Feeling the love, enjoying the hate.

This isn’t so much as just another in an ongoing series of blog posts as this is a victory lap.

It’s been a minute since the last time I had an article published in The Root. Okay—more like, it’s been five months since I had an article published in The Root. I’ve been on this losing streak  for so long that when I submitted my Sarah Palin: Graceless Under Pressure post, I wasn’t expecting anything but yet another, “Sorry, not for us.”

Only this time it was and the response was to put it mildly, pretty good.

How good?   The essay was selected as the “most popular” and most “e-mailed” story on the site.   There were almost 300 comments and another 1,588 “likes” on Facebook  plus an untold number of page views, but no doubt it’s a big number.

None of which will hurt my chances the next time I pitch a story to my editor.  Editors like a lot of traffic on their websites.   The fact I get paid for it too does not suck at all.

Apparently, I struck a nerve.  Then again when the subject is Sarah Barracuda and the stupid shit she spews out with clockwork regularity, readers don’t straddle the fence.  They love her intensely and hate her with the same degree of intensity.

They aren’t shy about sharing their feelings about ye olde wordsmith either.   Some of them were too good to keep them to myself.

Mr. Winbush is lying when claims he implies that Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” is anti-Semitic. It is the false accusation that Jews were complicit in the murder of children, which the term describes, that is anti-Semitic. Ms. Palin used it because she was herself falsely accused of complicity in murder. Not too hard to understand, even for a dimwitted Leftist.

Mr Winbush also lies when he describes Rabbi Hirschfield’s piece, to which he links, as explaining “why many Jews took offense at Palin’s use of the phrase.” In fact the rabbi said “I have no particular problem with people, including gentiles, analogizing their own woes to that of Jews”. What a dishonest creep Winbush is.

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If Sarah Palin said Hi, how are you? she would be criticized. This article is doing the same thing that Obama criticized by it’s attack on Palin. It is incorrect about the use of blood libel which is commonly used to express serious libel against someone. Originally it referred to libel against the jews that was prevalent eons ago. However, it is not a jewish phrase nor is it anti-jew. There is no doubt that Palin has been attacked and deserves to make a response and call the attack exactly what it is. This slanted incorrect article is the same type of rhetoric that is causing dissention in this country and it is an attempt to prevent Palin’s free speech.

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I am astounded about your remarks here. I live in rural America and I feel that some of you who spend your lives within the concrete cities must have no idea what life is like in the real world. Out here where most of us live we are bound by constitutional law and we expect same from our government. We are the sons and parents and grandparents who have fought the wars against communism like those who live in the cities have. America, “land of the free home of the brave” is not just rhetoric to me, it is a way of life. In this slow economy while my business is slow I find much time to “TARGET” socialist politicians for replacement by far sighted, conservative representatives to fill the job of public servant in Washington DC. I am a horse that is tired of being dragged around by the cart. Truth is Sarah Palin is a conservative Wife, Mother, Grandmother and her roots are vary American. If you listen real American values issue forth from her mouth when she speaks.

If you are tired of this sort of back stabbing journalism please comment. It is important that this sort of thing is met with overwhelming rejection.

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Oh good F#%^ greif!!! You stupid moron! She was responding to you RABID liberals who were accusing her of inciting this violence. Her quote of R. Reagan was exactly right! But you moron on the left are too friggin stupid to be able to see what the average American see as plain as the nose on Jimmy Durante’s face!

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I don’t know who Jeffrey Winbush is, but his criticisms of Sarah Palin are complete nonsense. I suspect that Mr. Winbush is young, a strong Obama supporter, and either a socialist or a communist. Socialism and communism are nothing new. They have been tried by totalitarian regimes in numerous countries around the world. The people that have suffered and lived under these regimes do not recommend them. –Just ask anyone that lived in the former Soviet Union. –Just ask the twenty million souls that died in the Soviet labor camps under Comrade Stalin. –Just ask the hundreds of people that have died under socialized medicine in Great Britain and Western Europe. Maybe Mr. Winbush should have a conversation with some of the first generation of Cuban refugees still living in Miami. I suspect Mr. Winbush received his journalistic education from liberal professors that have never operated a business or missed a meal. He criticizes Sarah Palin because he has no real understanding of history, and even less of American conservatism. He bases his criticism on the term “blood libel.” He knows full well that Palin was not referencing the medieval use of the term. Winbush is looking for any flimsy excuse to defile the stature of Palin in the eyes of the public. I am seventy-one years old, and in a few years I will be dead. When I consider the generation that will soon be in charge of things, death doesn’t look so bad. Good Luck Mr. Winbush. I too was once young and ignorant.

As opposed to being old and still ignorant?   How else would you describe  some guy who accuses someone he doesn’t even know of being a “socialist or communist?”

Sarah Palin groupies crack me up.  A bunch of  conservative White guys holding out hope their wet dreams of fucking her will one day come true.

I hate writing about Palin but I love my haters.   They reassure me I’m not wasting my time even while they’re juicing up my page hits.

Hey, Palin groupies! This what you REALLY want?

30 minutes with Pam Grier (or why a big crush doesn’t make a good interview).

Pam Grier: Yep, she's still foxy.

One of the definite perks of being a journalist is every now and then you get to talk to your heroes.    As big as a torch that I’ve carried for the mega-hot Pam Grier,  the opportunity to interview her about her new book, should have been the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition.   Operative words there being  “should have been.

Interviewing Pam Grier for The Root was going to be one of my most memorable moments as a writer.  I had thought of the idea, pitched it to the editor, and set it up.   I was pumped like a kid waiting for Christmas,  but it just kind of ended up sort of blasé, blasé. It’s not that I was anticipating she’d bare her soul to me in a 30-minute phone chat. Maybe it’s just that the anticipation far exceeded the actual event.    I’m supposed to be psyched and pumped at the prospect of interviewing a strong, sexy and accomplished sista like Pam Grier and I was.   Right up to the point when I actually did and then it just seemed kind of–what’s the word I’m looking for?—-routine.

The publicist sent me Pam’s memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts and I gave a read through it pretty fast.  It wasn’t exactly  demanding like plowing through Moby Dick or Atlas ShruggedFoxy is light on the sex symbol stuff and heavy on her love for horses.  There’s even an entire chapter about a horse she rode while in Italy.   Pam really likes her horses and dogs better than some of her ex-boyfriends.

She was friendly and it was  not at all a bad interview, but I quickly found out she was more interested in covering what she wanted to talk about and not what I wanted to ask her. Can’t say I’m surprised. By this time she’s probably done a couple of hundred interviews with dopes like me and been asked every question under the sun about her life, movies and book.

Sometimes you run the interview and sometimes you’re just trying to hang on. Pam was off and running and it was all I can do to keep up with her.   I had my questions written out and I even got to ask a few and have them answered.  Otherwise, it was no big deal.   Just another ordinary interview.   It’s not her.  It’s me.   Maybe my expectations were too high.   I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting a so-so Q&A with the woman who had been the queen of my dreams when she was grinding out blaxploitation shoot-em-ups like Coffy and Foxy Brown and whose poster had graced  the wall of my room when I was in the military.     But that’s exactly what I got; just a routine, run-of the-mill chat that she probably promptly forgot ten minutes after it was over and I doing likewise not longer after.

When it was over I wrote it up, gave it a good edit and turned it in.  The Root ran it and the article got a fair-to-middling response from readers.  Well, you can’t win ’em all.  Some days you’re creating haute cuisine and the next you’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   Every writer I know has churned out what is essentially product, nothing more.

The publicist at the literary agency seemed happy enough with the story.  She thanked me and shipped me out via UPS overnight delivery another book to review.   I started out a long time ago reviewing music and books, and I’m not thrilled to be coming back around full circle.  If I do review this new book, a compilation of comic strips by cartoonist Keith Knight, I’ll have to find another publication to write it for.   The last thing I want to do is get  into a rut where I’m covering old ground over and over.

This isn’t exactly suffering for my art.   I’ll gladly cash the check for the article when it shows up in a few weeks.  Next time out the chute though I hope it’s for something I’m actually happy with instead of  an article that isn’t exactly bad,  just kind of blah.   But don’t get the wrong idea:  Pam Grier is still a sexy, smart and very much a real sista.   There’s no diva attitude.  There’s no pretension or air of bored indifference.   It’s a case of being a passionate fan getting in the way of being an impartial interviewer.    My fault, not hers.

Such is the risk when high expectations collide into mundane reality.   If I can’t get satisfaction,  I’ll have to be settle for compensation (and I hate to settle).

An interesting, if not all together involving, read.

The Workingman Soul of Bill Withers.

Bill Withers isn't great because he said he was. He's great because time proved he was.

 

In soul music certain artists become such icons it becomes unnecessary to refer to them by their surname.  Mention they by first name only and no further explanation is necessary.   There’s Stevie, Luther, Otis, Marvin Isaac, Sly, Al, Curtis and Michael.   Oh, and you can’t forget about Prince (but he made it easy),  And then there’s Bill. 

Bill?  Bill who?   Not ringing  any bells?    His songs surely will.  “Grandma’s Hands,” “Use Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the ubiquitous “Lean On Me”  are a few of the great songs performed by the most important person  to emerge from Slab Rock, West Virgina, William Harrison “Bill” Withers Jr.    Just plain old Bill Withers.  The blue collar, working man and nine-year Navy vet who made music like nobody has before, after or since.  

Everybody likes to say they’re an original but only a few actually are.  Bill Withers didn’t come on stage in leather, spandex, sporting fringe, headbands and platform heels.  He didn’t shake his ass, pump his fist or strip down to his underwear.   Bill Withers didn’t descend from the lights in a mothership.   Didn’t have any dancing girls, laser light shows, or killer choreographed dance steps.   More often than not he’d just walk out on stage in jeans, a t-shirt and an acoustic guitar.   He’d just sit on  a stool, sing his songs, tell a story or two of what the song he was about to sing was about and when he was done, he’d say “good night” and leave.   From the casual way he dressed and his low-key demeanor it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Bill driving the band’s tour bus.   

If I were going to sum up the way Withers presented himself and the type of music he made the word would be understated.   He was an unassuming man who made music that had no pretension and not a shred of interest in what the prevailing trends were in music.    Even while disco dominated the airwaves, Withers showed no interest in pandering to popularity.  I don’t think there’s an essential Bill Withers album and the many compilation “best of’s” are uneven or incomplete.   The latest example of this is the 2009 Playlist: The Very Best of Bill Withers, as misleading a title as ever there was as it passes on hits such as “Use Me,”  “Just the Two of Us” (his duet with Grover Washington Jr.) and even “Aint No Sunshine,” and “Lean On Me”  substituting  live versions instead.   This package is a complete gyp, but for my taste the greatest omission is leaving “Lovely Day” off a supposed “very best of.”    

Which is close to a criminal offense because “Lovely Day,” the high watermark of the 1977 album Menagerie is a soulfully stunning showcase of Withers’ underrated vocal power.   Everything about the song is perfection.  Withers co-wrote the song with Skip Scarborough who had other successes with Earth, Wind and Fire and Mother’s Finest with “Love Changes.”   The band is led by Ray Parker Jr., and his sidekick, Jerry Knight who would go to craft their own hits in Raydio, but Withers is the star here as his singing is so buoyant and powerful it could make the most miserable morning in the dead of winter feel like the first day of spring.  Withers holds the last note of the song for a jaw-dropping  18 seconds.   If 18 seconds doesn’t sound like much, play the song and see how long you can do it without gasping for air.   It’s a lot harder than it sounds.  

I cannot listen to that song without being blown away by what Withers does by holding that note!   To be sure there are better singers than Bill Withers who can belt it out to the back rows of a concert hall and sheer vocal power is not in short supply, but that’s not exactly the same thing going on here.  If someone were to attempt this song in 2010, you’d swear it had to be some studio slight-of-hand being employed to hit and hold a note that long.  

Withers never fit comfortably in the music star-making machinery and at the age of 32 he walked away from it.   He released Watching You, Watching Me in 1985.  He hasn’t made a new album of music since . 

 

At age 71, Withers is enjoying something of mini-revivial.   He’s the subject of a documentary, Still Bill, that answers the question, “Whatever happened to Bill Withers?”   Les Payne, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist penned an article about the film for The Root

Still Bill plays near the surface of this brooding, complex man. There’s a moving account of the artists’ strong relationship with his second wife and children, a devotion that all but explains why he left the performing stage. (Those with long memories will be disappointed that the film skips over his reportedly tumultuous marriage to actress Denise Nicholas.) 

As with most earnest artists, Withers’ gift is as mysterious as it is unmistakable. “I’m just a conduit,” he said. “I walk around, and sometimes I’m scratching myself and things cross my mind. So I don’t know where any of that stuff comes from. People ask about songs and things like that, so I don’t know. It’s just the way I am, I guess.” 

The artist attributes much of his personality to his grandmother immortalized in one of his classic tunes, “Grandma’s Hands.” In their “valuable role, grandmothers tend to gravitate toward the weak kid,” as Withers was a stutterer among his many siblings. 

“I wonder what it would have been like if my grandmothers had been on crack,” mused the songwriter, activating his consciousness about the perils of urban street life. “You can tell how much difference it makes in people’s lives when they get good ones.” 

There is a curious scene in Still Bill in which the West Virginia wordsmith needles the scholarly antics of Cornel West and his sidekick, Tavis Smiley. Pressing the singer about blacks who “sell out,” the duo, appearing to these tired eyes as poseurs on the make, attempted to explain the term to Withers who neatly cut the ground from beneath him. After rejecting Smiley’s very use of the term “sell-out,” Withers embraced it not as a negative but as a positive. The rattled TV host handed off to the professor who attempted to explain “authenticity” by snatching loose quotes from Shakespeare and heaving them at the songwriter of plain lyrics who rejects the easy stereotype slur. 

Born on the Fourth of July, Bill Withers is a prototype omni-American of the sort prescribed by Albert Murray, the great social critic. Living the show-business life for a dozen years, Withers refused to bend his art under the wretched demands of the corrupt music industry. 

The documentary got past my radar when it first came out, but now that I’m aware of it I’ll have to hunt it down.   Withers says he has no interest in any sort of  “comeback,” preferring to let the enduring legacy of his music do the talking    He’s not broke.  He’s not a hermit living in a cabin in the woods.  He’s happy to just be alive and kicking.  In the film he says, “I’m like pennies in your pocket.   You know they’re there, but you don’t think about them.” 

How utterly Bill Withers is that?  

Blogging 101: How to blog when you really don’t want to.

  

"Hi, I'm Vida Guerra, model, actress and singer and I have NOTHING to do with this post."

 

This post is a cheat.   It’s the equivalent of Seinfeld.  That was a television show about nothing.   So is this.   Here’s all  you need to know about blogging;   we’re all learners in a game where there are no masters.  

America Online had a hypothesis they called the “10/40” rule.   You had 10 ten seconds  to grab the attention of web surfers and if they didn’t find anything that interested them they bailed after 40 seconds. 

So what do you blog about when there’s nothing you really want to blog about.  Here’s some subjects I thought about blogging about today and couldn’t work up the passion to write an entire post about.   Lawrence Taylor arrested for rape . Obama’s next likely Supreme Court pick.  JaMarcus Russell being cut by the Oakland Raiders.  The NBA Playoffs.  The flubbed bombing of Times Square. Pam Grier’s new book.  The oil spill in the Gulf and the weak attempts by the Right to call it “Obama’s Katrina.”    An appreciation of Living Colour’s “The Chair in the Doorway” or why Kevin Smith is the most overrated director in Hollywood today. 

Some of these  topics interest me more than others, but none of them inspire me to write 600-800 words about it.  The thing is it’s been four days since my last blog post which is three days longer than I usually go between blog posts.   What’s a blogger to do? 

Stall. Play for time.  Fake it.  That’s why I stuck pictures of the many curves of Vida Guerra on this post even though it has nothing at all to do with her. 

The Domino Theory  is three years old in June.   No presents are necessary and I’m trying to give up cake, but I’ll indulge myself by slamming two cans of Diet Coke instead of one.   Even I didn’t know I could b.s. that long.   Sometimes I even surprise myself what I get away with.   On the serious side,  it’s been more fun than work, but easy reading comes from hard writing.   That means there will be days like this when I have to write something even when I have nothing burning on the front stove. 

"Hi! Me again. Still not in this post."

 

I read a lot of blogs by other writers, both amateurs and professionals.   Know what I’ve learned?  There’s not a lot of difference between the two.  The professionals write better, but a lot of them come from the structured environments of print journalism.   It might be harder for a professional to learn blogging because so much of what blogging is has nothing to do with journalism.  

What I’ve learned is blogging ain’t for sissies. It’s damned tough trying to find enough to feed a blog on a regular basis or at least some days it is. At other times my cup runneth over and I have more subjects to write about than I have hours in the day to write it.   I spent three days on an essay for The Root and when I was finished with it I had no interest in writing anything else.   Blogging is just a matter of sitting down in front of a computer and letting fly with whatever is rattling around in your dome.   Journalism requires stuff bloggers don’t have to worry about such as proper sentence construction, coherent and linear writing, fact checking, sourcing,  word counting, editing, revising, and more editing.  It helps to spell right too. 

These days occur when I say, “Dammit, I DON’T want to update the freaking blog.”  At other times I can’t rest until I get to it and let fly with whatever has severely pissed me that day. 

I look at the graph of my page hits and the stock market has to be easier to predict. It drives me mad to spend time and effort pouring my heart into a topic I think is really interesting, proof it, publish it and….nothing.   Even the crickets won’t pay attention.  Nobody reads it. Nobody comments on it and nobody gives a crap. 

But let me post some trifling throw-off that I barely bat an eyelash  over and WHAM!  I’m got readers all over it like ants on a lump of sugar.   There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to it.   All I do know is  when I blog about Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, the Tea Partiers, porn, Will Smith or Lady Gaga,  whatever readership I have that’s what gets them to pay attention for 10 seconds and decided to hang around past 40 second.   I guess if I wanted only to blog about a dozen subjects or so I’d be set.  

I’m a journalist by trade so the freedom to write what I want is a bit intoxicating at times, but it also means I can cough up some real junk too. My blog turns three years old next month and going through the archives I find posts that make me say “That was pretty good” or “What the hell was I thinking?” 

I think both my blog and writing have become a bit soft, so I’m trying to write more often about what actually means something instead of the lightweight stuff. Without the structure of an editor or regular publication, I need to push harder and challenge myself as a writer more.   If you don’t use a muscle it withers and entropy sets in.   That includes the intellectual and writing muscles.   They need regular and rigorous workouts. 

When they don’t you get posts like this consisting of a writer expounding about the process of writing.   That, and rick-rolling the innocent with gratuitous eye-candy photos of a Cuban-born hotty struggling to find a bikini that fits. 

"Gee, a woman in her underwear really can get guys to read anything."

Now Playing at “The Root.”

Joe Stack crashed his plane into a government building in Austin, Tx.

It was going to be posted here, but they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

My essay about Joseph Stack’s terrorist attack in Austin, Texas, White Man’s Anger, Black Man’s Death is now available at The Root.

It’s kind of a big deal for me to get something published in The Root.  They ran one of my articles in 2008 and I’ve been trying ever since to get a second one published.  It’s a tough nut to crack.

Persistence is it’s own reward.  It’s nice to be noticed, but for a freelance writer, where you’re noticed is just as important.

It will end up here eventually.  For the present I’m happy to have it play on a bigger stage.