Just some thoughts and ideas going around in my head while trying to figure out where I am and where everyone else is going.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's Where I Live

I have a flickr account. I have the free one and not the pro one which costs whatever it costs because I don’t really take that many pictures that need to be published and even fewer of them that I want to pay for. Recently I added a few pictures that I had taken at home to that account and tried to add them to the map program they have there. When I clicked the approximate location of where I assumed the house to be and the town Snow Hill NJ came up and I thought ,“Where the fuck is Snow Hill?” Well let me tell you.

I live in the Borough of Lawnside in New Jersey, which means that we are less than 4 square miles in size with a population of less than 5000 people. Actually I think we have about 2500 people with a mayor and 6 councilmen and 5 policemen of which 2 are part-timers. We had a police captain but he was put away for conspiracy and auto insurance fraud and I’m not sure if he was ever replaced. But we probably don’t need a police captain since apart from the murder last year at the Wayne Bryant Community Center when a teenager was shot and the petty drug sales that people do at the Exxon gas station; it’s a pretty quiet neighborhood.

Mark Bryant has been the mayor for at least the last 20 years and maybe longer than that. He lives in Cherry Hill but his girlfriend had a house here so I guess that keeps him qualified to be mayor. For a time I thought that Lawnside would have had to go Arab style, revolt and throw him out but this is South Jersey, we don't do that here. The mayor's brother, former state senator Wayne Bryant does have a house here. The house was worth between $7 and $10 million during the good times when everyone else’s homes cost about $150,000. But Wayne hasn’t been around much since his conviction on corruption and fraud charges. He is staying elsewhere for the next few years, benefit of the state.

Peter Mott House
Anyway, Lawnside was incorporated in 1926 making it the first independently self-governing African American community north of the Mason-Dixon Line. It was formed by the merger of 2 areas of land bought by abolitionists and freed slaves in the in the early 19th century known as Free Haven and Snow Hill. In fact Peter Mott, an African American farmer from Maryland, built his house in the 1840’s in Snow Hill. It’s about 3 blocks from where I live and was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad to help runaway slaves on their way north and freedom.

So that’s where Snow Hill is. It's not just a forgotten spot on a Google map, it’s where I live.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Of Thee I Sing

Marion Anderson
Speaking of Black history Month, when Luther Vandross died a bunch of us at work looked at the pictures of all those who attended the funeral or memorial service.

Of course all the usual suspects were there, the ones with names that you never forget: Quincy, Michael, Diana et al, at least I guess they were there because in actuality I did forget who did show up except for one big and fat woman who seemed stressed in all the wrong places with strange clothing that no one could recognize. Arnessia, a co-worker asked me who I thought it was. I said, “Next” as in the most obvious person next to die. It was about 5 minutes later when someone said that the unknown lady was Aretha.

Looking back I think I might have been a little callous in my assessments.

Aretha Franklin, who knew then that she would be invited to the Inauguration of the 1st black President of the United States or there would even be a 1st black President of the United States. Who knew then that more people would talk about her hat rather than the historical significance of her singing, “My country tis of thee,” on the steps of the Capitol. The same song that Martin Luther King had quoted from over 40 years earlier further down the Mall on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial, “Sweet land of liberty.” The same song that Marion Anderson had sung, but without the Anderson changes, at the Lincoln Memorial 70 years before after being invited by Mrs. Roosevelt to sing there when she had been refused permission to sing at Constitution Hall because of her race, “of thee I sing.” Who knew that she would become part of a historic moment that had come full circle?

As almost everyone knows, Aretha has been ill recently but I saw a tribute to her a few weekends ago on the Grammy Awards ceremony and I thought she looked good. Although getting sick is one hell of a way to lose weight. How many of those Grammys does she have anyway? I guess when you are recognized as the Queen of Soul all the facts and the figures, which one can find elsewhere, don’t really matter as long as she can express our sadnesses and still bring joy and peace and redemption to her listeners.

I hope things turn out well for her and us. I really do.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin Tribute (Live at Grammy Awards 2011)
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudius DVD.
Damn it. I don’t know how I’m going to work this into Black History Month, but here goes. The revolution will not be televised.

Speaking of TV, one of my all time favorite television shows was and maybe always will be is I Claudius. Now you can have your HBO’s Rome or Gladiator or anything else you want, but they don’t really compare to Claudius. This show was true genius.

It's the story of a twitching, stuttering crippled idiot of a boy who kept records of his family where everyone was expected to succeed in life except him. It tells the story of The Divine Augustus and his wife the Lady Livia and how Claudius was able to endure everything from childhood to maturity, from deception and intrigue to an adulteress wife Messalina and become the fourth Roman Emperor.

I think there maybe only 6 or 8 episodes in the entire series and it was done by the BBC in the mid 70’s, which means of course there was no money put into it and sometimes it shows. But being based on a story by Robert Graves written in the 30’s, what it lacks in production values is more than compensated for by good storytelling and acting done by performers who, if they are still alive, carry a few Sirs or Dames in front of their names now.I won’t tell you about who conspired or killed or slept with whom to get the man or woman or position that they wanted or needed, but I will say that for every move portrayed in the show, if there was no back up by the Praetorian Guard or the army, then it was doomed to failure. The military was always in charge and this is what I learned about Mediterranean politics.

It’s kind of like in ’52 when Col. Nasser overthrew the Muhammad Ali dynasty and deposed King Farouk in Egypt. He had the military behind him to back him up and become the second President of country. Anwar Sadat, who although may have been just a junior officer under Nasser, rose to become Vice-President and then President when Nasser died in 1970. When Sadat was assassinated 11 years later he was succeeded by his Vice-President Hosni Mubarak who was a also the former Air Chief Marshall in the Egyptian air force. Now the military is directly in charge of Egypt’s state of affairs since the resignation of Mr. Mubarak and the military will determine the process of democratization for the country during the next few months. The revolution will not be televised.
I’m not talking about the kabuki street theatre that we all have seen being played out in the public squares and the streets of Cairo. I’m not talking about the chants and the slogans shouted by the crowds as they mull about calling this one a crook and that one a despot or a terrorist. I’m not talking about the well place placards written for the benefit of France 24, or Sky News, or CNN where people are rioting one day and the ladies are sweeping the streets the next.

I’m talking about the real movers and shakers behind the palace or barrack walls, the ones with the stars on their epaulets and the braids on their chests. The ones who have been in charge since before Cleopatra and Akhenaten before her will decide will decide what will happen in the future and they won’t show you how it’s to be done because the revolution will not be televised.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Another Piece of my Childhood Gone

I think that I been able to go to the movies by myself since I was 8 or 9. There was that brief stint during my 20's when I wouldn't be seen dead without someone by my side, but now I'm back to where I was before. If no one will go to see something with me, I'll lose no sweat off of my nuts and just go by myself. Maybe I'm that way because of the movies that I used to see.....Bond, James Bond.

You see back when I was a kid, you had to be a millionaire's son, or damn close to one, to have a video machine, so I saw all my old movies in second run theatres. I would go to the local theatre or not tell my parents and catch a bus out of town to see a double billing of something or other. Some times I would be lucky enough to see some white girl shake her naked and well shaped pink nippled titties on the screen for all of 5 seconds in a movie that I would completely forget the name of after leaving.  Other times I'd be lucky to see a Thunderball and Dr. No special and see what real adventure was about.

It wasn't just seeing the decrepit old man running about on the screen that excited me, although I think that Sean Connery was in his mid-30's when he did those movies, it was the pace of the things, the jokes that I didn't understand, the veneer of being smarter than the other guy and the music, oh yes the music.

The film scores in a Bond movie are often simple but done in such away that punctuates and dramatizes every scene,  making the film and the audience climb into that other realm, the realm of movie magic.Much of that  music was written and orchestrated by John Barry. He suffered a heart attack and died this weekend.

As Sir George Martin said about his work,  "You could always identify John's scores. They were very dramatic. They leant themselves to the film in a way that enhanced everything. He was an extraordinary musician - very, very clever.

"Without John Barry there would be no James Bond theme, because the whole essence of that was the excitement, the drama, the orchestration."

Of course John Barry did the scores for many other movies, Born Free, Out of Africa, Indecent Proposal just to name 3 out of over 100, but it will the sounds that I heard in my childhood and the soundtrack of my dreams that I will remember him for.

If you have a minute, take a listen and you'll see what I mean.


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