Daily Archives: February 10, 2009

>Songs In The Key Of Bob

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I am here to admit my shame. To get a few things off my chest. To reveal the sordid truth.
Yeah. Right.
So, I told the story about the leaky refrigerator. And how we called the home warranty people and they were sending out a refrigeration man. Then Carlos said he thought it was a plumbing issue. And how I cracked wise about his ass crack.
Turns out it is a plumbing issue.
Carlos will be doing his sashay-shantay down the hallway when he reads this.
He so loves to be right.
Whatever.
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Is it me, or was Whitney Houston high at the Grammys? I mean, she certainly seemed a bit off….not in the Crack-Is-Whack way of that Diane Sawyer interview, but in that I-don’t-what-in-the-hell-I’m-doing-here way.
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I saw Joan Rivers on The View.
She cracks me up.
She says that because of the Botox, Bea Arthur’s bowels move more often than Cher’s face.
Of course, Joan should talk.
Her face is stretched tighter than a Mariah Carey mini-dress.
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Once, when I lived in California, we used to hang out at this bar. And one of the cocktail waitresses became quite friendly with our group.
Then one day I was surprised to learn that Cocktail Waitress and Husband had moved into the apartment above mine. We chatted every so often and, of course, she still brought me my round of Kamikaze’s that I so enjoyed; I say enjoyed, because once you puke Kamikaze, you can’t go back.
At least I can’t.
Anyway. One morning I was walking to my car and I saw Cocktail Waitress in the parking lot with Husband. I hadn’t met him yet, so we stopped for a minute. Husband was carrying a huge ceramic pot when Cocktail Waitress introduced us.
Me. Socially inept back then……heck, socially inept today….offered my hand for a handshake.
Husband was still carrying the huuuuuuuuge pot.
I stick out my hand.
He sticks out his finger,
I shake it.
It still mortifies me to this day.
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I used to tend bar in California and we had all sorts of regulars, and Vicki used to work with me. We had so much fun getting all the regulars laughing and telling stories; it was a fun job.
One night, during our storytelling, Vicki offered up the take of her then-husband, who worked at a local saw mill. He came home from work one night and told her about a man who was killed on the job when a band saw slipped.
Did it decapitate him? someone asked.
Nope. Vicki said firmly. Took his head right off.
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I was once stopped for speeding while driving down I-5 in California.
If you’ve been there, you know that I-5 is one long-assed boring stretch of road from Mexico to Canada. My friend Kim and I were on our way to an Amnesty International concert at the Coliseum in LA.
So, I’m driving along 5–it was a four-hundred-plus mile trip from my house to LA–and I’m about 250 miles from LA, cruising along at about ninety.
The speed limit was Sixty-five.
Red lights.
Red face.
Pull over.
Helicopter caught you doing nine-zero. CHP say.
Wow. I say. So intelligent.
Yeah. What’s the hurry.
I need to be in LA in fifteen minutes. Mind you, it’s 250 miles away.
Looks like you won’t make it.
Depends on how long this takes.
I’m lucky he had a sense of humor. Those orange jumpsuits don’t look good on me.
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Once I was working in a bar, and this friend of mine, Dave, worked with me. We had a friend, Maria, who was, well, what you might politely call high-maintenance.
Seriously high. She weighted in at right around one-hundred pound sand called herself fat. I have shoes that weigh more than she did.
One night she was complaining about how she had popped a zipper in her pants.
How did you do that? I asked innocently.
Because I’m FAT. She said. I’m fat. Fat. Fat. Fat. Fat!!!!
I walk away from the tirade.
An older couple is sitting at the bar as I pass by.
What’s all that shouting down there? The old woman asks.
Before I could answer, the little old man said,
I don’t know, but that fat girl is having a fit.

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Filed under ABC, Bea Arthur, Bob, Carlos, Celebrity, Cher, Diane Sawyer, Embarassed, Funny, Joan Rivers, Mariah Carey, Speeding, The Grammys, The View, Whitney Houston, Work

>The Harlem Renaissance

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In the late teens and early 20s of the 20th century, there was a great migration of blacks from the rural South to the urban North. This literal movement sparked what was called the Harlem Renaissance–named after the New York City neighborhood, it was a movement seen in all major US cities–also known as the New Negro movement, the New Negro Renaissance, and the Negro Renaissance.

This movement, began around 1918 as World War One ended, blossoming in the 20s and then fading away in the Depression Era 1930s. The Harlem Renaissance marked the beginnings of mainstream–white–publishers and critics taking African American literature seriously, which it turn made it accessible, and of interest, to the nation as a whole. And though it was primarily a literary movement, the Harlem Renaissance also brought about widespread interest in African American music, theater, art, and politics.

During this Great Migration of blacks leaving the South, coupled with a new more powerful politically charged group of African Americans who fought for racial equality, more and more educated and socially conscious blacks settled in New York, in Harlem, bringing with them a rich history of art, music and literature never before seen in the North. Harlem became the political and cultural center of black America.

African American art and literature seemed destined to become more mainstream just before the turn of the century, but as many blacks left the South in hopes of finding a more prosperous life for themselves, musical genres that once seemed specifically Southern, jazz and the blues, moved north, winding up in nightclubs and cabarets in Harlem.

In literature, poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and novelists Charles Chestnutt, were among the earliest African Americans to see their work become accepted by white America in the 1890s. By the end of World War I, the fiction of James Weldon Johnson and Claude McKay’s poetry began to inform all of America about the harsh realities of black life, and the struggle for racial identity, and for equality.

There seem to be several specific works that sparked interest in an African American literary voice: Claude McKay’s volume of poetry, Harlem Shadows–which was one of the first works by a black writer to be published by a mainstream, national publisher; Cane by Jean Toomer, was an experiment in both prose and poetry, documenting the lives of Black Americans; and There Is Confusion, by Jessie Fauset, which told America of black middle-class life from a female point of view.

Building a foundation upon these literary works, the Harlem Renaissance was born. Three significant events then gained a foothold to further the movement out of Harlem and into the heartland.

The first, in early 1924, was a dinner, hosted by Charles Johnson of the National Urban League to introduce black writers to New York’s white literary establishment. As a result of this dinner, The Survey Graphic, a magazine of social analysis and criticism produced a Harlem issue in March 1925. It was devoted to defining the aesthetic of black literature and art, and featured works by black writers.

The second event, in 1926, was the publication of Nigger Heaven by white novelist Carl Van Vechten. It was an exposé of Harlem life, and though it offended many in the black community, its depiction of both an elite and a baser side of Harlem created a “Negro vogue.” Suddenly Harlem was overwhelmed by white New Yorkers drawn to its exotic nightlife, its new music, its new voice.

Then, in the fall of ’26, a group of young black writers produced Fire!!, their own literary magazine. With that publication, a whole new generation of African American writers and artists, like Langston Highes, Wallace Thurman, and Zora Neale Hurston took over the Harlem Renaissance.

Yet there was no one style that defined the Renaissance; rather, it was a commitment to giving voice, voices, to the African American community through the written word, through art, music, even through fashion. Those voices told the story of African Americans in the 20th century, in both Africa and the South; it told of a strong sense of pride in being black, and of a deep-seated need for equality, socially and politically. It was a voice that simply asked to be heard, to be acknowledged. These voices, the means to spreading the African American story were as diverse as the stories themselves.

Langston Hughes wove music–African music, jazz and blues–into his poetry: The Weary Blues. Claude McKay wrote sonnets attacking racial violence in If We Must Die; he also gave glimpse to the glamour and the grit of Harlem in Harlem Shadows. In the poem Heritage, Countee Cullen talks of being both Christian and African, yet not belonging fully to either tradition. Quicksand, by Nella Larsen, gave voice to the African American woman’s loss of identity, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, used folk life of the black rural south to create a brilliant study of race and gender in which a woman finds her true identity.

Diversity and experimentation flourished in the performing arts, in Bessie Smith’s blues, and in jazz. Jazz was everything, from a marriage of blues and ragtime–Jelly Roll Morton–to instrumentals–Louis Armstrong–and composer Duke Ellington. Painter Aaron Douglas voiced his opinion through a primitive style of painting, incorporating African elements in his works.

The audiences were mixed. The literature of the Harlem Renaissance appealed to the African American middle class and to the white book-buying public. Magazines like The Crisis and Opportunity gave work to Harlem Renaissance writers, published poetry and short stories by black writers, and promoted African American literature. These voices were heard by the black community, proud, for once to have a voice they recognized, and by the white community, desperate to learn more about black Americans.

While one of the great outcomes of the Renaissance was that it allowed access for black writers to the white publishing houses, the movement relied too heavily on white publishing houses and white-owned magazines for some. Most African American critics supported the relationship, seeing it as a means to equality, a way to acceptance, but others, like W.E.B. Du Bois, criticized the Harlem Renaissance, and accused black writers of reinforcing negative African American stereotypes. In response to the critics, Langston Hughes wrote an essay, The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain in 1926, where he told of black artists who needed an outlet to express themselves freely, no matter what the public–black or white–thought.

In the cabarets, the audiences were also mixed; Harlem residents and white New Yorkers sought out Harlem nightlife. it was new to white New Yorkers; different, dangerous, exotic. Clubs catered to white clientele over the black community; some places, most notably the Cotton Club, carried this to an extreme, by providing black entertainment for exclusively white audiences.

So, what caused the end of the Harlem Renaissance in the 30s?

The Depression increased economic pressure on all sectors of life. Organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League, which once promoted the Renaissance, now shifted their interests toward economic and social issues.

And many black writers–Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson and Charles Johnson–left New York City. A riot in Harlem in 1935—sparked by economic hardships of the Depression and increased racial tension between the black community and white shop-owners–destroyed the once popular view of Harlem as a the ‘Mecca of the New Negro.’ It now had the appearance of a new danger, no longer exotic, simply violent. White New Yorkers began to avoid Harlem, and the neighborhood sank deeper into despair.

However, in spite of all the changes–economic ills, thee artists and writers seeking new venues for their voices, a rice in racism–the Renaissance did not disappear overnight. Nearly one-third of the books published during the Renaissance appeared after 1929. While many believe the Harlem Renaissance ended when most of those associated with it left, or stopped writing, new voice emerged in the 30s and 40s who were never associated with the movement.

The Harlem Renaissance forever changed the African American arts and literature movement in America. Writers that came after found publishers and the public more open to their works than they had been previously. And the Renaissance inspired new generations of African American authors, like Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright; even authors such as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, who found success in the 1980s and ’90s, owe a debt of gratitude to the Harlem Renaissance.

Many who found fame and acceptance in the Harlem Renaissance–writers Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen, actor and musician Paul Robeson, dancer Josephine Baker–traveled to Europe and attained a popularity there that rivaled or surpassed what they achieved in the United States.

For thousands of blacks around the world, the Harlem Renaissance was proof that the white race did not hold a monopoly on literature and culture. For thousands of whites around the world, the Harlem Renaissance gave view to a world they have never before seen or experienced. The Harlem Renaissance was a step towrd the realization that, while we all may have differing storieds, differing birth places, skin colors, voices, we are all part of one another.

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Filed under Black History Month, Harlem Renaissance

>Why Wyoming! Who Knew?

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from the Casper Star Tribune:

In Wyoming, the House Joint Resolution 17, also known as the “Defense of Marriage” resolution–like because gay folks might like a wedding in their future, that a war has been declared on marriage–failed by a vote of 35-25.

Now this doesn’t mean the folks in Wyoming are all hot’n’bothered for the gays to come up there and get married. There is a law already in place stipulating that only marriages between a man and woman are valid. But the law also says that Wyoming must recognize valid unions performed in other states, such as forward-thinking Massachusetts and progressively-inclined Connecticut.

Rep. Owen Petersen, a Republican Repugnant of course, says his office has been flooded with letters of support for his legislation. His co-sponsor, Rep. Edward Buchanan, another Republican, go figure, says, and this is rich, that since his “Defense of Marriage” resolution has failed, Wyoming may be forced to recognize other unacceptable unions.

According to this bonehead: ‘”If two people of the same sex can marry, why can’t heterosexual couples have more than one spouse?”‘

I love when they trot out that old chestnut, but he forgot the one about people being able to marry their dogs, ‘cuz you know, first it’s the gays, then the bigamists, then those folks inclined to a little bestiality in their lives.

But here’s a kicker. Rep. Pat Childers, a Republican who voted down the measure…..what? a Republican? Huh? What? Huh?

Ah, okay now I see. Childers has a gay daughter, so he understands what it means to be gay, to know a gay person. Childers said his daughter, who lives with her partner in Montana, is a ‘smart, productive member of society who deserves the same rights that her straight peers take for granted.’

‘”Folks, till my dying breath there isn’t anybody in this country who could say that she is a terrible person, or someone that needs to have their rights restricted,” Childers said.’

Nicely said, Pat. I like you, you Republican!

But be careful; those nasty Repugnants will use your words against you come election time. You queer-friendly proponent of equal rights for all. How dare you, sir!

Wait though. It’s not just Pat Childers. Rep. Sue Wallis, another Republican–is that all they have up there?– called the resolution “state-sponsored bigotry,” saying it is based religious prohibitions found in the Old Testament.

So, there are good Republicans and bad Repugnants? In Wyoming, of all places.

Wallis quoted Leviticus–which includes prohibitions on shaving, haircuts, tattoos, charging interest on loaned money and gathering firewood on Saturday.

Oh dear Jeebus, if all that’s true, I am going to Hell. My only hope is that it’s a Special Ring in Hell where they have Butt-Less Chaps night, serve Cosmos and the Cher Farewell Tour goes on FORever.

Rep. Patrick Goggles; a Democrat? In Wyoming? He opposes the resolution because he understands that as a representative of The People, he represents All the People–including gay people. ‘”I look upon this state as the Equality State and I urge you to maintain that status as the Equality State.”‘

The LGBT community called the defeat of the resolution an important victory. ‘”We are grateful that the Wyoming House of Representatives stood up for equality and refused to write discrimination into the state Constitution,” said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, a LGBT group based in Washington, D.C. ‘

Becky Vandeberghe, chairwoman of No Gay No Way, er, I mean, WyWatch–a group that supports legislation that promotes “sanctity of marriage,” called Friday’s vote a ‘”grave injustice.”‘

She went on to say, in that way that only narrow-mined folks can, that ‘”The elitist legislators decided not to accurately represent the people of Wyoming, and we certainly do hope that their constituents will take a look at their voting record and keep track of it for the election in 2010.”‘

Oh, they’ll be watching Becky.

They’ll be watching Pat Childers and Sue Wallis and Patrick Goggles, and realizing that equality is for everyone. They’ll be watching those that stand up for all people.

Because it’s the right thing to do.

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Filed under Pat Childers