Monday, June 08, 2015

I love black people

UNLIKE MANY WHITE folks,  who practically break out the beachwear as soon as the temperature climbs above 40, black folks in the hood will wear winter coats until 65 and wool stocking caps when it's 70. One of the kids asking to pump my gas for cash  was in one and I saw a young mama holding her baby, also fitted with a knit cap. Why?? I mean, I realize we're from subsaharan Africa and all, but still. It's just a bit extreme. At least the white vagrant I saw earlier had a reason to wear his fur flap hat -- he has nowhere else to keep it. 

By the way, when I asked the two boys, who looked about 8 and 10, why they were there and where their mama was, I learned their mama's in Mississippi and they stay in Chicago with their sister.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Children Are Now Okay In the Art World

I DON'T KNOW HOW TO feel about this. On the one hand, I'm glad that kiddos get the nod, from the hallowed halls of the School of the Art Institute, as being sufficiently hip, cool, maybe even subversive, to be allowed into the once child-free zone of Art.

 On the other hand, I'm sad that it was ever otherwise. I wrote about mommy rock here nine years ago (nine years ago?!) and also, while we're at it, my observations about wanting to see more vivacious and exploring energy of children in the adult art scene are part of another post.

Friday, October 03, 2014

The solution to the illegal immigration crisis

JUST LAY DOWN, oh, maybe a few billion cubic tons of this stuff from Tijuana to the Gulf of Mexico.

No mas inmigrantes ilegales .... garantizado!

Monday, June 24, 2013

That Nik Wallenda sure is a crazy bastard

BUT IT'S GOOD we didn't have to see him go plummeting 1,500 feet into the Grand Canyon.

 People who do incredibly stupid and dangerous things like walking across canyons on tightropes with no safety devices, always have to rationalize what they do. There is obviously no rational reason for doing such things. I do think, though, that some of the observers do have a point when they say that watching crazy bastards like Nik Wallenda do incredibly stupid and dangerous things, is, in a way, inspiring. "If a guy can do something that incredibly stupid and dangerous, then what's stopping me from going and asking my boss for the promotion/asking that hot chick out/moving forward to start my business/etc.?" In that case, nature strikes a balance between thinning out the herd and helping to toughen it up.

Speaking of Wallendas, I have kind of a weird wacky Wallenda-related personal story of my own. Read about "Enigmarie."

Monday, June 10, 2013

A greener Chicago would be a safer Chicago

THE CHICAGO READER'S Steve Bogira blogs:
Greening a city can lower its crime rate, research increasingly suggests, and can make poor, segregated areas not only safer but generally more livable.
Here's the rest of his piece .

And my thoughts:

Well-maintained greenscapes do send a social message (which sociologists, naturally, would focus on), but there are other subtle effects of plants that you could call psychological, even spiritual. Plants, and trees in particular, have overall positive and calming effects.

U of I researchers found that children with ADHD “experienced a significant reduction in symptoms after they participated in activities in green settings. ...” For the full import of that finding, you must consider the high correlation between “ADHD,” substance abuse, and criminal involvement.


researchers found that inner-city girls who had green views from their windows at home possessed a greater degree of self-discipline than girls who did not. On average, according to the study, the greener a girl’s view from home the better she concentrates, the less she acts impulsively and the longer she can delay gratification. These capacities equip girls to behave in ways that foster success both in school and later life.

When girls have more self-control, guess what -- boys gotta have self- control too.

They also found “a greater sense of community, a reduced risk of street crime, lower levels of violence and aggression between domestic partners, and a better capacity to cope with life’s demands, especially the stresses of living in poverty.”

Perhaps to eons-old human instinct, trees and other vegetation mean shelter, fuel, and food, thus comforting the primitive part of our brain; conversely, their absence means famine and hardship. Trees also shelter birds, insect and animal life whose presence and sounds most people find comforting.

The U of I blog concludes, “trees and greenspace are not luxuries, but necessary components of healthy human habitat.” Humans are made to live in nature. Without it, we are in a way, less human.

Other benefits of green life: Plants provide oxygen, which we need for normal functioning and clear thinking, and shade in summer, which provides comfort.

Subtle plant aromas, especially from flowers, may also have beneficial effects.

Not to get too mystical, but the ancients believed in plant “spirits.” Humans and plants can become attached. When I was younger and I came home one day to find my parents had had an old tree in the front yard cut down – one that had been there my entire life -- I felt angry and depressed for days. It was like they'd killed a friend.

The behavioral impact of eating more fresh produce or clean chicken, raised free-range, should not be underestimated.

Productive work supplies a sense of purpose that humans absolutely need. Almost every one wants to work, and farming is one of the oldest occupations. Doing it in community fashion actually reaches past America's tradition of widely separated large farms (due to large land grants and continual consolidation), back to more of a village configuration more familiar in the Old World. It allows one to cooperate and meet your community -- or to form one.

Farming is not usually thought of as an efficient use for urban land, but it's clearly much better than no use at all -- and in the bigger picture, could be a better use of space than a superstore selling thousands of goods from socially irresponsible corporations, if all the negative externalities of said goods were considered. While not a panacea (nothing is) it could be an important step in restoring crucial social capital.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Plagiarism or homage?

COMPARE THE CHORUSES. In the first song, you'll hear it at :30 and in the second, at 1:20. Besides a half-step difference in pitch and different bass lines under them, the vocal parts are nearly identical.

The first, from '82, is  written by Joey Gallo and Kevin Spencer, produced by Leon Sylvers III, and sung by the sweet-voiced Carrie Lucas. Sylvers additionally wrote and produced hits for the Whispers, Shalamar, Lakeside, and Midnight Starr, all labelmates at Solar Records (which was co-founded by Don Cornelius of Soul Train fame).

 The second song, from '89, is credited to Gene Griffin and performed by Today. Production was by Griffin's protege, a then up-and-coming Harlem music wunderkind named Teddy Riley.

It should be noted that, aside from the chorus melody/harmony, the songs are different, right down to instrumentation and recording technique. "Show Me" is classic early '80s dance funk: smart but simple drum pattern, everything perfectly in the pocket, and the kind of bass line that makes you miss bass lines; the band is the same crack studio team that was behind the Whispers.  

"Girl" features the patented synthesized, layered, drum-machined, stuttering-digital-sample- studded, driving and infectious sound that Riley invented and dubbed "New Jack Swing" -- the music I was doin' the "Running Man" to back in high school.
The two songs differ lyrically too. Whereas Griffin/Riley/Today are all about layin' down the mack and romancing their target, the original song is all about pre-AIDS-era frankness: don't bullshit me about romance when all we really want is to get down.

Monday, April 09, 2012

He's an Aryan Warrior

ABOUT FOUR YEARS AGO, on a shortwave radio frequency I don't frequent, I heard the cutest little ditty. Apparently, it was a girl duo, singing a groovy melody to the bounciest, catchiest Krautrock tune you could imagine. What is this? I wondered. Some cool indie band? There's no indie rock on shortwave, unless maybe it's from one of the foreign stations -- Japanese? Korean? Dutch? French?

After listening a bit further  thought the voices reminded me of the adorable trio of girls I sometimes hear on a Baptist evangelist program out of Canada. But those girls sing hillbilly style, not krautrock.

I listen closely to the lyrics. My eyebrows raise a little.

He's an Aryan Warrior 
Tradition very old 
Battling Zionist menace 
To win back what was stole. ... 

Okay, I get it.

After the song's done, the announcer says that this program is the “Vocal Minority Report.” They're out of Arkansas. The band is called Heritage Connection.

Great, but guess what, cute little Warriors. Krautrock's filtered through Germany, but it's still rock, okay? That backbeat's still a black beat. (Is that why when you perform the song live, you have no drummer?) You're still singin' jungle music. Got that, baboons? If you wanna be all pure-opean, I'm afraid you'll have to go back to waltzes, marches and oom-pah music.

By the way, recently discovered these guys and spent a nice little weekend with them. It's called “My Kasual Kountry Weekend With the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” Fun stuff!