Saturday, July 26, 2008

wereallnumber1 #10: the best blues players

Oh Brother(s) Where Art Thou? or, "The Marshmallow Blues "

Jonny Lang, world's greatest bluesman

Muddy Waters ... nevahurdovum.

Was reading on The Rev. Keith A. Gordon's blog (of Devil Music Dot Com fame) about white bluesmen and got to thinking about my own experiences as an avid hobbyist bluesman. For those of you who don't know, I am an avid jazz and blues instrumentalist, and I play a number of string instruments, primarily bass and guitar, and I write blues songs. If it matters to you, and I suspect it does, I fashion myself after the Kings (Freddie and Albert), though I throw in a little Burrell and Montgomery to keep the pack guessing, but all in all, I would characterize myself as a contemporary blueshound with an ear to traditional jazz and blues influences. One of my favorite things to do when I have spare time is jam along with friends – you know, plug in, lay out a few templates, conjure up some spirits (as well as consume some spirits) and practice a little alchemy.

That was my plan on one of my last evenings in Tucson, Arizona.

So that evening, I convened with a couple of folks that I've had the good fortune to meet over my time there through a colleague of mine in my graduate department. Ed and Randy are a couple of real nice guys who all share with me a love of music and a kind of culturism associated with music that I find quite genuine and warm. Ed is a natural resources professor at the U. who is originally from Port Arthur, Texas and cites as his musical influences folks like Memphis Slim and Howlin' Wolf. His son is also a talented musician who plays keys for Jo Dee Messina (not sure who she is, but I'm sure she's lovely). Randy plays for a few area bands, a mixture of classic rock, modern rock, and funk outfits, and just plain out can bang the skins (that's play the drums, perverts). Our previous get-togethers have been nice, playing old jazz and blues records on the stereo, drinking a few beers, schooling Randy (who is from Minnesota) about what it was like growin' up in the South, and best of all, playing some good ole fashioned blues music.

Randy's up for anything. Ed likes blues-rock – a little Fleetwood Mac, some Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc., and also really digs Albert King, Dr. John, and Bo Diddley. And he is also a musical sponge that enjoys taking in the musical interests of others ... take for example, a couple of months back, he wanted to play "Honey Hush" by Foghat (which is really a cover of a song originally done by Big Joe Turner). Good stuff. In exchange, I taught him "I Ain't Drunk" by Albert Collins. Then we settled into a groove and played "Cold Shot" by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Nice thematic links (nagging women, obstinate men) and interesting chord dynamics and lead pattern opportunities. Then we had a beer and listened to a Blind Lemon Jefferson song that Ed remembered from his childhood. All good stuff.

Which takes us to my final night playing with those guys. Ed and Randy invited a couple of guys over who are "blues music enthusiasts" and 30 year vets of playing the bar scene here in Tucson. They seemed like affable enough guys ... though, one was overdressed, had already had too much to drink by 7 pm, and had a trophy wife to cheer for him as he played harp. The other guy looked both dazed and confused, and among other things, told us a story about a tractor he'd bought recently. Not to use on his farm mind you. For decoration. Yeah.

Anyhow, claiming to love "blues music," they proceeded to launch into a version of "All Along the Watchtower" that was so painfully bad I penned an apology letter to the Hendrix family in my head on the way home. And then an Elvis song. ELVIS! I walked out of the room at that point, mumbling something like "my mother is calling me ... over here ... I gotta ... yeah." And then Johnny Cash. And then Led Zeppelin. I wanted to tear the A string off of my guitar and make it into a noose by this point.

We finished the evening with a version of "Crosscut Saw" that was passable, but one of the jackasses was pounding the guitar so hard you could barely hear the rhythm guitar I was laying down ("Crosscut ..." has a rumba-influenced lead, so the guitar is quieter). Afterwards, they went on and on about how "Crosscut ..." was one of SRV's best songs. After repeating that it was an Albert King song twenty times to no avail, I packed up and prepared to call it a night.

So here's my take on it. First of all, when someone says "blues" and "Tucson" in the same breath, be forewarned, it ain't gonna be pretty. And I think it's because there's so few black people here to tell white folks any better. They been playing "blues" in a vacuum here for so long with few outside influences that virtually anything passes for blues (I remember going to Sakura a few years back for "live blues" and getting a "Pink Floyd" cover band). In fact, our local blues band of import, the "Bad News Blues Band," plays ... no shit ... James Brown and Temptations songs. Um. James Brown and Temptations were a lot of things ... blues ain't one of em (well, maybe James on "This is a Man's World," but that about it).

Fact of the matter is, any white bluesman or blueswoman of any import cites black influences. For Clapton, it was Freddie King. For LedZep it was the entire state of Mississippi, evidently (delta blues). For Elvis it was Wolf and Waters (though he never sounded a bit like either with that corny-assed "uh-huh" ... and by the way, I'm like Chuck D in this bitch ... f**k Elvis and John Wayne!!!). So white blues here in Tucson, sans black influences, is just a poor facsimile, and that, more than red beans and hamhocks, block parties and penny candies, b-ballin in the park and the MLK center after dark, made me miss black people more than ever.

Now don't go flyin' off the deep end here and call me a "reverse racist" (for a couple of reasons, primarily, because there is no such thing as "reverse racism," numbnuts, it either is or is not racism ... "reverse racism" is what ... a hug? A mortgage at a reasonable interest rate? Not getting shot 50 times by plainclothes cops?). After all, some of my best friends are white (hee hee, that really is fun to say).

It's just that when we borrow y'all's music, we make it better. That's why so many white musicians have black producers to do remixes. You watch. Britney will be in a studio with the Neptunes in like negative 2 weeks to get that Federline filth off her ass (called it!). And Pharrell will probably let Snoop and Hugo hit, too. Same thing happened to Mariah back in the day. Just you wait. When Hannah Montana turn 18, I guarantee you T-Pain gonna be slappin her ass in a video all the way to #1 on the R&B charts. For better or for worse. Actually for worse.

But these cats I played with in Tucson borrowed blues music and did her dirty. I felt like Common penning "I Used to Love Her" last night as these white dudes did to blues music what people named Bubba do to white-collar criminals in federal joints.

And thats why I couldn't wait to get back to Louisiana, man. Where people know how to put a hock in the greens, cold milk on cornbread, "Electric Slide" on at a wedding, and a domino on a gotdamm folding table.

And where they know that Elvis ain't the effin blues.

In all seriousness ... RIP Sean Costello. You was down, IMHO.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Going to Colledge, or, Rhetoric gets ESPN Props ... Sorta "

"This d-end is pwning me. Using nommo, I am going to speak will to power and transform this into a reality where I have the upper hand. Or I am going to illegally cut block him ... whatev ..."

An import from my former blog, "Sacred Cattle."

This morning on ESPN's "The Mayne Event" -- a fantastic satirical segment, narrated by reporter Kenny Mayne, which intersects folly and barbarity in professional football in a way that few can -- Daryn Colledge, a guard for the Green Bay Packers, was featured. Colledge, a 6'4", 299 guard from Boise State U. remarked on his teammates' misperceptions of him, stemming from the fact that he is from the North Pole (ok, a North Pole, the one in Alaska) and that his last name is "Colledge." His teammates, of course, assumed that he loves santa claus and that he loves higher education.

Like Charlie Murphy say ... "Wrong!" And in one moment, the two of the loves of my life -- Rhetoric and Athletics -- intersected briefly, if unfortunately, as Colledge disspelled the myth about his love for higher learnin'. And I quote:

"I hated college. What the hell does theory of rhetoric have to do with me? I block people for a living."

Drs. Estrem and Peele (BSU's Writing Program coordinators) must be proud.

What made it worse is that this segment followed one about LaDanian Tomlinson, where they did a feature on how he "sets up blocks," or affects postures, while running, that convince defenders to take angles against him that they believe will be effective, but ultimately are not. To the point that they have been wrong an NFL record 31 times this year. This is not simply athleticism, as there are many people in the world who are better athletes than Tomlinson. His success this year has been because he has a psychological edge over his competitors, as well, and one that is created by how he uses his body to persuade defenders that they have a shot at hime when they really don't.

This of course hearkens back to scenes described by Deb Hawhee in Minding the Body, (and to a lesser extent Gardner's work on multiple intelligence theory, kinesthetic intelligence being one that he profiles) where, in ancient Greece, rhetoric and athletics were taught in the same spaces. The gymnasium was a place not only for athletic training, but a place for engaging in social and intellectual pursuits (if you could imagine teaching your writing class in the McKale Center while Lute Olson clamored for better defense in the background).

Colledge has a point, though I still resent the remark ... as well as his implied characterization that blocking doesn't involve thinking, and that football is essentially an anti-intellectual enterprise. Football, of course, is not essentially rhetorical ... when you scoop a backside defensive lineman, reach an end on outside zone, or pull and kick out an end on a G-block, you're not seeking out the available means of persuasion in that given situation. And this is no time to elocute.

But there is a rhetorical element. Great offensive linemen play mind games. And they are often attempting to persuade in non-verbal and symbolic ways. Like pulling both guards on an "Influence Trap" play ... where one guard pulls and blocks no one, simply to set the linebackers' feet in stone as the runningback cuts back. Or on a 3-step drop when the tackle sets like a pass play, convincing the end to rush up the field and then cutting out the end's legs at the last second. Or one of any number of plays where you are required to affect certain postures or moves in order to "fool" the defense into believing you are up to something else. Hell, something as simple as committing to running the ball on first down is rhetorical. It sends the message -- we will not be dominated or overpowered up front and you will respect this part of our game or else it will be your demise.

I know Colledge was being silly for the purposes of the segment. But it gave me some food for thought as rhetoric rose and fall in the public spotlight in about the time it would take Colledge to miss an unrhetorical block and get Favre sacked.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Euphemisms Gone Wild

Smilin' Bob

The "Backdoor Man" himself, Howlin' Wolf, enjoying a smoke after hittin Smilin' Susie

Perhaps its because I am now back in the Bible Belt and that's the way TV rolls down here, or perhaps it is because the FCC has become so fascistic an organization (due to the Parents Television Council's uber-powerful lobby) that folks are far beyond Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" and have moved on to any word that might sound like or be related to or might evoke an image of any of the aforementioned seven words.

And yet Dick Armey is still on the loose

But I saw a television commercial last evening so utterly ridiculous that I fear we are but mere decades away from previously thought incoherent mumbles, clicks, and finger snaps as words are phased out of existence. For fear that every utterance will offend the person next to you.

Mutually assured linguistic destruction. Stick with me here, men and womyn.

So I saw this commercial last night about "male enhancement." A euphemism that entered our language due to products like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis who want to market their products in prime time and not incur $300,000 fines every time their commercials aired. A truly inelegant and errant euphemism, if I've ever heard one. Seriously, twenty years ago, if someone mentioned male enhancement, wouldnt you think it meant something else? Like maybe it would help you grow a cool, manly, macho beard . Or something to help you grow big, burly muscles. Or maybe grow long, thick locks of hair that the ladies love.

You get the point. Hopefully.

But we all know now that male enhancement is a euphemism for making your man stick more wooden. Um. Making your bologna meatier. No. Making your nightstick stiff enough to beat minorities for fun ...

Dammit. Its contagious.

This commercial the other night literally used the words "that certain part of the male body" like 13 times. You know, its male enhancement for "that certain part of the male body." Hey, numbnuts. We know that youre talking about his willie. They had doctors (you know, people who play them on TV) saying that their product enhanced "that certain part of the male body."

C'mon. Say "make your penis bigger." Or "engorge your male genitals with blood by vasodilation." Or "help you feel more manly in a way that women really don't care about as much as you think ... I mean seriously, how about you work on your personality, douche?" Either of those would work.

But a doctor trying to sell me on enhancing that "certain part of the male body" makes me feel like I am a carbuncular, wheezing 12 year old getting the sex talk from "Charly" in Flowers from Algernon (translation? A Dee-de-dee).

And who truly loses out here? Foreigners. Can you imagine? This is gotta be getting lost in translation pretty badly. So here are the ten "certain parts of the male body" and how this idiotic product would make them more manly. So these people can go and have coitus while all alone.
Hey, I like euphemisms, too.

10. Feet - product will increase the size of your feet by 50%. Cuz you know what they say about guys with big feet? Mostly stop tripping over your own feet, you clumsy f**k.

9. Hair - product will increase the size of your hair three fold. Your fade will tight like Gary Coleman's.

8. Lips - You'll look like Steve Tyler in a month's time. Manly like M. Night Shymalan hides plots.

7. Hands - Big hands, you know you're the one. Next time you smack that ass, dislocate her hip.

6. Knuckles - because nothing says manly like systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Or really big red knuckles.

Serious how could you possibly get that reference?

5. Knees - not funny. I have gigantic knee caps. Seriously. Chicks dont dig that. F**k that.

4. Forehead - Especially when it glistens a little bit from your hair product, like you belong in an early 90's R&B music video.

3. Soleus - Most jackasses go for the bicep curls and the tricep pulldowns. A ripped soleus is like the new 6 pack abs.

2. Eyes - product will make your shit look like Bernie Mac's. You'll always look like you got Graves disease. Ladies love it because you always get the cartoon big eyes when you see them, and they think you checkin em out and s%$t.

1. Brain - dude that's so gay. Women dont like big brains. Dumbass. Now move while I put this malleable rod in my c**k. Because thats what chicks dig, you dumbass.

Now move, I'm gon drink this brew, smash the can on my head, smear myself head to toe in oil and then wrestle another man in a manner that weds us in the customs of many Asian countries.
Awright later y'all. I'm gonna go read a book and enhance the size of a certain part of my male body. Hasta.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

wereallnumberone #9: white pimps got all the game

Its Hard out here for a (White) Pimp.

In my last days as a judicial officer at the University of Arizona, I had one of those "This- completely- horrifies- me- and- yet- the- feeling- that- pervades- my- being- is- not- anger- or- disgust- because- seriously-, I- don't- expect- a- whole- lot- more- from- these- bastards- I- really- don't" moments that have, unfortunately, typified the case load I'd managed in the Dean of Students Office for just over two years.

One evening, a young African-American female was invited to a party and wished to file a complaint based on events which unfolded thereupon. The theme of the party was a "Black Party." Bless her heart, she assumed this meant that everyone would wear black.

Well. Close.

Sidebar: Arizona is an effed up state when it comes to race relations and racism. It makes Alabama look like Vermont. I say Vermont because I am just foolish enough to believe that Vermont does not have racism. Mostly because there aren't races there (just the one – really white). And because Montpelier ( just seems like it would be a friendly place with the syrup and leaves changing and what not. Wait. That was the sidebar's sidebar.


Ok, back to Arizona's effed up race relations. Y'all know Az. was like the last place on earth to have a Martin Luther King Day? I think we barely beat like Rhode Island. And they have a Brown University. South Africa had a MLK Day before Arizona did.

Anyway, Public Enemy even made a song about Arizona's embedded institutional racism. "By the Time I get to Arizona." see for a half-assed mashup ... all I could find). It was awesome. They killed the governor in that video. White folk went crazy. Black folks … didn't notice. Not our fault. Didn't see that video because Hammer was blowing up at the time.

Anyhow, people out here vehemently resisted MLK day's inception back in the day. C'mon people. It's a government holiday. Paid vacation. Chris Rock was right … its not like you have to do black s&%t on MLK day. Sit your ass at home and let us march. Who cares?

And Arizona only has one MLK Building. One. In the entire effin state. Tucson has no MLK Blvd. Which is good. Too few black people here in town for us to be killin' each other on MLK Street like every other city in the country. Ever wonder if like Des Moines has an MLK Blvd.? And if its gangsta as hell on that one street? While you think about Des Moines Iowa's gangsta, enjoy this street poem by DJ Quik: As I am fond of saying, "its like poetry."

Ok, back to the Black Party. So it was a "Black Party" where you showed up as a black person. At first, I thought the young black woman was filing the complaint because she did not win "Best Costume." Apparently, her complaint was due to the fact that dozens of white folk showed up at this party dressed as gangstas, hoods, hoes, pimps, and one showed up as a grape soda factory. Evidently racists can have notable senses of humor.

And immediately I thought why do people always jump to "gangsta" when they think of black people? I mean, Fitty and Cube do that shit in a studio. Capone did it on the streets. And he was white. And why we always gotta be hoes? If a hoe is someone that shows ass and turns ass up in the air for money, then chickenheads like Paris Hilton come to mind. And all of Hef's girls. And the Pussycat Dolls (and I don't think any of them is black. Or talented for that matter. I wish they'd "Button" their lips shut.).

And seriously … white pimps got all the game. White pimps (ok italian, but them n%^&&*s look white to me until they start talkin) got all the game in Vegas and Hollywood. We hustle and flow. Bob Barker? He aint gotta hustle for shit. He got a crazy number of females round him, and he pimp them out hard on TPIR Plus, with all the money he got invested in private prisons in Arizona and Cali, he is turning hundreds of not thousands of young men into somebody's hoe every year.

And what about Donald Trump? First off, he got a lot of pimp qualities. Funny hair, irrational love of gold, and he's always lying about his money (he declares bankruptcy once a lunar year). Second of all, he's such a good pimp that he can actually whore himself out. He never has to go chasing bitches for money… all he gotta do is shake his self down.

What about out in cartoon land? There's Hank Hill, who once punked out Alabaster Jones (reppin that OKC till he die!) often drives his dad's Cadillac car, and pimps out "Lady Propane" to all of Arlen, Texas. And Papa Smurf (k, so he aint white … he certainly aint black!). Ok, there's one girl in smurf land. And he's her dad. And it's a lot of smurfs in smurfland and I aint ever heard any mention of Smurfs being hermaphroditic or capable of reproducing without copulation. That means Smurfette has gotta be givin it up. And if she givin it up for free, she stoopid. And you know Papa Smurf has gotta be getting a cut of that.

Then you got Tony Mottola. Marries a fully clothed, demure, coy Mariah Carey (before: and after then turns her loose, half naked and collaborating with Ol Dirty Bastard. All the while recording for Sony (Mottola's record company). That dude turned Mariah out, then she started, as Paul Mooney put it, "humping anything black, including flipped over barstools" and he made the money off of it. Straight Pimpin.

Then there was the Barrett-Jackson car auctioneer I heard yesterday, who claimed that as a man's man, he was "very interested in Carol Shelby's Super Snake." Wow. I've heard it called a lot of different names. But never a "super snake." A gay pimp! That shit is revolutionary.

Oh, you say the "Super Snake" is a car?

And then there's female athletes sports' agents … which have us more interested in looking up Maria Sharapova's skirt than in looking up her service stats. And Jessica Simpson's dad, who I think is a Rev (which so qualifies him to be a pimp). Seriously, when he complimented Jessica's body on E! (he literally said "and what a rack … she's like a DD"), it qualified as the creepiest moment involving incest since Angelina Jolie frenched her brother at that awards show.

Then there's the world's greatest pimp. Hef. Think about it. He samples all the goods. He has a ho-house. You gotta pay for the T and A ($4.99 or so a copy). He never falls in love with any of his hoes. And his game is so tight, he has a staff of people to slap bitches for him (I read he has sensitive skin and his hands callous easily). Ok, the last part is made up. But you feel me.

I'm just sayin … Snoop Dogg, Iceberg Slim, Bishop Don Magic Juan, and their ilk are squirrels trying to get proverbial nuts compared to these cats. And I just think that the kids who threw this "Black Party" are giving us too much credit by lauding us as the world's best pimps. We're flattered, really.

Next time, if they wanna be accurate, they should really reflect who we are. Kings and Queens. Doctors and Lawyers. Astronauts and Chemists. Teachers and Policemen.

And Red Kool-Aid Factories. Last I checked, Grape Soda wasn't really poppin on the streets like it did back in the day, whereas that Red Kool-Aid is always talkin' bout somethin. Already.

So in conclusion, eff white people at U of Arizona who throw black parties. And because I'm sure they're somehow to blame for it, eff Sumner Redstone and Viacom.

I'll holla. Viva Trick Baby.