Wednesday, December 27, 2006

James Brown's Greatest Performance

plez sez: This is the type of performance that shows the inspiration for other live performers like Michael Jackson and Prince. I've seen both of these guys perform and they are both GIANTS in the field, but it is evident from which well they drew their considerable sense for the dramatic. We're waiting to see the next Michael Jackson, Prince, or Luther Vandross, but I doubt we'll ever live to witness another groundbreaking artist of the likes of the Godfather of Soul!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dreamgirls - Today and Yesterday

My family and I are going to see "Dreamgirls" this afternoon at the movies. This version of the stage hit stars Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose.

But to get myself in the right frame of mind to truly enjoy the experience, I harken back to a kinder, gentler time... back in 1982, when Jennifer Holiday ruled the Broadway show with her rousing rendention of "And I Am Telling You." Listen and enjoy a truly remarkable LIVE performance:

1982 Tony Awards ~ Jennifer Holiday

Monday, December 25, 2006

Godfather of Soul, Dead at 73

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that James Brown - Godfather of Soul - has passed away at the age of 73. We've lost a great one.

An excerpt from the AJC article:

Brown's energy and charisma were a part of his personality both on and off stage.

When Brown sat for sculptor John Savage, Savage knew what sort of statue he wanted to create: a serious, classic, life-size bronze that would occupy a place of honor in Brown's hometown of Augusta.

"Like any classic sculpture, there would be no smile on the face," said Savage.

Brown hated the idea.

"Asking him to sit there and look serious, he absolutely looked like he was going to jump out of his skin, posing like that," said Savage. "He told me that he was all about happiness and joy; he was a smiling man, and he wanted a smile on his face."

There was joy in Augusta on May 6, 2005, when the statue was unveiled at a downtown park very near the street that had been renamed James Brown Boulevard in Brown's honor. Thousands lined the streets for a dedication that was a love fest between the town and its most famous son. On the face of the 600-pound bronze: a smile as big as day. Even bigger, and more blinding, was the smile on the guest of honor, James Brown, who accepted the accolades from a city that had been slow to celebrate the music legend.

His was a quintessential American success story; he credited his hard-scrabble upbringing for providing the inspiration for much of his music, and hard work for his triumph.

Abandoned by his mother at age 4, raised by his great-aunt in an Augusta whorehouse, Brown became one of the most influential figures in the history of American music. He generated a personal fortune, invented funk, and gave wings to the black power movement while supporting the most conservative of presidential candidates, including Richard Nixon. He was a masterful and demanding bandleader who set a standard for live performance only rarely exceeded. A prolific songwriter, he followed his own instincts, ignored the suggestions of his record labels and created the funkiest, most compelling dance music on the planet.

Though his top chart performance came in the 1960s, Brown's music has seeped into the DNA of American culture, and has been sampled on hundreds of contemporary hip-hop and dance albums, giving his music a persistent presence on the radio, television and in the movie theater.

James Brown was born May 3, 1933, in the piney woods near Barnwell, S.C. The one-room shacks where he lived had no power, no water and no windows. His father, Joe Gardner, was a turpentine worker who was often gone for days at a time. His mother, Susie Behlings, left her husband and child when James was a toddler, and the boy was frequently alone with his father's live-in girlfriends. This left young James to generate his own amusements. "It gave me my own mind," he wrote of his lonely childhood.

When he was 6, his father moved him to Augusta, and he lived in a brothel operated by his great-Aunt Honey, where the rent was $7 a month. His father never lived with him again.

The youngster helped pay for his keep by shining shoes, sweeping out stores and singing in talent contests. Convoys from Fort Gordon frequently traveled over a canal bridge just outside Aunt Honey's place, and Brown would buck dance for the passing troops, who threw change.

"They threw nickels and dimes, and I worked even harder, trying to get them to throw quarters," he wrote in "James Brown: The Godfather of Soul. "Boy, I wanted those quarters."

He was embarassed by his clothes, including his home-made underwear, and was determined to better himself. His determination drove him to break into cars parked in downtown Augusta.

At age 15 he was arrested for burglarizing vehicles. A few months later he turned 16 in jail, and was tried and sentenced to two-to-four years on each of four charges. He served at the Georgia Juvenile Training Institute in Toccoa, where even in prison he found a way to starch and press his blue jeans.

At a baseball game between the prison team and a local team, Brown met local gospel singer Bobby Byrd, beginning a fruitful relationship that would continue for 50-plus years.

"I was the shortstop; he was the pitcher," said Byrd.

Byrd and his family agreed that if Brown were released from prison, they would give him a place to stay and help him find a job. With that endorsement, Brown was freed after serving three years. He came out hungry, and determined to be the master of his own fate. But it wouldn't be the last time he served behind bars.

Brown found work at a garage, and sang with Byrd's group. "We patterned ourselves behind the Soul Stirrers," said Byrd, now a resident of Grayson, Ga. "I'd sing second lead and alto. He sang lead and tenor."

After seeing a Little Richard performance at Bill's Rendezvous, the group decided to turn secular, and to seek out Richard's manager in Macon. No one had any money. "The first night we got to Macon we slept in the graveyard," said Byrd.

First called The Flames, they renamed themselves the Famous Flames, reportedly prompting Little Richard to comment: "Y'all are the onliest people who ever made yourself famous before you were famous."

A talent scout in Macon heard a copy of a tune called "Please, Please, Please" they'd recorded at radio station WIBB (the diminutive Brown had to stand on a Coke crate to reach the microphone) and signed them to King Records in Cincinnati.

Cigar-chomping owner Syd Nathan hated the song, but put it out anyway in 1956. It sold a million copies.

Brown was the obvious centerpiece of the group, but when his managers started calling the group James Brown and the Famous Flames, the rest of the members quit in anger. Brown toured with pickup groups, then in 1957 absorbed some of the members of Little Richard's band after the rock-n-roller left pop music for the ministry.

He continued touring obsessively, sometimes playing 350 shows in a year, and — borrowing from several sources — created a spellbinding show, with tightly choreographed dance moves and theatrical set pieces. Brown would climb into the rafters or leap off the piano and land on the stage in a split. He altered the camel walk and the mashed potato, adding a flashy one-foot glide to fashion his own dance, the "James Brown."

He wanted to catch the intensity of his live shows on record, but King's releases failed to do them justice. Brown decided to make a live concert recording. Nathan wouldn't pay for it, so Brown put up the $5,700 himself.

He recorded a day's worth of performances during a week-long run at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, in the fall of 1962. "Live at the Apollo" stayed on the pop charts for 14 months, peaking at No. 2, which was unheard of for an R&B album. It was a faithful document of Brown's house-wrecking live show, with its rococo introductions from long-time master of ceremonies Danny Ray, and its peaks of intensity and valleys of ballad-singing repose, capped with the tried-and-true show-closer "Please, Please, Please."

It also set a standard of live recordings that has rarely been exceeded.

The music of the reigning black performer of the time, Ray Charles, suddenly appeared "old hat. . . with its orchestra of reading musicians and big-band book," wrote Peter Guralnick in "Sweet Soul Music."

By contrast, Brown was super-heated, and spontaneous. His musicians — the band sometimes had as many as two dozen members — worked from "head" arrangements, and memorized the show backwards and forwards, ready at a moment's notice to segue between songs, change keys, break it down for a solo, or vamp indefinitely if Brown found a chord he wanted to work.

He controlled the group with screams, spoken commands and hand gestures, keeping a sharp eye out for any missteps, bad notes or sloppy dress. Brown punished mistakes with fines levied on the spot. (Five fingers flashed at the perpetrator five times equalled a $25 punishment.)

A steady flow of musicians went through this combative learning experience, usually quitting in frustration to make room for younger players. While Brown battled to get control of his record contract, his music continued to evolve, becoming more and more driving.

Brown bought a Lear jet, and a house in Queens designed to look like a castle, with a drawbridge and a moat.

In the meantime, his politics grew ever more complex.

In 1968 he recorded "Say it Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," which became a rallying cry for the black power movement, rattling the cages of Black Panther-watchers. That same year he released the flag-waver, "America is My Home," drawing criticism from African-Americans and the left. (He'd also recorded "Don't Be A Dropout" around the same time, which was used by vice president Hubert Humphrey for a stay-in-school campaign.)

Brown appreciated music beyond genre classifications. He started out as a gospel performer, frequently used gospel opening acts, and loved the gospel records that Elvis Presley released.

According to his former comptroller Fred Daviss, of Perry, Brown chartered a jet and flew to Memphis on the day after Presley died, and stood in the Graceland living room chatting with the family, paying his respects and crying until early in the morning. Presley and Brown were just "two old country boys," said Daviss. "They loved each other, and loved each other's music."

The end of the '60s brought an end to Brown's chart dominance. He would return to the Top 10 only one more time, with "Living in America," from the 1985 soundtrack to "Rocky IV."

A high-profile cameo in the 1980 "The Blues Brothers" movie also boosted Brown's profile. Other incidents during the 1980s brought him attention for all the wrong reasons. He was arrested on multiple occasions for drug and firearm offenses, climaxing with a bizarre incident in 1988 that resulted in a high-speed chase, ending only after police shot out all four of his tires.

Sentenced to six years, he was imprisoned from 1988 to 1991.

Out of prison, Brown bounced back again, assembling a new band and touring world capitols through the next two decades. He also withstood a steady shower of awards: a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1992 (he had already been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year, 1986); the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001, and a Kennedy Center award in 2003 presented in a special ceremony at the White House.

His tumultuous personal life also generated headlines. Adrienne Lois Brown, his third wife, who he married in 1982, had him arrested several times on abuse charges. Yet the two reconciled, and Brown was crushed when Adrienne died of complications from cosmetic surgery in 1996.

Commercially, Brown was resuscitated when hip-hop artists began paying for the samples of his music that they've been borrowing since the 1980s.

Brown's ability to come back from defeat was a theme in his life. Long-time friend and political activist Rev. Al Sharpton touched on that theme during the dedication of the Brown statue in Augusta.

"If you are broken and think you cannot come back, come to Augusta, look at James Brown's statue, and see a man who always came back."

He certainly bounced back from his last prison stint. The Kennedy Award highlighted a fruitful period, during which Brown earned up to $150,000 a night playing to adoring crowds in Europe and Asia and at lucrative festivals in the U.S., according to longtime advance man Bob Patton.

One of his side-men told Rolling Stone magazine that despite the lack of radio hits, the James Brown band would work forever, because James Brown's music is now a part of the American landscape. Like a face on Mt. Rushmore, the craggy Brown profile would never go out of style. "It's like we're up there with Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse. There's no other comparison."

Today the band is silent. Their leader has gone from mortal to immortal. But on radios around the United States, you can be assured that the gravelly voice is commanding an audience somewhere: "Get up!"

Check out this boisterous live performance by the Godfather of Soul in Europe from the 1970's with "Get Up (Sex Machine)" and "Get on the Good Foot":

plez sez: James Brown is a personal icon of mine... I love good music and to me, this is where Soul, R&B, and Funk begins! I have the complete boxed set of his music and if you are ever riding in my car, you will undoubtedly be subjected to my singing backup to his "Get Up (Sex Machine)" or breaking out in a "Cold Sweat" or playing that air-trombone with Fred Wesley on "Doing It To Death." James Brown revolutionized soul music, invented funk music, and led the Black is Beautiful movement with his revolutionary hit "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud."

My father was the biggest fan of James Brown that I know! He used to regale us with stories of watching James Brown's live shows at the Apollo in New York City in the early 1960's. My father had an 8-track player installed in our Cadillac Coupe Deville and the ONLY tape that we listened to was by James Brown. My father loved to tell us how well that dude could dance and sing and entertain the crowd; my father even wore his hair in a permed pompadour, like the "Godfather." It is my hope that they have finally met up in heaven as the two funkiest brothers at the Pearly Gates!

In his heyday, the "Godfather" was known as the "Hardest Working Man in Show Business," without James Brown, there is no Michael Jackson, there is no Prince, there is no Bootsy Collins, there is no Usher, there is no Parliament, there is no Funkadelic.

In order for me to channel my thoughts into this post, I had to throw on some "Make It Funky" with JB and Bobby Byrd on the intro:
Bobby: What you gonna play now?
JB: Bobby, I don't know... but whatever I play, it's got to be FUNKY!
JB: 1-2-3...Make it funky
ALL: Make it funky - Make it funky - Make it funky - Make it funky!

Oh yes, we've lost a national treasure, but the Godfather's timeless style of music is going to be making us all FUNKY forever!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Soulful Christmas Songs

Thanks to, I was able to find the following Christmas song videos.

Aretha Franklin - This Christmas (2006)

Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song

Stevie Wonder - One Little Christmas Tree

The Temptations - Silent Night

Merry Christmas, Ya'll!!!

O Holy Night

Patti Labelle and the Perri Sisters
deliver a rousing rendition of the Christmas standard:

The reason for the season.

Merry Christmas, ya'll!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Every Year, Every Christmas

Some Luther Vandross to put me in the mood for Christmas:

...every year, every Christmas...
Merry Christmas, ya'll!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ball's Out for the Gator Bowl

BuzzFor the first time in four seasons, the Georgia Tech Football Team will be quarterbacked by someone not named Reggie Ball, well there was that one start last season when he was too sick to play, but our opponent that day was UConn! Unfortunately, this is Ball's last game as a Yellow Jacket and would've been his first New Year's Day bowl game - the last three bowl games were minor affairs after mediocre seasons. But this time, we're playing a high powered, high scoring West Virginia team with a quarterback that seems to find a way into the end zone more times than not!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Reggie Ball will be replaced by his backup Taylor Bennett, who's only other start during his 3 years on the Flats was the earlier mentioned UConn game, in which he threw a touchdown on his first snap from scrimmage. Reggie Ball has been ruled academically ineligible and will have to sit out the last game of his college career.

NCAA rules require that players be in good academic standing. They also require seniors to pass at least six hours in the fall semester to be eligible for a bowl. Tech rules require seniors to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to play, according to the athletics department Web site. Academic advisers and assistant coaches track athletes' academic progress, but Head Coach Chan Gailey is quoted as saying with seniors, "you rely more on their evaluation [of whether they're in trouble academically]."

Though, often maligned as not being "media-friendly," aloof, and worse... Tech fans are indebted to Reggie Ball for producing 4 winning seasons, 4 bowl appearances, more starts than any other Georgia Tech quarterback, the second most wins by a Georgia Tech quarterback, 2 clutch wins over Auburn (one at Jordan-Hare Stadium), 2 big wins over Miami (one at the Orange Bowl), and this season's trouncing of Virginia Tech. The biggest blemish on his record has been Tech's inability to slay those dreaded Georgia Bulldogs during the last 4 seasons (even though the last two outings were close games that were won on the last possession of the game).

The ACC Championship Game was the second big letdown for the team and the fans, after losing to Georgia to end this season. Ball didn't have his best game and we ended up losing the ACC Championship to an inferior Wake Forest team. Wake Forest goes to a BCS Bowl (Orange Bowl)... and Georgia Tech was relegated to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.

UPDATE 12-23-2007: The AJC reports that Reggie Ball will appeal his "D" grade in a class that made him academically ineligible, but it won't get him back in Georgia Tech's bowl game.


Next, congratulations to my Kappa Alpha Psi frat brother and starting Georgia Tech tight end Michael Matthews. Big Mike will be playing in his final game as a Yellow Jacket in the Gator Bowl, but more importantly, he received his degree from Georgia Tech last week! I wish him and his family all the best because his future is so promising.

Reggie BallNow, I can pontificate on this Reggie Ball situation. I hate to see this young man go out like this. He has played on one of the biggest stages (prime time national television) and has stared down some of the nation's fiercest opponents, but Reggie Ball is still a kid, his best days are before him. I'd be loath to "pile on" someone who is barely out of his teens for failing to keep up his grades while being at the helm of a top(?) Division 1-A football program since his freshman season (his very first game as a freshman was a rousing upset of visiting Auburn - yeah, that Auburn with Jason Campbell and Cadillac Williams!).

And this also begs the question is how can someone be at Georgia Tech for 4 years and then SUDDENLY not be able to play the last game of his career because of academic problems? Grade problems don't just crop up during the last week of a semester. Since the loss to UGA, there has been a LOUD cry for his backup to play; I have a sinking feeling that if Georgia Tech had won one of the last two games, he'd be playing on New Years Day!

It is a tough row to hoe, being a college student and a semi-professional athlete at the same time. These young men have to practice, attend study sessions, review game film, go to class, meet with classmates and professors, pay their bills, deal with their families and friends... and then put on a show every Saturday afternoon in the fall. Some guys will handle this better than others. Some guys will succeed where others will not fair so well. Georgia Tech is a tough academic environment, there were times when I struggled at Georgia Tech, and I didn't have to worry about running from 290 lb linemen every Saturday who's main intent was on rearranging my bone structure!

Some will say that these young men get paid with a free education. I say that is BULLSH*T! Georgia Tech will receive more than $4 million dollars just for showing up at the Gator Bowl, their payout would've been over $10 million dollars if they had beaten Wake Forest and gone to the Orange Bowl! These young men are pimped by college athletic programs for their god-given talents and entertainment value. The colleges and universities always get much more than the value of tuition, room, and board.

I feel bad for Reggie Ball and I'm glad that I didn't use my season ticket status buy tickets (and rent a hotel room and buy plane tickets) to attend the Gator Bowl. I think it is an affront to my intelligence and the intelligence of the fans to think that we couldn't figure out that when BIG MONEY is involved, these college football programs will do almost anything to appease the fan base. I hope we beat West Virginia, but I have a feeling that Pat White & Company is going to run us out of the gym (i.e. score ALOT more points than us)!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Cheer?!?

What follows is an actual e-mail message from work (I've only changed the names of the family members, all colors and emphasis were in the original e-mail message) about our group's Holiday Adopt-a-Family Program which operates in a major northeastern city. Our offices are located out in the "Vanilla Suburbs" with the families being picked from the "Chocolate City." Somehow, this program was designed to make "us" feel good about helping our down-trodden brethren in the city.

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO DONATED to the Adopt-a-Family program!!! Because of your generosity, we reached our goal of $1,000!! Initially the family of a single mother and six children only requested the necessities: bed linens, bath towels, dishes, etc., but we also wanted to make their holiday a fun and cheerful one, so we asked what each of the children wanted. Last night we used the donations to purchase gifts for the family as a whole and for each individual child. Below is a list of what "Kat" and her children, JaMarcus, 19; Clara, 18; Jasmine, 14; Tiara, 13; Kalik, 5; and Mary Ann, 4 will be receiving this holiday season!!

8 Sets of Towels (hand, wash, and bath)
5 Sets of Bedding (comforter,
sheets, pillow cases)
3 DVDs
3 CDs
2 Sets of Dishes
2 Portable
CD Players & Batteries
2 Cabbage Patch Kids
2 Barbies
2 Beanie
2 Sets of Playdough
1 Sweater Set
1 Pair of Sneakers
Caboodle with Makeup Kits
1 Candyland Game

…and 1 20 Inch TV/DVD Player Combo!!!!

We will be wrapping these gifts today at 11:30 and delivering them on Thursday. Thanks again for helping this family have a memorable holiday!

plez sez: Now, I'm not trying to be ugly or a Scrooge, but does anyone (other than me) see something wrong with this picture?!?

I see something wrong on a number of fronts:
(1) In even the best of times, it would seem that having 6 children would be quite a burden on a family with two middle-class incomes. Now throw in the fact that you are a single mother with a period of 15 years between the first and last child, one would think that this "family" now poses quite a burden on our society. Since this group in my company is providing them with Christmas gifts, I have no doubt that this family also relies on the city, county, and state to provide them with other sustenance to survive. I'm not naming any names, but SOMEONE needs to have her tubes tied - real tight!

(2) I can see asking the children (aged 4 to 14) for their Christmas Wish List, but why in the heck are an 18 year old and 19 year old lined up for a handout? And why are we giving it to them? I will bet that at least one of those DVDs and at least one of those CD Players are for the older "children."

(3) What kind of message are we sending to these young adults and teenagers? Go ahead, be irresponsible and have as many babies as you want and someone else will take care of you!

(4) Who doubts that Ms. "Kat" won't have another mouth to feed by next Christmas?

(5) I love the idea of providing essentials: towels, bedding, dishes, etc. during this time of Christmas Cheer, but why are we buying so many non-essential items: numerous toys and dolls, 2 CD players, DVDs, and a TV/DVD Player combo? Since we are in the northeast and we're heading into the winter, why didn't this family ask for more clothes for the bitter cold weather: coats, hats, more than one sweater set, gloves, mittens, scarves, boots, etc?!? Why didn't this family ask for some books or supplies for school?!?

(6) And lastly and most troubling, the "haves" at my job can assuage their wavering guilt (i.e. White Guilt) by making a trifling and token contribution to the "have-nots" while snickering in private about the entire sorry lot that lack the education and resources to pull themselves out of poverty. When reading about the travesty that is this adopted family, the uninformed "haves" can quickly fall back on any of a number of stereotypes: lazy, shiftless, shameless, uneducated (you should notice that no books or school implements were on the Wish Lists), ignorant, poor, welfare dependent, fatherless (who wants to wager that these 6 kids were fathered by no less than 2 different men?), lack of self-control and impulse-control... and the list goes on and on!

NOTE: I am no longer working in this group, but I still receive correspondence because I'm still on the e-mail distribution list for the group. I did not make a contribution.

And after reading the e-mail in question, plez's wife wrote: have to ask why she's still buying stuff for the 18 and 19 year old. They should understand her situation. But maybe they don't realize it's as bad as it REALLY is since she keeps having babies.

I'm done... just call me, Ebenezer!

Oh yeah, Merry Christmas, ya'll!

Cynthia McKinney Parkway - Revisited

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
A Republican state lawmaker is seeking to strip U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney's name off a DeKalb County road saying she "has brought embarrassment to the state of Georgia."

State Rep. Len Walker's resolution would switch Cynthia McKinney Parkway back its original name — Memorial Drive — partly to honor victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Her tenure in Congress has been marked by controversies and rhetoric that has brought embarrassment to the state of Georgia," said Walker on Monday. The lawmaker is a United Methodist minister who represents parts of Walton and Gwinnett counties.

In 2000, State Sen. Gloria S. Butler (D-Stone Mountain) successfully proposed renaming Memorial Drive – from Candler Road in Decatur to U.S. Highway 78 in DeKalb County — to Cynthia McKinney Parkway. Butler said McKinney deserved the honor because she secured $14 million in federal funding for DeKalb to upgrade Memorial Drive.
Later in the article, John Evans, McKinney's campaign manager, has a response to Rep. Walker's claim that McKinney has caused embarrassment to Georgia, "He must be talking about white folks or uppity black folks."

plez sez: Three things enter my mind after reading this article:
(1) If you've ever driven down Memorial Drive (AKA Cynthia McKinney Parkway) lately, you will notice that not ONE DIME of that $14 million dollars has been spent to upgrade the road. Legitimate businesses have closed and have been replaced with ethnic-looking bodegas of questionable value - I was really pissed when the only golf shop in east metro area closed. All things being equal, Memorial Drive has descended into some of the worst urban blight in the county; it is one of the areas in the DeKalb County that I tend to avoid because of the plethora of obviously under-insured immigrant drivers who crowd the road!

(2) Some people would refer to me as "uppity," but any sane person of modest means would deplore the actions of Cynthia McKinney while she was a Congresswoman from the State of Georgia. As evidenced by her district drumming her out of office earlier this year during the Democratic Primary and Run-off, there must be a lot of "uppity black folks" who agree with me!

(3) It's days like this when I wished that I was a state legislator, because I wouldn't hesitate to co-sponsor this bill. Cynthia McKinney should be entered into evidence as to why streets and buildings should be named for people after they are DEAD! To be very honest with you, I have no idea why it was renamed for her in the first place.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Run, Obama, Run! - Part 2

On Sunday, December 10, 2006, Sen. Barack Obama was in New Hampshire speaking to sold out crowds. He cleverly test drove some of his "thoughts" on what is necessary to move America forward, preached a fresh approach to politics, and took that crucial first step to seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008. Click this link to hear his speech in front of a Democratic audience in its entirety.

plez sez: Run, Obama, run! *smile*

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Christmas Carol from Tufts University

I found this little ditty posted on Nat Turner's Revenge.

This update of "O Come O Ye Faithful" was written by some supposedly smart Tufts University college students in their conservative rag called The Primary Source. Of course, the little twits have already removed the offensive "carol", but some of the comments written by the papers' readers are just as eye-opening and revealing.
O Come All Ye Black Folk
Boisterous yet desirable
O come ye, O come ye to our university
Come and we will admit you
Born into oppression
O come let us accept them
O come let us accept them
O come let us accept them

Fifty-two black freshmen
O sing gospel choirs
We will accept your children
No matter what your grades are F's, D's, or C's
Give them privileged status
We will welcome all
O come let us accept them
O come let us accept them
O come let us accept them

Fifty-two black freshmen
All come!
Blacks we need you
Born into the ghetto
O Jesus we need you now to fill our racial quotas
Descendants of Africa with brown skin arriving
O come let us accept them
O come let us accept them
O come let us accept them

Fifty-two black freshmen

plez sez: I would be too ashamed to admit that a child of mine could be so filled with racism and hate to write such a thing. What's sadder still, is that this wasn't the only "carol" that they came up with... all of them are equally offensive and lacking in creativity.

I also feel sorry for Tufts University, as I'm sure they will have a difficult time next fall trying to find even 5 Black students who will want to enroll in a university that harbors students with such a racist and crazy view of Black people.

WOW! This kind of stuff really puts me in the Christmas Spirit!

Top SEC Coaching Jobs

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out to former SEC head coaches and asked them to rank the coaching jobs in the SEC Conference, taking into account fan support, recruiting base, financial resources, athletic facilities, expectations and backing from administration when things get tough — as they inevitably will.

1. Florida

With an athletics budget of more than $66 million and a premier prospect-packed home state that rivals Texas and California, Florida was an easy choice for No. 1.

plez sez: Florida may boast the most blue chip football players in the US, but every coach will also have to deal with the ghost of the Ole Ball Coach (Steve Spurrier) looming over his shoulder. They canned Ron Zook after 3 years, 9 & 10 win seasons, but no SEC Championships.

2. Georgia

When Vince Dooley arrived in Athens in 1964, he inherited a program that relied heavily on out-of-state recruits. Then the landscape of the state changed (the population boomed in the 80's and 90's), and the job changed with it.

plez sez: Even though, it's been over 20 years, Georgia can still point to their lone National Championship in 1982 with Herschel Walker. With so many blue chip players, the close proximity to Atlanta, the lack of competition for the top players in the state, a rabid fan base, and relatively low expectations (UGA fans are happy to win the SEC East), this is a great job.

3. LSU

Some would argue LSU should be a spot higher because of the number of top-notch high school players Louisiana produces and the financial commitment the school has made to football. But there's some uncertainty around the job. Hurricane Katrina scattered many top high school players to adjoining states. No one knows if that will have an impact on LSU's future recruiting. Also, it's no secret Fisher and Pelini want to be head coaches.

plez sez: There is some instability with the job, in the last 10 years there have been numerous head coaching changes, but then again, Baton Rogue is a backwater outpost in Louisiana. They love their football, but they also have to recruit out of state. I would've ranked this program 5th behind Florida, Georgia, Auburn, and Tennessee.

4. Tennessee

Neyland Stadium, one of college football's great showplaces, seats 107,000 and is packed for every game, be it Alabama or Air Force. When recruits come to Knoxville for visits, they also see one of the country's top indoor practice facilities and hear about the program's stability. Fulmer has been in place since 1993, making him the SEC's longest-tenured coach.

plez sez: The state of Tennessee is only going to produce a handful of top recruits for a program like UT, so this job requires a lot of out-of-state travel. It's also in the tough-as-nails SEC East with perennial powerhouses Florida, Georgia, and upstart South Carolina. Also, the current coach has been there forever, in SEC coaching years.

5. Auburn

Auburn gets the edge over state rival Alabama for a few reasons. First of all, the Tigers have won five in a row against the Tide and have been able to keep their coaching situation relatively stable. Since Tommy Tuberville was nearly fired in 2003, the Tigers have gone 32-5. They'll play in their third consecutive New Year's Day bowl in a few weeks.

plez sez: And Auburn was shafted out of playing for the National Championship in 2004! The school is in close proximity to the top recruits in Florida and Georgia. This job would be third on my list behind Florida and Georgia... just ahead of Tennessee.

6. Alabama

In 2002, Alabama committed to spend $47 million on a Bryant-Denny Stadium face-lift. So facilities, which for so long lagged behind the rest of the SEC, are no longer an issue. Several coaches say the program is micromanaged and that it will take a strong personality to be a consistent winner in Tuscaloosa.

plez sez: This school has had the misfortune of not producing a consistent winner in the past 10 years, having a merry-go-round of coaches in the last 10 years AND being in the same state as Auburn (with its 3 First Round NFL Draftees from 2 years ago). In addition, Alabama fans (the whole slack jawed lot of them) are waiting for the next Bear Bryant and any program that looks to return to its former glory under a particular head coach will NEVER realize its goal. No one wants this job (I'd probably turn it down if they called me!). This program is way past its freshness date and I have them ranked them below South Carolina and Arkansas!

7. Arkansas

Frank Broyles, 81, is Arkansas football: he is in his 50th year at Arkansas and 34th as athletics director. Having a former football coach as an AD is a good thing, the ex-coaches said. Broyles also knows how to find money and how to spend it. He has used his powerful political connections to raise more than $200 million and turn Arkansas' athletic facilities into the country's finest. Arkansas high school football can't compare to that of Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, but it is improving due to the influx of people to the state who either work directly for Bentonville-based Wal-Mart or for companies who do a major portion of their business with Wal-Mart.

plez sez: Although, they shocked many with their winning of the SEC West, Arkansas still falls into the bottom half of the SEC for top head coaching jobs. Recruiting must be a headache - similar to the situation at LSU and Tennessee. I have this job ranked below South Carolina, but ahead of Alabama.

8. South Carolina

The Gamecocks have captured only one title of any kind in their long football history. They've won more than eight games in a season just twice. And if Steve Spurrier takes them to a bowl in 2007, he'll be the first coach to accomplish that for three straight years. Still, ex-coaches say, this is an underrated job because the fans always show up and support the program.

plez sez: If you can beat Clemson, you're doing your job at USC. You'll have to recruit heavily in Florida and Georgia to be competitive. But you're in a nice southeastern US location and the relatively low expectations that come with the job, this is a cake assignment. Luck up and win the SEC East one year... and they'll erect a statue of you!

9. Ole Miss

From 1947-63, Ole Miss won six SEC titles. Since then, the Rebels have zero. There's a lot to sell in Oxford: a tradition that includes Archie and Eli Manning; Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which was expanded in 2002; an $18 million indoor practice facility. And tailgating on a Saturday at The Grove is one of the most unique experiences in college football.

plez sez: Mississippi is in the second smallest state in the SEC, but it has three Division I-A programs (go figure); the city of Atlanta has more people than the entire state! To even field a team, this head coach must recruit tirelessly and it selling the state of Mississippi must be a tough sell to even the most enlightened Black youngster. I would rank being a head coach at this school near the bottom of the barrel, just above Mississippi State.

10. Kentucky

The "basketball school" label isn't the only obstacle a coach has to overcome in Lexington. First of all, Kentucky isn't known for shelling out big bucks, with Rich Brooks the SEC's lowest-paid head coach ($729,000). Second, with Steve Spurrier now at South Carolina, Kentucky will find it tough to be better than fifth in the SEC East.

plez sez: The football season in Kentucky just means that the basketball season will be starting soon! Low pay, low expectations, few blue chip recruits (who'll probably be lured to a big time program), and a fickle fan base equals a low ranked place to coach.

11. Mississippi State

Like its sister institution in Oxford, Mississippi State must overcome being located in a small population area while being in the SEC West, which also includes Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Arkansas. Sylvester Croom, the former Alabama player who came from the Green Bay Packers and only Black head coach in the SEC, makes $940,000 per year, which is third-lowest among the league's public school coaches. Jackie Sherrill (the Shill) used a combination of high school and junior college recruits to improve the level of play. Some years, it worked. Others, it didn't. In 1998, the Bulldogs reached their one and only SEC title game, losing to Tennessee.

plez sez: Once you factor in that Mississippi State is located in Starkville, MSU is Ole Miss divided by two. This has got to be the worse job in the SEC, you'd be better off at Duke in the ACC!

12. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is by far the SEC's toughest job, the ex-coaches said, because of its high academic standards, relatively small alumni base and puny stadium. It also hasn't helped Vanderbilt football that the university administration decided to do away with the position of athletics director and bring the entire department under the office of vice chancellor for student life. Rival schools used that against Vandy in recruiting, questioning its commitment to football.

plez sez: To Vanderbilt's credit, they can recruit for pure student-athletes who do not have the pressure of performing for NFL scouts every week. Since I attended a college with high academic standards, a relatively small alumni base, and a smallish stadium, I can appreciate how this would be a low ranking head coaching job in the SEC. They won't be contending against Auburn or LSU for the SEC West during any of our lifetimes!

plez's Top SEC Coaching Jobs:
1. Florida Gators
2. Georgia Bulldogs (Dawgs)
3. Auburn War Eagles
4. Tennessee Volunteers
5. LSU Tigers
6. South Carolina Gamecocks
7. Arkansas Razorbacks (Hogs)
8. Alabama Crimson Tide
9. Kentucky Wildcats
10. Vanderbilt Commodores
11. Ole Miss Rebels
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Monday, December 11, 2006

Clarence Thomas - An American Hero

I stumbled upon a National Review article, by John A. Foster-Bey from a few years ago which gave me a different perspective from the mainstream Black liberal view of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. We know that he is Yale Law graduate and spent close to a decade heading up the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before becoming a judge. There have only been two Black men who have ascended to the highest court in the land, and both of them viewed the use of the federal government in starkly contrasting ways. Justice Marshall followed an unabashed liberal agenda on the bench and was one of the lawyers who argued before the Supreme Court for the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. Justice Thomas follows an unabashed conservative agenda on the bench and is a staunch opponent to affirmative action.

In the article, Foster-Bey writes:
The question that this raises is: Are the efforts to vilify Justice Thomas really in the best interests of the black community — or the nation as a whole? Because he is a Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas is arguably one of the most, if not the most powerful blacks in the country. In addition, he represents the cutting edge of an emerging debate between the traditional black liberal leadership (and its white liberal allies) and a new black conservative alternative about how best to address the future development of the African-American community. If discourse and debate is central to a healthy, well-functioning democracy, there should be a least some concern that the political development of the black community is being limited by the attempts of many black liberals to silence black conservatives, such as Justice Thomas, with name-calling ("Uncle Tom") and marginalizing.

Another excerpt from the article states:
The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act brought the longstanding debate in the black community between self-reliance versus reliance on government effectively to an end — at least among the African-American leadership class. The debate was embodied in the early-20th-century positions of Booker T. Washington — who argued for self-reliance and internal development — and W. E. B. Dubois — who argued for massive political and systemic change. With the enactment of the new law, advancement for the African-American community was henceforth primarily tied to increasing the federal government's role in promoting opportunity for blacks. This meant not only reducing and eliminating illegal forms of discrimination, but also finding ways to make up for past injustices. While in the past African Americans argued that eliminating barriers and unfair, unjust, and illegal constraints were all that was needed, the new orthodoxy argued that the black community needed a progressive, activist government committed to promoting the rights of African Americans and redressing the wrongs of the past. Thus was the foundation for affirmative action and a variety of other race-based programs born.

plez sez: It seemed like only yesterday that I watched with rapt attention as Clarence Thomas withstood his "high tech lynching" on the way to becoming only the second Black person to occupy a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Having never heard of him and never having seen a confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice, the melodrama that played out with Anita Hill and pubic hairs on a Pepsi can was quite interesting. I admit that I was a bit torn as I read and researched for this post, as I am a beneficiary of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and affirmative action programs of the 1970's. I can't say that I'd be where I am without those vehicles of government intervention and their redress of wholesale past wrongs done to Black people. I feel strongly that the Movement was instrumental in creating a viable and sizeable Black Middle Class. The affirmative action movement has turned the corner on 30 years and has me questioning its effectiveness today.

I find a few issues with many affirmative action programs (and any program that includes government intervention). I have an issue with accountability: there is no such thing as a free lunch, you should have to pay something to receive something, and to my way of thinking, ancestry (skin color, religion, etc.) isn't enough. Without putting "skin in the game," one will not appreciate their rewards. You will readily throw away something that you got for free before you part with something that you worked your behind off for!

Another issue that I have is the lack of measurable results from these "solutions." Do you set goals (or quotas) to measure success? Is there a timetable for when these goals should be met? Do we know that children who are bussed from the inner city to the suburbs have better grades than the one who do not? When dealing with human capital, it is usually very difficult to measure the success or failure of a program. Social engineering is a tricky business wrought with unintended consequences. When enacted, a program should have measurable goals within a specific time frame, without these things in place; any affirmative action program will more than likely be viewed as a failure.

As the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there is no doubt that Clarence Thomas saw more failure than success with affirmative action programs, thus coloring his judgment as to the effectiveness of these programs. I would like to see programs that prepare more Blacks for inclusion and opportunity (training programs, low interest loans, etc.), rather than programs that seek redress for past discrimination. It is possible that by tearing down the traditional 40 year old Civil Rights paradigm, we (as Black folk) may be able to move forward in a more inclusive and less divisive manner.

He may be right (and only time will tell if he is wrong), but I have to give kudos to Justice Thomas for giving it a shot!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Run, Obama, Run!

On CNN's "The Situation Room" on December 6, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), was also asked about a run for the White House in 2008 by anchor Wolf Blitzer:

Blitzer: "You want to be president or you want to be vice president?"
Obama: "Well, you don't run for vice president."
Blitzer: "So what does that mean? You want to run for president?"
Obama: "I answered the question, Wolf. I've got to go vote."

plez sez: I like Barack Obama as a presidential candidate in 2008 because I feel that he is a fresh alternative to the stale re-treads currently in the Democratic stable (Kerry, Gore, Edwards, etc.). Unfortunately, I also get a "Flavor of the Month" feeling about him and wonder how much luster will be left on his now-twinkling star after 2 years of media scrutiny. The media is going to all over him like white-on-rice until the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary in 2008! You have to remember how Gov. Howard Dean was basically a shoo-in before his early primary losses in 2004.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Audacity of Christmas!

plez sez: I couldn't resist this editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich from today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution ... oh yeah, Happy Holidays, ya'll!