBron James didn’t guarantee the Cavs would win any. In fact, after reaching the championship round, James copped to being surprised they made it that far this soon.

The Cavs were already the underdog in the match-up against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, but when you’ve got the greatest player in the game you’ve always got a puncher’s chance. That was before Kevin Love was knocked out of the playoffs when the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk tried to take Love’s shoulder home with him. That was before Kyrie Irving’s left kneecap blew off and sent him to the surgeon’s table. James is known to make his teammates better than they actually are, but even for him this is a mighty heavy lift.

Pop Quiz: Know who Shannon Brown, Damon Jones, Sasha Pavolic, Scot Pollard and Ira Newble are?

They were  a few teammates of James on the ’06-07 Cavaliers  and a pretty talentless bunch  he carried on his back to the NBA Finals where they were swept away  by the Spurs.  Without Irving and Love, James simply does not have enough bullets in his belt  to take the pressure from him to perform at a superhuman level to win a championship. Role players like Iman Shumpert,  J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavdova and Tristan Thompson are not going to turn into superstars against a team as deep and balanced as the Warriors.

It’s been suggested if James is really that great he should be able to find a way to overcome the odds and carry this depleted roster to the title.   Those suggestions are as useful  as a bag full of broken hammers.

Michael Jordan used to wear the title “Best Player On the Planet” but he needed Pippen and Grant before he put on any rings. Dr. J. needed Moses, Kareem needed Magic and Bird needed Parrish and McHale. Ya feel me?

“Sorry, bro. You on your own. “

In NO way is James diminished as a the Greatest player in the NBA if he loses this championship. Remember when the Lakers had Gary Payton and Karl Malone to go with Shaq and Kobe? They lost to the Pistons that year whose biggest “star” were Rasheed and Ben Wallace! TEAMS win championships. One man gangs playing hero ball do not.

It’s disingenuous to even suggest LeBron is lessened when he’s playing with role players, guys who weren’t even on the team when the season started and scrubs.

I’d love to see LeBron triumph and beat the odds by leading the Cavs to a championship, but my desires are tempered by reality. Even King James cannot play every minute, bring the ball up court, call the play, put everyone in the right place on the floor, distribute the rock, take the shot, knock it down, box out, grab the rebound, get back on “D”, guard all five opposing players, pop the popcorn, shake the pom-poms at halftime, coach the team and drive the team bus.

The bigger problem for the Cavs is their coach, David Blatt.    He took the job before James came back to town and since then  LeBron has made it clear he doesn’t listen to Blatt; he tolerates him (barely).   Curry does not have a similar problem being coached by Steve Kerr.   Unlike Blatt, Kerr played in the NBA and with Jordan no less.   He knows a little something about how to play with a superstar.   Blatt can’t buy a clue.

His name is LeBron James. It would take LeBron Jesus to carry these  Cavs to a championship.    The Warriors want what LeBron already has: a championship ring and their strategy is not to double team him and not try to shut him down.   Let LeBron get his and see who else can get anything.

James dismisses any strategy teams are allowing him to do his thing while challenging the other guys to do anything.

“Well, first of all, you can’t let me have 40,” James said following the Game One overtime loss where he scored the Cavs lone two points,   “You don’t let me have 40. I go get 40. It’s not like they’re just getting out of the way. So those guys aren’t saying we’re okay with letting him have 40. You don’t let me have 40; I’m making those shots.”

But you didn’t make the shot that would have won the game in regulation, LeBron.    You got 44 points.  You needed 46

His performance in Game Three against the Hawks was nothing short of Herculean. His 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists was magnificent and that’s on top of battling his own knee and ankles injuries (as well as  Blatt’s brain fart in playcalling and counting time outs).

Meet The 2006 Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s okay if you don’t remember them.

I was one of those who was royally pissed by the clumsy way LeBron exited Cleveland and The Decision was one of the worst p.r. mistakes ever made by a pro athlete. But he learned and I have learned to forgive and forget. I welcome him back to Ohio and I wish him nothing but well. James doesn’t have brushes with the law. Doesn’t hang out in the clubs and strip joints. Doesn’t seem to be dropping little LeBrons all around the country. He appears to be a family man who is taking care of them and building himself into a global brand. Good for the brother, I say.

Win this series or lose it, LeBron is still who he is: The Greatest Player in the NBA Today. Truth.   He will not give up and he will not roll over and crown the Warriors.   If there’s a way to will the Cavaliers to a win, James can do it.    With  King James there’s a chance to avoid a repeat of The Sweep the Spurs laid on the Cavs in 2007.

But they won’t win.   They can’t win.   Warriors in five.

Riley Curry waves “bye-bye” to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

 

The 1000th Post: To Be or Not To Blog

Heard you didn’t miss me.  I’m back anyhow.

This is the 1000th blog post of The Domino Theory and I wasn’t sure if it would be the last one.   I took a month off to think about it. Or to put it more accurately to not think about it.

Nobody called,  nobody wrote to ask when I was going to publish again because nobody cares if there’s one less blog in the world.   All this blog is and ever will be is me sharing my thoughts on a topic most people already know about. I’m not breaking news. I’m sharing one man’s opinion and the value of that opinion waxes and wanes depending on how receptive the reader is to what I have to say.

Blogs come and blogs go.  Those that endure do so because the blogger finds ways to keep things fresh and interesting to them.   If they are lucky so will their readers.

This blog was supposed to be a means to an end. The intention was for me to keep my writing tools sharp by keeping busy between freelancing gigs. I never got into journalism to make money because unless you become a brand like Bob Woodward where you make your reputation on one or two good books and squander it by writing increasingly bad books, there’s no money in journalism. At least nobody I know is living comfortably off those wages.

I could do nothing but write about police shootings and racism and never run short of material.   The trouble is  how depressing it is to dwell all the time on blood and bigotry.   It’s not much fun to read either.   This will never be  the place to come for  your Kardashian/Jenner updates, but even I need to lighten the mood at times.   I recently read for my monthly writer’s group a personal story about a friendship which ended badly. It was a substitute for a blood-and-thunder piece I had written about the shooting of Walter Scott. One woman told me, “I was a little scared when I heard you were reading this month. You can be pretty intense sometimes.”

She’s right about that. But too much intensity wears you out.

The other night I came across a Word Press site from blogging expert Lorelle VanFossen and her post, How to Know When to Stop Blogging.  It rang true from the first sentence, “Blogging isn’t for everyone, and everyone doesn’t need to blog. There are times when you should stop blogging, and there are times to take a rest from blogging.”

As I approach the eight-year blogging mark, those are words of sage advice.   VanFossen had more of particular interest for me.

Stop blogging if you don’t have a purpose: Honestly, you don’t have to blog if you don’t want to, and if you don’t know what to blog about, don’t. If your blog has no purpose, stop blogging.

Your blogging purpose doesn’t have to be specific, but it does need to exist. A blog purpose is the reason you blog, the definition of your blog, and why your readers come back to read your blog. If you are blogging about your daily life’s activities and affairs, then that’s your purpose. If you are blogging about a specific industry such as online technology, space, transportation, or ice skating, that’s your blogging purpose. If you are blogging about a specific rare area of science, math, or research, you’ve found a purpose for blogging.

If you blog because it fulfills some deep inner need to express yourself, and it makes you happy and motivates you to get up in the morning, and that feeling lasts longer than 3 months, you’ve got a purpose for blogging. Keep blogging.

Vague, empty blogging just because it’s something to do, or because everyone else is doing it, is useless and a time waster. Stop blogging.

Pretty much this.   Taking a 30-day blogging hiatus did not offer any great revelations. Did not break through a wall of writer’s block. I had no epiphany. No startling insights. None of that. I just needed a break. I took one.

I did not reflect and I did not recharge. I am not renewed or refueled with a brand new sense of purpose. Whatever it was which made me angry or amused or confused or happy or moved to plant my butt in a chair and start typing until what was trying to get out was set free still does.

VanFossen’s parting shot is direct.  “If you are bored with blogging, or bored with what you are blogging about, or your blog writing bores you, it bores your readers. Stop blogging and find something else to do.”

That “something else to do” is to write more, blog less. Writing more means going back to freelancing.   Writing more means recognizing its okay to blog less.     Writing more means writing more stuff that means something and less to fill space because I’m not updating enough.

Too much time spent thinking about writing is not enough time spent writing. There are stories to tell and if I want to read them I’m going to have to write them.    This blog doesn’t have another 1,000 posts in its future, but I’m curious to see how many are left.