Black History – one for the ages… and the spacemen

If aliens arrived, and they asked you about black culture in the United States… and YOU are the only ambassador. Well… clearly not you.  But me. We can all agree this isn’t the best option, but it is what we have to deal with.  No pressure. Here is what I hand them:

 A book

soul on ice > Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge Cleaver as a leader in the black panther party. You need to learn about them, they were AMAZING. They were a ‘black power’ group, but did this by taking over their own neighborhoods. Food drives, shoe drives… etc. Wait, you say – didn’t they shoot white cops? Nope. Geronimo Pratt’s sentence was finally overturned and he was set free. Pratt was jailed in the early 70s for shooting cops. But, he didn’t. He was set up by the cops.  Turns out the witnesses were cops who were lying.  Pratt did almost 30 years for that bullshit.  Same with Hurricane Carter.  It’s no wonder why black people hate you. I hate me already!

So a brief primer on the Panthers, whom I love. It was started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. In this time, in Northern California… blacks were getting majorly hassled. This was happening everywhere, in here they took a stand. Huey Newton, the leader, knew law. He LOVED law. He would follow cops, and when would pull over and harass black folks, he would stand there and tell them their rights. “you don’t have to answer that”. Or “ask if you are being detailed, and do NOT allow them to search your person or vehicle. You have rights!”  Huey was known to carry a rifle in one hand, and a law book in the other.  Is there a better symbol of America than that?

 Yeah, he really did that. He ran around at night and advised his poor black community peers of their rights against the white racist cops. Well, the cops hated that, as you can imagine. Nixon made them public enemy number 1.
Eldridge became a leader in the group shortly after. According to Eldridge, he was very high up… possibly even #3 (behind Bobby and Huey). This book is Eldridge’s diary while he was in prison for something or other. Before you read it, know that Eldridge is a big fan of Eldridge. Did you read Clinton’s biography? It’s kinda like that. These guys LOVE themselves. Still, though, it is an AMAZING read and opened my eyes to black culture and contributions beyond what my middle class upbringing would provide.

 Bobby also wrote a book, called ‘Seize the Time’. Sadly, it isn’t as good. Know that Bobby was a MUCH bigger figure historically than Eldridge… but Eldridge is a hell of a writer. Eldridge even strikes me as a guy who probably refers to himself in the third person. Still worth it, though.

Side note – Bobby is still alive (unlike Huey and Eldridge). With the passing of Nelson Mandela… Bobby Seale might be the greatest living black activist… or a very close tie to Harry Belafonte.

 A movie

It is a real and genuine tragedy there is no good Black Panther movie. Man, would that make an amazing film. It has everything. I imagine young blacks know about MLK, and perhaps a bit about Malcom X (another amazing memoir, and also a bit of a hagiography)… but I bet few know about the story of the Black Panthers. Or worse, possibly the perception that the white power structure put out – that they were thugs and gangs and anti white and cop shooters. Listen, here is the thing… just because they are pro-black… it does not mean (to me anyway) they are anti white.  Speaking of movies and Malcolm X, I very much enjoyed the Denzel movie.  I think he did a terrific job.

 Sorry, I got diverted. I think Spike Lee’s movie ‘Do the Right Thing’. It’s a great story. Kinda funny, my only memory of the cast is Danny Aiello (the one white guy). I don’t much care for Spike, though. I think he is totally racist.  However, he is honest and upfront about his opinions.  Here is when I turned on him… or when he turned on us.  He was being interviewed for something, by someone, about making a shit ton of money on something or other and the reporter asked how he would spend the windfall.  Spike got all butt-hurt and demanded “would you ask a white man that?”.   Yeah.  Yeah we would.  It was an interview… about all the money you made… where we ask you questions… about the money you made.  No hidden agenda here, man.

Can I add one more thing?  It sure wouldn’t be a Tyler Perry movie.  Those movies are so stereotypie that my stereotypographometer®  just exploded.  Maybe if the aliens asked ‘how about a movie about what black people think white people think about black people’.

 An album

 Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland.   This album is an insano masterpiece of songwriting and engineering. This is the last record from Jimi (in his life he only did 3). There isn’t much pop on here. No ‘Foxy Lady’, or ‘Purple Haze’. No sir. This fucker goes deep. To listen to the album optimally, I would recommend really good headphones, an ocean, and a shit ton of LSD. Not sure that is what you should do, but it worked for me. What was it Hunter said “I never advocated drugs, violence, alcohol, or insanity… but they always worked for me”.  Here is my favorite song of all.

oh, there is also this one.  Like this one a lot.  Side note, this album has Jimi’s highest charting hit… and it was a cover.

A poem

 You expect me to give you some Maya Angelou. I wish I could. I am sure it’s great. I never read any. From afar, it looked boring and preachy. I am not proud of that, just being honest.   Let’s go deeper, crackers. I am a lit guy, and I had a great lit teacher who turned me on to WEB DuBois. Dig this gem, from around 1900

My country tis of thee,
Late land of slavery,
         Of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s pride   
Slept where my mother died,   
From every mountain side
         Let freedom ring!

My native country thee
Land of the slave set free,
         Thy fame I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
And o’er thy hate which chills,   
My heart with purpose thrills,   
         To rise above.

Let laments swell the breeze   
And wring from all the trees
          Sweet freedom’s song.   
Let laggard tongues awake,   
Let all who hear partake,   
Let Southern silence quake,
         The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to thee   
Author of Liberty,
         To thee we sing
Soon may our land be bright,   
With Freedom’s happy light   
Protect us by Thy might,
         Great God our King.

a tv show

 In Living Color, the Wayans family.  So funny, and so aggressive and silly at the same time… about race issues.  That show was brilliant.  That show did what I think Tyler Perry is trying to do but can’t… let black people celebrate their differences and laugh about cultural variances.  This can be done playfully bouncing off stereotypes… without beating them to death.  I have never seen on of the 13 ‘Madea’ movies… but I will bet my life there is a scene in every one where she is sweating in a pentecostal church with a fan saying things like ‘oh lawdy lawdy lawdy’.  I bet she threatens to ‘whoop a lot of ass’.    Perry, you are to blacks what Adam Sandler is to whites.  Don’t over think that, it just wanted to see what it looked like in print.

                               power to the people.  All power to the people.  – Huey Newton



Hunter Thompson and Salvador Dali – prisoners of their own creations

I love Hunter Thompson, and Salvador Dali.  I LOT.  Like, I moved my life around for those two.  HST is a big part of why I moved to Colorado.  As for Dali, we honeymooned in Spain, partially so we could travel to Figueres to the Dali museum.  Both were worth it.  They are both huge influences and heroes to me.  Never, until recently, did I think of them together.  On a flight over the Pacific, I watched this cool documentary on Dali.  I would hyperlink it here, but I don’t remember the name of it, or the production company, or anything. To clarify, this doc had nothing to do with Hunter at all. In watching the doc, though, I had an epiphany.

On so many levels, Hunter S Thompson and Salvador Dali were the same person.

Boy, I better deliver on that one.  See, they were both creative geniuses.  They were both  HUGELY celebrated artists.  They were both starfuckers.  They were both trapped by their best creations… themselves.  They both peaked early, and spent the rest of their lives being haunted and pigeonholed by those creations.  Hunter talks about it openly below (jump ahead to the 11 minute mark, but watch the whole piece if you can.  It’s pretty good).

Basically, they had both peaked by 30.  They both did little, effectively, after that.  Hunter, for example, probably has 20 books to his name.  About 3*** were original creative works of any kind of consequence. The rest, and there are MANY, are collections of letters or short stories. (*** see below for aside on this)

Though I love just about all of Dali’s art, and most of Hunter’s full length books (remember, there are basically 3)… their best creations was themselves.  These two LOVED a spectacle.  They invented spectacle.  This was fun and awesome, likely, when they were young.  It became a prison of sorts as they aged.  You realize quickly, as Jimi Hendrix did, that people just want to see that character.  In the early days, Jimi did wild stuff to his equipment, just out of fun and passion.  Pete Townshend, too.  In time, though, people didn’t come to here Jimi play the blues.  They wanted stunts.  For Pete, they wanted to see a Strat smashed of they would have felt they never saw a full Who show.

Luckily, for all mentioned above (except Hendrix), they got to live long enough to see the futility of their creations come to haunt them.  I say ‘luckily’ not because I want them to suffer… but luckily that they had long enough lives to see the silliness of being such a one dimensional characters.

For both Dali, and Thompson… being themselves was their full time jobs.  Remember, Hunter lived to 2005, but hadn’t written anything at length of consequence since 1972.  Now, is that to say Hunter did dick all for 35 years but ride his own coattails?  Yeah, pretty much.

With Dali, we are lucky that we have a great body of work.  However, the documentary I watched strongly implied that he also didn’t do dick all after about 30.  Oh sure, you get the lobster telephone.  However, it isn’t exactly on par with the masterpiece ‘Persistence of Memory‘.  In fact, look at the irony; there is an expression used when people put in bare minimum effort and still get credit.  It’s called ‘phoning it in’.  Is there a better example in all of history than this?

While it isn’t my personal favorite piece, it is certainly Dali’s best known.  ‘Persistence of Memory‘ is most known for it’s iconic ‘soft watches’, though I always called them melting clocks.  Even the Simpson‘s have paid homage.  Aw heck, it looks like everyone has.

This isn’t meant to be critical in an anti-artistic sorta way.  It is more meant to be critical in a ‘huh, I never thought of it that way.  Maybe you got something there’.   Really, mostly I am just jealous.  These guys are SO impactful to my life.  I think I write this to help me better understand why. Proof of their impact on me?  My first tattoo will be a Ralph Steadman drawing of the great white rabbit from the Alice books.  I have been trimming my beard for years, but never ONCE the edges of my mustache, in hopes I can do this one day.

*** 3 books of HST.   There is Hells’ Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972.  That is it.  That is all you need to know about Hunter from start to finish.  Now, he has 4 books of compiled letters (I am also including ‘Better than Sex’ here) and about 10 of short story compilations.  In retrospect, that is kind of a week body of work.  However, those few books were SO good and SO influential.  Look at Lewis Carrol.  What else did he write besides Alice in Wonderland?  Nothing, really.  He was a preacher and a mathematician.  He wrote books on math.  His name isn’t even ‘Lewis Carroll’.  Carroll is a pseudonym he used for the Alice books because he was so embarrassed and mortified of what his religious math buddies would think of his silly childhood fantasy tales.

It occurs to me, years after I wrote this piece, it is now July 2019, that Hemingway was in the same boat.  Heck, he invented that boat and built it with his own hands (if you ask him, anyway).  As a young man, Hemingway was the shit, on every level  Served in both world wars, traveled the world, lived in Cuba, and bedded everyone on Earth.  In his later years…let’s say anything post 45… he is simply playing the part.  I have read a lot of Hemingway, and a lot about him.  Like Kerouac and HST, he was a god to me in my formative teen years.  Hemingway was the embodiment of ‘men want to be him, and women want be him’.  Later, though… its just kinda sad.  He lives his life as a sort of ‘greatest hits of how you perceive Ernest Hemingway to be.

Remember Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite?

I want to give Marlon Brando some credit on this front.   At no time did dude ever give a shit.  He was stone cold nuts!  See this?  Yeah, that was his own creation for his character.  Mostly out of fat laziness, as this is how he dressed on set.

Image result for marlon brando white face

Friday Fives – media inquiry edition

1.  What Jeopardy category would you totally dominate?

rock and roll.  If only there was a rock and roll jeopardy, I would run the world, seriously.  The  sad part is, they did have one, years ago.  Jeff Probst was the host, long before Survivor.  Problem with that was, it was only for celebs.  There are clips online, its fun to watch.  To soothe myself, I play the rock category on Quizup on my phone.  It is super addictive, and they have every category you can imagine.  I kill at Simpsons, and I am top in all of Colorado for rock trivia.  I am in the 30’s for nationwide, but crawling up every day.  Come find me and play some games online.  My screen name is ‘Baron von Lono’, and my avatar is a pic of Dali (but of course)

If you can beat me in rock trivia, I will buy you lunch.  What’s my secret?  Well, I learned from the ancients and elders, like the band Mister Mister.  Carry a ladle, my brother.  Carry a ladle indeed.

2.  What cover song do you enjoy more than the original?

Good and thoughtful question, I am impressed.  I would have to say Jimi Hendrix version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ is easily one.  Strangely, that was Jimi’s biggest charting hit ever.  Bob Dylan (who wrote the song) like Jimi’s arrangement so much he changed the way he played it going forward to match Jimi’s version.

I am hoping and assuming you have heard Johnny Cash’s later work with Rick Rubin.  He did some AMAZING covers, and truly made them his own: Hurt, rusty cage, one.  Lesse… what else.  Janis’ version of Bobby McGee.  That is a Kris Kristofferson song.  Some other sad trivia about that is Janis never saw its success.  She died before the album came out that it was on.

Zac Brown band does a really great ‘Jolene’, which is Ray Lamontagne.  Quite a the departure for a country boy, and song that turned me on to ZBB.

Here is a fun one.  Walk off the Earth does a bitchin cover (and bitchin video) of Lorde’s ‘Royals‘.  All of their videos are super cool and innovative.

I will close with this awesome and unlikely pairing.  Willie Nelson covering Pearl Jam.

I could also tell you about the Grateful Dead covering Metallica.  However, you are just not ready for that yet.  But its real and it exists.

3.  What song, movie, game, etc. has a surprisingly dark message when you really look closer at it?

ooh, another thoughtful question.  I am quite tickled with today’s line of interrogation.  This is truly my expertise.  There are a bunch.  Born in the USA has such a booming and hopeful chorus.  The song is incredibly dark.  Reads mostly like a suicide note if you just look at the lyrics.  Here, go do.

Of course there is the Police with Every Breath you Take, but you already knew that one.

How about Today from Smashing Pumpkins?  Billy says he wrote that as a suicide note after fighting with writers block for some time, and a huge deadline approaching for him to deliver his big commercial breakthrough album (which became the masterpiece ‘Siamese Dream’).

There are, of course, tons.  All great music is written from sadness and heartbreak.

4.  What is the best, most creative music video you have seen?

That would have to go to the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ video.  I can’t think of a better one.

5.    What’s your theme song?

this one, I think