Friday, December 28, 2007

Obama's Basketball Career

h/t to Mike Cohen for finding this one...

He had some skills on the court, but his free-throwing was Shaq-worthy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Top Ten News Events of 2007

So we're going to take suggestions from you guys to compile this list. But essentially we want to know what our Message community feels were the top ten news stories of 2007.

Realizing that the giant plague of attacking locusts could come on December 29th.

Write them down in the comments section and we'll post this board's list sometime next week.

Is it Iraq? Barack? Vick? The theatrical release of Who's Your Caddy?

Off-the-wall suggestions are welcomed as are serious ones. And you can suggest more than one.

Have your way with the comment section.

Where My Gamers At

I'm about as anti-war as they come.

Considering I have a brother in the army reserves scheduled to deploy I'll be blogging about that more extensively later.

YET...I am very pro war movies and games. Just can't get enough. As long as there's no real stakes, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

I own the special edition of Apocalypse Now and have seen Platoon, Black Hawk Down & Full Metal Jacket about fifty times each.

("Everybody gotta die some time, Red.")

So I just finished the greatest war game of all time.*

It's so good, you'll wanna do it over once you beat it.


This screen shot is from in-game play...


The story line is better than most movies. And the game play is sublime. I actually had to stop for a few hours because things were getting too intense.

As war games go, Halo 3 is still the fave online.

But the story from HALO was amazing...while that from HALO 3, got repetitive. Almost stupid.

(for serious gamers This Link will take you to a hilarious review of Halo 3.)


"If those are the writers for COD4, shoot."

By the way...in case you were wondering if I have a social life...this post should answer those questions pretty clearly.

Good hunting.

*"Of all time" = "That I have ever played". If you ask Diallo, he'll say the greatest war game is CIVILIZATION to which he was briefly addicted in the late 90's.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quickies

I'm a sucker for a good editorial cartoon.

I think it's one of the hardest things to be good at and is a skill I've always admired.

This is from Lalo Alcaraz of the LA Weekly.



Another great editorial cartoonist is Clay Bennett.

How do I know this...I go to Daryl Cagle. It's a great way to get a quick litmus on the nation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Tolerance

I was in Amsterdam recently.

Their Christmas traditions are slightly "different" than ours.

Instead of elves who help Santa Claus...

...they have this lovely figure:



His name is Zwarte Piet

("Black Peter"? Maybe, my Dutch is rusty.)

Friends there tell me that the Dutch response to the locals (Africans) and tourists (rest of planet) who have a problem with this traditional iconography is, simply:

"Go to hell. It's our culture, if you have a problem, leave."

Can't argue with that. Still and all it was shocking to see these sambos running the streets.

(Moreso because the people who dressed up weren't even all white. I know a broad nose and high cheekbones when I see it, even under shoe polish.)

Wow.

By the by. I'm not Christian so I apologize if this offends anyone, but...

...at this point can we just call Christmas an American holiday rather than a religious one? I mean, the rest of us wanna get in on this spending tons of money and going into tremendous credit card debt thing too. I'm serious. We wanna play.

Until then...

"Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar vanaf Kalverstraat!"

----------

ALERT -- A friend just hipped me to this:


Damn. Flex....Just Damn.

And JEJ...Damn. Even you Hume...DAYUM.

(okay, so when my money is tight and I have to write and star in Johnny the Happy Smiley Slave...remember the above. And judge me not too harshly.)

Interracial. Meaning?

There is a strain of hypocrisy that frequently rears its head in the black community.

We'll talk mess about interracial couples.

But laud the PRODUCTS of interracial couples.

I wonder if we realize that these:





...aren't possible without these:





Why the hypocrisy?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Super Confessions

So I have to come clean. I secretly...

...like some of the stuff on Superdeluxe.

I'd argue that 99% of the comedy on the web is garbage. But some things keep me coming back.

I think Brad Neely's Babycakes series is superb.



And even though some of their humor is offensive to the point of un-watchability.

Waco and Roger killed me with this one.



Are there any web comedy sites people are willing to ride for?

FunnyOrDie has the most consistently funny comedy videos. But I think The Onion, while light-years ahead of everyone else on the written side, is starting to gain ground on the video side.

To wit.

Country Music Stars Challenge Al-Qaeda With Patriotic New Song �Bomb New York�

A Big Willy Morning

The number one movie in America stars a black man.

It's not a big deal. It happens. And when it does, rarely does the race of the star get much play, in the media or our minds.*

I believe our thoughts to be:

"The number one movie in America stars a movie star".

I say all that to say that if Obama is elected President, the nation will take as much notice of his race as they do of, say, the worlds best golfer, the richest woman on television, the best female tennis player or the worlds biggest movie star.

That's how the majority in this country operate. They act like race is such a big deal...until it isn't.

Barry Bonds not withstanding.

*(Unless it's by a black producer/director who wears drag.)

Monday Inspiration: The Rockford Files

I know, I know. We didn't post a Sunday Inspiration either yesterday or last week. But it was a hectic weekend. Holiday parties and people getting ready to head out of town.

But I had to post this one in particular. It's an interview from 1994 with James Garner regarding one of my favorite shows to TiVo.

The Rockford Files. No show I have ever found, still in syndication, captures the feel of a previous decade quite like this one. The clothes, the cars, the Los Angeles city landmarks.

It was a different planet thirty years ago. The world, one senses, had a different feel, a different smell. You can almost smell the cigarettes in each character's polyester blends.

Check out the 2:09 mark. You'll see what I mean.



I have forced every friend of mine, at some point, to come over to my place and watch an episode of Rockford. And inevitably, they agree there is something intangible about the show that makes for great viewing. If you have the Sleuth Channel in your area, TiVo it and join the club.


And before we're out of here, check out this awesome promo for The Rockford Files. If you're like me, you can really get off on clips like this.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Odds and Ends

It's Friday.

Wanted to keep things light-hearted for a change. After all, we are supposed to be a comedy blog. (right?)

1. Some movies just DON'T need to be made. And yet, if the numbers guys in Hollywood think it can turn a buck, they do it. Most of those are movies with built in audiences.

Like...kids.

Enter Alvin and The Chipmunks.

Looks terrible, right?

I thought so too. But...

a) I'll be home for the holidays.

b) I have six nieces and nephews all younger than five.

So i'll be seeing this heap of crap.



"Hooray, boys, we're getting Bashir's money".

2. The Golden Compass is easily the worst movie I have seen all year. Apparently it cost $250 million and was directed by the guy who did American Pie.

THAT SAID...you should go see it...HIGH.

I think if you were weeded out, it would be the best movie you've ever seen.

a) no plot development

b) no minorities. That's right, even in a bizarro universe...no black people. Or Asians. Or Latinos. Or Pacific Islanders. Or Indians (they shot this is England, right. They couldn't find ONE Indian...weird.)

c) it's not even guardedly anti-Christian if you're paying attention to the subtext. (Instead of a soul the people have animals called Demons. Real. Subtle.)

d) you get to see a CGI polar-bear fight, that has apparently, nothing to do with the plot. A long assed, expensive fight. Between polar bears. And it has no plot ramifications.

e) The movie ends with a scene from The Empire Strikes Back. Somebody is somebodies parent. But no one gives a damn.


"You smell that? It's coming from the only guy in the audience enjoying this movie."

3. But just to be positive there are five movies I've seen this year that are GREAT.
In no particular order:

The Darjeeling Limited: more Wes Andersen rich boy adventures. Plus a hot Indian babe.

Lust/Caution: horny Asians with guarded feelings, silent tears, and near porno level sex. And if you ever wondered what Tony Leung's ass looks like...here's yer op.

Gone Baby, Gone: blood and Boston accents.

Eastern Promises: even more blood and Russian accents. And if you've ever wondered what Viggo Mortensen's schlong looked like...have at it.

No Country for Old Men:
the most blood of all and western accents. Probably the best movie on here. Just solid acting & directing.

(I know there's no black movies on this list, but I didn't see Talk to Me so if it's great, I apologize)


"Look over there. Is that old sellout-ass, I'm too busy to see this movie Bashir?"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

WE hate US for OUR freedom!

Okay. So the posts are coming fast and furious here on The Message Blog and I for one LOVE IT.

One of the things that fascinates me about this presidential election is how Barack Obama's mere presence is forcing everyone to talk about race (Even the Republican's were forced to show their true colors by no-showing at Tavis Smiley's debate). If Sharpton or Jackson were running, the other candidate's wouldn't have to pander, but with Barack involved it's a different story.

More to the point, the democratic primary is forcing each African-American to make a decision: Clinton, Obama, Edwards? Sisterhood, Brotherhood or Class? This process has been great because it demonstrates that we are not exactly the "monolith" voting block as we are often portrayed.

More interestingly, in my opinion, is that latent self-hatred in the African-American community is having its moment in the sun and I can only gratefully thank Barack for allowing these people to expose themselves.

Example #1. Andrew Young - Civil Rights icon. Former Mayor of Atlanta. Self-Hater.

"Bill is every bit as black as Barack...He's probably gone with more black women than Barack," Young said of former President Clinton, drawing laughter from a live television audience. Young, 75, was quick to follow his comment on Bill Clinton with the disclaimer, "I'm clowning."

Uh, yes Mr. Young. You were clowning...our community and everything you fought too hard for in the Civil Rights Movement. Has Bill Clinton ever been pulled over for "driving while black"? Does Bill Clinton have a significantly higher mortality rate than the average white American? Does Bill Clinton...uh do you get my point?

Rhetorically saying "Bill Clinton was the first black President" is cute, but woefully ridiculous. I love the man to death too, but come on PEOPLE! If you're going to support Clinton (and by the way, that's Hillary, not Bill) fine. But PLEASE don't try and pass it off with race? Just say, I've been a loyal member of the Democratic party and if the establishment thinks Hillary is next in line, then that's how I will roll.

But isn't that the thing? This significant LACK of black support from within the African-American community is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of LACK of civil rights progress? I can't really believe that if a Jewish man was running for President (or Italian, or Catholic, or etc.) that the voting within his own community would be this fragmented?

Example #2. The Alabama Democratic Conference. Self-Hater(s).

Ah yes, in October the black wing of the state Democratic Party, endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Albert Turner hates on himself when he states, "The question you have to put forth to yourself is that whether or not in this racist country a black man named Obama -- when we are shooting at Osama -- can win the presidency of the United States?" Turner then goes on to say Clinton is the Democrat most likely to win in November "because of her husband and because of some other things, mainly because she's white."

Wow. Somewhere Martin Luther King Jr. is rolling over in his grave...

Ike Turner is Dead

Ike Turner has died. Why must the good die so young?

Oh, looks like he was 76. Well, he was young at heart.

The question is - was he good? The better question is perhaps, just how bad does a person have to be for it not to be okay to even wish them RIP?

I have long argued that it is important to divorce the artist from the art, insofar as some of the most talented people in the arts are deeply and fundamentally flawed.

Marvin Gaye was apparently an asshole. Jerry Lewis' kids all wrote nasty books about him. Phil Spector was a sadistic control freak before he killed anyone and Tupac could only be described as volatile, if not downright foul at times.

But who would deny the talent and appeal of these individuals? If Wagner was an anti-Semite, or D.W. Griffith and Rudyard Kipling indefensibly racist, we fight a losing fight to make the case they weren't masterful at their craft.

The man in the clip below is worth remembering for some good works too, despite his shortcomings. Unlike most abusive drug-addicts, he was actually talented and did bring something valuable into this world (and I'm not only talking about discovering a young Anna Mae Bullock, aka Tina).



We can honor the work, sometimes without honoring the worker.
A great song, after all, can be penned by a clown...

And yet, maybe Ike is too unsympathetic. From his autobiography only six years ago:

Sure, I've slapped Tina... There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her.

Well damn, that's reassuring.

It's comforting to know that one good "punching to the ground" does not a beating make. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm off the hook.

Ultimately, you hope the demons that chase a person in this life don't chase that person into the next. With that in mind, we say, Rest In Peace, Ike. Your name is synonymous with spousal abuse and your legacy is profoundly mixed, but the Ike & Tina Revue lives on.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Orleans

Every once in a great while one sees something so profoundly disturbing...it must be from New Orleans.

I present..."Gutta Time".



Has anything POSITIVE every happened in that city?

Hope

"Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."
- Red, The Shawshank Redemption

And yet...

Last night as Barack Obama spoke at the Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles I allowed myself to hope.

Watching the Senator from my hometown rile a stunningly diverse crowd of Angelinos hungry for change. I felt moved.

In 1992 a CTA bus-load of friends and I left school early to go see Spike Lee's opus Malcolm X. It was a powerful collective experience. Yet the moment most touching for me was at he film's end during Ossie Davis' graveled recreation of the eulogy he gave for Malcolm over images of the actual leader.

"Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you?"


The power of personality. Malcolm had it. Kennedy had it.

Barack got it too.

So if you are still on the fence about him, I have to ask.

"Have you heard Barack speak live?"

To listen to him speak live, is to feel that, despite the thousands around you, he is talking to a small group of good friends. His sense of humor is palpable. He exudes not just statesmanship, but that other quality so often lacking in those at the tops of food chains; humanity. And he is hopeful. He revokes the politics of fear, and invokes the politics of "can-do-American Spirit". He riles weary bones. He encourages action from the irresolute.

Obviously, one can't focus on specifics when chatting with several thousand of your closest friends. So much of the speech was stump-friendly boilerplate. But in his final moments he asserted that he was for America being able to stand up again in so many arenas where we've fallen behind.

As someone who recently traveled abroad, seen how tarnished our image has become, DESERVEDLY SO, I can get down with that.

Actor James Whitmore was part of the cavalcade of those introducing him. (He played BROOKS, the old guy from Shawshank) Mr. Whitmore, 86, veteran of many presidencies and World War II felt compelled to lend his voice. He called Mr. Obama "wiser" than any of the Presidents he's lived under.

Wisdom. Remember that? That quality in people who've been somewhere and done some things that elicits trust in those under them, because they speak of the lessons of what they've seen. And imbue you with a fair assessment of what's to come. And engender in you a sense of trust.

Barack got that too.

My father is an Imam. Like a preacher in Islam. I spent most of the first eighteen years of my life listening to speeches. Muslim, Christian, Jewish. You name it, it was in dad's cassette deck. Inter-faith, pro-black, communitarian...on and on. I have been subjected to hours and hours of speeches. So I'm a fairly harsh critic and cynic whenever someone declares they need to talk to a few thousand people about their opinion. I usually pass.

But, last night, I heard a good one from a good person.

And I allowed myself to believe that America is ready.

I hoped.

-------------------

(aside)

In terms of Hillary Clinton, writing in the LA TIMES, Jonah Goldberg (whom I usually abhor) puts it best...

"The first female front-runner for president is, amazingly, the candidate of the establishment. For all except a few feminists, she's a buzz-kill. Voting for Clinton just doesn't make Democrats feel good about themselves. Because they still want a victory that will magically change the world. Unfortunately for her, neither "Democrat" nor "Clinton" nor "Hillary" are abracadabra words anymore. But Obama is."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Great Performances (Vandross Edition)

Music is very important to Diallo and I.

I sang in choir and did lots of musicals, he's a huge DJ in LA. We both sang in in the same A Capella group in college...

(technically that's how we met, you remember a capella? In college? You'd be minding your business, eating dinner in the dining hall, a group of about 7 - 12 guys would run in and start harmonizing 50's pop? Brightly sung 60's Motown? really annoying? ... yeah that was us.)

But we love music.

You ever watch something and realize you just didn't appreciate how amazing it was when you first saw it.

Behold, Mr. Vandross.



We'll never hear him sing live again.

And I have to ask.

Is there ANY R&B male vocalist who is POPULAR nowadays who can sing anywhere near this good?

We often speak of the degradation of our culture. And I think this cuts to the heart of it.

Craig (who runs his own music label) says that the era of the mature singer in R&B being popular is dead. I hope not, but I can't think of anyone nowadays who one is excited to see live...

...NOT because of the spectacle, the dancing or the awesome production quality of the songs (Justin, Omarion, Usher, etc.)

But because...DAMN...that dude can sing. Is that really over? Ruben Studdard on American Idol was good at emulating Luther. But he also had terrible pitch problems, and not ONE OUNCE of the talent.

I mean, seriously, if I wanna buy a ticket to see a POPULAR singer whose vocal skills are breathtaking...

...do I have to go back in time? Does the industry discourage real singers? Are they still mostly in the Church? Do I have to get into Gospel?

Or do I have to leave the radio off?

Star Power

Are they the Great Black Hopes?

The Axis of Blackness, if you will?

Call them what you want, but they're moving crowds like Bono. Over 29,000 people showed up in South Carolina over the weekend to see Barack and Michelle Obama share the stage with Oprah Winfrey. That was only after a large crowd came out to see them speak in Iowa the day before.

Footage of that can be found here:




I have seen Barack speak before, here in Los Angeles, and I can attest to the fact that when he hits the stage, the mood in the room changes. Suddenly, you're not at a political rally. You're at a concert, and that's no exaggeration.

Barack has a George Jefferson swagger when he walks onto the stage. He seems to revel in the fact that he's black, in a way not seen since Bill Clinton's entrance into the 2004 Democratic Convention

(which was a funny running joke until this weekend - I'm going to let Craig address the ridiculous statements made by former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young on Bill Clinton's blackness in a separate post)

Watching Barack, Michelle, and Oprah on stage is like watching a black house party played out in front of thousands.

This could all be the honeymoon phase of the campaign, and who knows where the nation will be headed by this time next year, but one feeling keeps coming back to me every time I think back on hearing Obama speak.

It's best summed up by the closing anecdote in today's AP article on the New Hampshire rally:

Kristen Price, 26, who traveled about 120 miles from Bennington, Vt., to Manchester, said Winfrey was the main draw but she ended up as an Obama supporter.

"She played a big role, I'll admit it, but he held his own just fine," Price said.

Price said she had been torn between supporting Obama or Clinton but now considered herself firmly in Obama's camp.

"It was like a religious experience. It was inspiring," she said. "I feel like now America could do anything."



That's the kind of fervor that can win an election.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Forgot How Good This Was

"Once In A Lifetime"

(D Byrne and his boys)



Talking Heads rocked.

The problem with music in the 80's is that, while so much of it was great, it was often presented in odd packaging.

I never noticed how much of a funk influence there was in this track.

You go back and listen to any of the big groups from then and the quality of production in the music is breathtaking.

(one more for good measure. notice the Reggae licks)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Barack COULD Win

Somehow I got long-horned into providing the optimistic viewpoint in this internal Message debate (which is never a comfortable position for a person - it makes you look naive and it's always easier to attack than it is to defend).

But to dance this rhetorical tango with Bashir, I am going to argue that Barack does stand a chance to win the White House.

And for some of the very reasons Bashir claims he can't.

Are the majority of Americans white? Yes. Are they color blind? No. But never has our country's racial consciousness worked in the black candidate's favor before like it could for Barack.

The fact is most voters, but Democrats and Independents especially, want change. Poll after poll show Change to be the central issue of this election.

And as Michelle Obama has said repeatedly on the campaign trail, what better way to announce to the world, and to ourselves, that we have turned a corner on this dark decade than to have the two of them standing up there on Inauguration Day, her husband taking the oath.

Let's be frank. No one hanging a noose in 2007 is voting for the Democrat these days anyway. So the fight is essentially who can win the Independents and who can get the Democrats excited.

Barack.

Consequently, few Democratic or Independent voters like to think of themselves as being racist. That definitely works in Barack's favor. I couldn't help but notice how gleeful (conservative) George Will got on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopolous when he said, essentially, "once you have a President Obama, you have effectively kicked Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton out of a job."

Sound ridiculous? To me, yes. And do black voters see it like that? I don't think so. But if enough white voters feel that way...

That by electing a competent black President, this country can essentially eliminate and wipe away some of its national (and personal) white guilt, you could see a groundswell of support for Obama.

So placing aside for a moment that I personally support Barack because I think he's the best candidate, I also think he can take advantage of America's racial past to win.

Because America always wants to believe the best about itself. And if Barack taps into that, his personal appeal and well-financed campaign should be able to do the rest.

Barack Obama Can't Win

(Diallo and I are having an ongoing discussion on Senator Obama's Chances. While we are both firmly in his camp, I have decided to argue why he can't win in order that our readers take up the discussion.)

He's a good-looking guy.



A wonderful orator. An upstanding diplomat. The quintessential statesman.

But this is America...where we do stuff like this...



The ultimate problem is that our piece above wasn't so over the top.

Yes, he's pulled even with Hillary in Iowa's polls. America is learning who he is. Iowa is full of conservative Democrats. So if they can give him a chance, surely America can.

But Iowa is a Caucus not a vote. And John McCain took the 2000 New Hampshire primary before being stomped elsewhere, so early wins don't mean anything. Iowa, as many pundits point out, has an unfair advantage in being first, but it's just NOT a true litmus for America. And, more than that, it's not even a vote...it's a raising of hands.

America has to make it's decision alone, in a voting booth, curtain pulled.

(or, with a machine built by a Republican crony)

And a country that has allowed countless white criminals to literally get away with everything from corporate malfeasance (Halliburton), governmental malfeasance (2/3rds of all Bush appointees everywhere) and murder (Spector, Blake)...

...yet pursued OJ Simpson ruthlessly until they finally got him on something, years later, something dumb as hell...

...how are they, THE MAJORITY, gonna vote when that curtain is closed.

When the majority is alone in the booth...what will they do?

That's the crux of my argument. It's hardly scientific. I won't drown you in numbers only express my personal opinion.

I won't even drown you in further examples of what Americans do when the curtain is pulled, when they are alone, when they think no one sees. (Dog the Bounty Hunter, Gibson, Richards, Nooses at Columbia, etc., etc. ad infinitum)

Mildly racist sentiment among our leaders has only been a liability in public. In private, it helps. See: The Southern Strategy.

("Would you vote for John McCain if you knew he had a black baby?)

In private, people succumb to their inhibitions. Perhaps, even worse, they indulge in them.

In private, I just don't think that over half of the country who votes will vote for him, despite his excellence. Despite his leadership capability. Despite anger at Bush. Despite him being young and new. And we're a country that just LOVES young, new things.

While the curtain is open, they may poll well in favor of a black man.

But when the curtain is pulled, they won't vote for a nigger.