Monday, June 30, 2008

Phyllis Hyman

I can't think of a better way to end Black Music Month than to honor Phyllis Hyman. It's a bittersweet day because this is the anniversary of this beautiful, talented artists' death in 1995. I remember that day well. My friend Golde was helping me with some guitar chords and when I got to his house he told me of his friend's passing. We spent all morning talking about Phyllis. I had always loved her throaty sultry voice and emotionally intense style but Golde made it very personal for me with his remembrances, some very funny and some very sad.

Phyllis was in her early twenties when she went to New York City. She got work in NYC night clubs and formed her own band, The PH Factor in 1974. Her club work got her noticed by celebrities and producers like Norman Connors who gave her a guest cut on his You are My Starship album. It was her jazzy version of the Stylistics, You Betcha By Golly Wow.

In 1977, her self-titled debut LP featured the hits Loving You/Losing You and I Don't Wanna Lose You. In 1978, Somewhere In My Lifetime, was released. The title track was produced by Barry Manilow and became Phyllis' first solo radio hit. Then she did a cover version of Exile's, Kiss you All Over remixed for club play. The following year, the "You Know How To Love Me" album, hit the record stores and contained several fan favorites, but the title track became one of her biggest dance anthems. She would include it in her repertoire until the time of her passing.

Then in 1981, it was on to Broadway for the Duke Ellington Tribute, Sophisticated Ladies, for which Phyllis got a Tony nomination.

Phyllis Hyman released several more albums and appeared in movies including a co-starring role with Fred Williamson in The Kill Reflex in 1989. Her voice was featured on nationally heard jingles from Burger King, Red Lobster, American Airlines, Mastercard & Lysol to name but a few. And, she was the spokesperson for Fashion Fair cosmetics. Much of her time was spent on her two most important causes, AIDS and the plight of the homeless.

Phyllis struggled with bi-polar disorder and addictions. Today, being bipolar is more understood or should I say more out of the closet. Today, we've all heard of it and know that it is a complex condition. More is also known about management. But for Phyllis, no one especially celebs were on Oprah or The View discussing depression or offering guidance or hope. It had to be a lonely, hard struggle.
Her internal struggles led Phyllis Hyman to take her own life on June 30, 1995.
So especially today, I honor and remember her.

Phyllis was six foot one and even more with her heels (which she usually removed during performances) and her trademark hats. Sister could where the heck out of some hats.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chicago Pride

39th annual Chicago Pride Parade Today! Have fun in Chitown and all over America.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Black Music Month

Hey, my friend AnnMarie (Rev Johnny) reminded me that it is Black Music Month. I am so late, as usual. She put up some Robert Johnson today. He was so ahead of his time. Where would the Stones or Eric Clapton be without RJ? I'm just saying.
I only have 4 days left in this month so RJ can get busy and represent.

Sweet Home Chicago

Eric Clapton has recorded most of Johnson's 29 songs. Here Clapton plays "Stones in My Passway" and talks about how difficult it is to recreate Johnson's playing. Believe me I know he's right. Robert Johnson was the transition to the modern blues. Muddy Waters followed as did electric bluesmen B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix.

A Fitting Bush Tribute?

Tributes to U.S. presidents have come in all forms -- take the Washington Monument, the Kennedy Space Center and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, to name a few. And soon, if a San Francisco group has its way, there could be the George W. Bush Sewage Plant, according to The New York Times.

A group called the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco has been collecting signatures to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant after Bush upon his exit from office next year. The plan -- conceived in a bar -- would place a vote on the November ballot to offer "an appropriate honor for a truly unique president," the group told the Times. Supporters said that they have enough signatures to qualify the measure.
“Most politicians tend to be narcissistic and egomaniacs,” said Brian McConnell, an organizer who regularly suits up as Uncle Sam to solicit signatures. “So it is important for satirists to help define their history rather than letting them define their own history.”

Whether it is successful or not, the group wants supporters to participate in a "synchronized flush" when the new president is inaugurated on Jan. 20 to send a flood of water toward the plant.

“It’s a way of doing something physical that’s mentally freeing,” said Stacey Reineccius, 45, a software consultant and entrepreneur who supports the plan.

Well, I don't think I want that to become a reality, not that it's not deserved. Just putting it forth as a serious idea certainly should say something to Mr. Bush about how he will be remembered.
I will be proud to join the ceremonial flush. Whoosh!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More George Carlin

The American Dream

Yep, sneaks up on ya and we don't even notice.
Like self serve pumps at the gas station. Remember when they cost less because we had to do the pumping? When did that stop? I didn't notice.
Illinois Standardized Test's passing grade was lowered 10 points this year. Yayyy! More passing grades. Gotta be really dumb not to pass it. Guess What?
Like when they booted off Phil Donahue and Bill Mahr. Did you get that timing? I did, and it scared me really bad. Not suppose to happen if America. No one seemed to notice.
We are owned, and we gotta wake up, take the ownership back and make the MF's work FOR us.

Soft Language

Me, I'm an openly black, visually assisted and heterosexually challenged. How 'bout that?

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin

I woke up this morning to very sad news. Comedian, writer, actor and four time Grammy winner, George Carlin died at age 71 in L. A. of heart failure. I loved this man. Monica and I both loved him. To say that he was influential as an American culture analyst is beyond understatement.
He was known as the legendary, groundbreaking, counter culturist, envelope pushing, edgy, genius and of course, very, very funny comedian. He was also known in Hollywood as a gentle and considerate man.

I didn't know that George Carlin began as a radio dj in Texas along with comedian Jack Burns and that the two teamed up as an act to pursue a night club career. The team broke up in 1962 after they saw controversial comedian Lenny Bruce. It was a turning point for Carlin.

Carlin reflected:
"I was doing superficial comedy entertaining people who didn't really care: Businessmen, people in nightclubs, conservative people. And I had been doing that for the better part of 10 years when it finally dawned on me that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong things for the wrong people."

He stopped wearing suits and ties on stage and went with the beard, ponytail and all-black attire for which he came to be known.

I first remember him as the always high Al Sleet, the "hippie-dippie weatherman"
"Tonight's forecast: Dark. Continued dark throughout most of the evening, with some widely-scattered light towards morning."

His routines simply made fun with everyday life as with my favorite routine about My Stuff. Brilliant!

Carlin observances are my kind of silly:
These crack Monica up.

If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

If the #2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still #2?

When cheese gets it's picture taken, what does it say?

I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks so I wondered, what do Chinese mothers use? Toothpicks?

May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

Electricity is really just organized lightning.

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted?

When someone asks you, A penny for your thoughts, and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?

George Carlin constantly breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language. He took on politics, religion, children, and especially censorship. His most famous 1972, "Seven Words You Can Never say on TV" - all of which are still taboo on broadcast TV and radio to this day.
It was a bit which got radio stations that played it in trouble with the FCC, leading to landmark First Amendment and decency ruling by the Supreme Court.

"So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of," he told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Monica said this morning that he talked to his audience as if he were in your living room, and she liked the way he moved around the stage and used his body during his stand up. His facial expressions were a priceless part of his delivery. Her favorite routine is his berating us all for being so overprotective of the "Chilllldren".
"We swam in the raw sewage of the Hudson River, and we skated and rode bikes without helmets and elbow pads. It's called survival of the fittest."

But even with his decidedly adult-comedy bent, Carlin never lost his childlike sense of mischief. He was Mr. Conductor on "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends" and the voice of Fillmore, the Volkswagen bus in the movie "Cars."
Monica was upset by the news. She thought about why. George Carlin was actually part of our relationship. We have enjoyed his comedy as a couple, his jokes are part of our everyday conversations and memories. It's like a big part of us is gone.

I love George Carlin for his brilliance and humanity that made me laugh and think. His analysis of life and defense of free speech will be missed.

George Carlin. Enjoy!
A Place for your Stuff. Brilliant.

Check out YouTube for these funny videos.
7 Words
baseball and football
cats and dogs

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tiger's still hot!

I love golf and especially the Masters and U.S. Open. The drama, the amazing skills, the edge of your seat suspense, the personalities, the outfits.
The underdog and the Tiger. That's the way it usually goes. But, this time Tiger was the underdog. Coming back from knee surgery, they all wondered if he still had it.

Oh, Tiger got behind but came back and kept on coming back. Saturday, Woods sank a 40-foot eagle putt to take the outright lead. On Sunday, he got behind but fought back and bumped in a 12-foot birdie to force the playoff.

Yesterday, he had to fight back from 7 strokes behind with his usual never count Tiger out attitude and skill to take it into Sudden Death round with unlikely finals opponent Rocco Mediate. Rocco hit into a sand trap and Tiger took advantage and won his 14th major tournament. It took 91 holes to do it.

I like this Rocco guy. Rocco 45, who ranked 157th in the world and never finished better than fourth in a major tournament, seemed quite overwhelmed at being in a finals with Tiger. "I can't believe I'm sitting here!"
He is talkative and animated and not at all like the serious, concentrating player. He didn't take a lot of time setting up his shots, and was constantly chatting with everyone including the ball. He teased Tiger after his sensational Saturday round,
“Mr. Woods, Mr. Woods,” Mediate had shouted from amid the media “I have a question for you. Are you out of your mind?”

It's obvious Tiger wasn't just sitting around with a wounded knee. He has some buff new pecs, biceps to die for, and look at those shoulders and waistline. Time well spent.

Phyllis and Del

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were married back in 2004, but it was overturned. Null and void.

Well, these ladies did the "I Do's" again yesterday.

Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84, who have been a couple for 55 years, were among the first same-sex partners to legally exchange marriage vows in California Monday. Marriage licenses for gay couples were officially issued after the California State Supreme Court overturned a ban on such unions.

In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom, who helped launch the series of lawsuits that led the court to strike down California's one-man-one-woman marriage laws, presided at the wedding. He called officiating the wedding "this extraordinary and humbling gift."
Martin sat in her wheelchair during the ceremony in Newsom's office, which was open to a few elected officials, reporters and friends.

After the mayor pronounced them "spouses for life," the couple kissed, drawing huge applause.

Newsom picked the couple for the only ceremony in City Hall Monday in recognition of their long relationship and their status as pioneers of the gay rights movement.
A crowd of well-wishers gathered outside City Hall to wish the happy couple congratulations.


Monday, June 16, 2008

It's the GOP for me!

And this would be the reason why! Please check it out.
(Thanks Gaby)

How 'bout that!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Attention, Worker Bees!

Last weekend, my cousin Dustin flew in from New Jersy for a book signing at the Printer's Row Book Fair, here in Chicago. Woo, it was hot but the Fair was fun and crowded. Dustin's book, Lessons From a Recovering Worker Bee is a must read. It's written in a flowing easy style and is beneficial whether or not you are in the corporate world. It's about balance in your work life and your personal life. It's about choices and giving power to the worker and has valuable lessons regardless of where you are in your career. Dustin is experienced in the world of global finance from her experience at the Chicago Board of Trade, to Silicon Valley, to banks in Germany and Denmark.

After her signing, we met at Edwardo's for pizza. Our group grew from 5 people to 11. The server was a fast talker. (Jerry Seinfeld reference.) OMG! The woman talked so fast and then zip, she disappeared. It was like we would be in mid sentence, she'd blurrrr out something and she was gone. Of course, she got our order wrong and of course our growing number only made her talk faster. It was funny and chaotic and hot! Anyway it was wonderful seeing my cousins and meeting Dustin's friend Lilly in her cool cowboy hat. She is the best, I hope I get to see her again. My cousin Lavern (Dustin's mom)is beginning to look amazingly like my mom. It's spooky. We all had cameras so it was a photo taking zoo at the table in the foyer and on the street. Here's some of my pictures and Dustin's. We headed back to my house and the Hyde Park Art Fair. We never went to the fair, it rained. But that was the one of the best days, full of hot hugs, posing, and catching up. Ahhh summer in Chicago.

My nephew Nolen and his family.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

North and South

Alexandra's wife Chrisanne, has continued the dialogue we Americans need to have on understanding each other. It's called North and South.
It's an interesting and valid historical peek at how the civil war era still effects us all.

In Alex's words:
In the midst of the changing world and all that's happening whether our eyes are open to it or not, my brilliant wife has written a post that's not to be missed. There's not only some excellent points raised by her but this writing is really something else. Her use of language is unparalleled. I know it's not supposed to be about how you write, but instead, what you write, but I honesty can't help it. This is a magnificent read.

Indeed it is, check it out.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Of course, the Obama endorsement speech on Saturday, was hard for Hillary Clinton and hard for her supporters. It was difficult for me. The pundits questioned, would she be sincere or bitter, whiney or powerful, regretful or grateful? My main question was, would it be all about her or about America. Well, it was a sincere, very powerful statement of support for Obama and gratitude for her candidacy and her supporters. It is her dream, but it is her dream for America.

"I entered this race because I have an old-fashioned conviction: that public service is about helping people solve their problems and live their dreams. I’ve had every opportunity and blessing in my own life – and I want the same for all Americans. Until that day comes, you will always find me on the front lines of democracy – fighting for the future."

"It is this belief, this optimism, that Senator Obama and I share, and that has inspired so many millions of our supporters to make their voices heard.
So today, I am standing with Senator Obama to say: Yes we can."

I don't know if Obama will choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate. (I'd still love to see those two demolish that glass ceiling.) Barack will decide. The media will drive itself and us nuts until he does.

I do know that Hillary Clinton has changed America forever. I know her 89 year old mother knows it and her daughter knows it. I'm glad to know from her speech, that she knows hers was no small accomplishment. She will continue her public service for Americans especially for health care. (We will have universal health care or Hill is gonna hurt somebody.)
I believe she will be front and center in reaching across the aisle, and use her savvy and experience to help the president bring Americans back into their government. I believe Hillary may become president in a few short years, hopefully to a better America that she will have helped develop.

Gary Hart expressed my feelings exactly.

The Perseverance of Idealism
Gary Hart
June 1, 2008

I hope to live to see the first woman president. But I also hope she will be an idealist, not only a gender pioneer but a bold, brave, and innovative leader who is not part of a flawed Washington system. I want America to send a powerful signal to a watching world that we have now taken a giant step into the global culture by electing an African-American. But my hope and dream also is, and has been since the days of John and Robert Kennedy, that this president will call us to a nobler mission and a higher goal, that he will remind us always of our Constitutional principles and ideals, that he will place us back on our historic path to the establishment of a more perfect union and a principled republic.

Ever an idealist, I therefore place my hope in Barack Obama. It is time for the idealists, even the aging ones, to raise the flag again.

In such a tough contest, many feathers were ruffled. It is time to heal.

Emotional Day for Hillary Backers: My Report From the Speech
June 7, 2008
Scott Shrake

The line of her speech that made me tear up was this, delivered with downturned eyes by Hillary: "It would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours. When you stumble, keep faith. And, when you're knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can't or shouldn't go on."

Personally, after so much bitterness, I look forward to the Democratic unity Hillary inaugurated today.

Thank you, Hillary.

"Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next President and I hope and pray that all of you will join me in that effort."

Gratitude for Hillary
Hilary Rosen
Posted June 7, 2008

Hillary Clinton gave the speech of her life today and as she endorsed her primary opponent, she cemented her place in history. As importantly, she also shone a path for herself as a national leader for years to come.

She said: "The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States."

I was tough on Hillary earlier in the week. I shared the disappointment of her losing a hard fought and terribly close campaign. I thought we needed her to provide us with a bridge to move past the primary and into the General Election by acknowledging Obama's victory. Instead on election night, she announced would take her time. It doesn't matter now whether that was the right decision.

What is clear, is that she couldn't have given the speech she gave today on Tuesday night. Today, her voice was strong, her mind was certain and her back was straight. She wanted us to know she would be an unequivocal supporter for Obama. But she also wanted to say something else.

Yes, it is true she not so silently admitted, in the beginning she was trying to avoid running as a "woman." She thought she needed to prove she was Commander in Chief material instead. But in the last five months, she changed her message because she realized that people accepted her a a national leader, what they wanted was to connect with someone who understood their daily lives. She is filled with the stories of women along the campaign trail. They saw in her a woman who understands the complexities of life as a mother, a daughter, a wife and a worker all at the same time. The glue in other people's lives. Whether it was about health care, education or knowing a soldier in the war, women needed to tell her their stories. She would nod knowingly because she understood them. And she also understood that all too often a woman's dreams take a back seat to someone else's or they are filtered through a thin film of sexism that men don't see.

Hillary found a bold new public voice during this campaign. For those of us who have know her a long time, it was the Hillary we knew. The compassion, the humor and the grit.

She said: "But I am a woman and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us. I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter's future and a mother who wants to leave all children brighter tomorrows."

She didn't talk about being a wife. Yet as she spoke, I couldn't help but think that among the legacies of this campaign is the certain re-branding of the "Clinton" name. It is now Hillary Clinton who is the contemporary political leader. The one whose future in the Senate and place on the national stage is more important than ever. For instance, when Barack Obama's first presidential priority is universal healthcare, it will be because of Hillary that we will understand its possibilities. What was once dubbed derisively as "Hillarycare" will now carry that moniker as a brand of honor.

We have a lot of work to do in the next several months to win back the White House. But today was Hillary's day in the sun.

"So today I'm going to count my blessings and keep on going," she said. "I will do it with a heart filled with gratitude, with a deep and abiding love for our country, and with nothing but optimism and confidence for the days ahead."

Like so many today, my heart is filled with gratitude for Hillary Clinton.

Mine too.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Robert F. Kennedy 1925-1968

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen, 40 years ago today.

His brother, President John Kennedy, was killed less than five years before. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated two months and two days earlier on April 4,1968. By June 1968, violence from the inner cities to Vietnam was tearing the country apart, and had robbed the nation of three of its most inspiring leaders.

Robert Kennedy, only 42 years old, was killed celebrating his greatest triumph, winning the California primary as he fought for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

It's hard to think that Bobby Kennedy would be 82 years old today.
I often wonder how things would be different if he had become president. The issues he faced are amazingly like the issues we face now. War, racism, and economic distress. We've added GLBT issues, terrorism, the energy crisis and global warming.
Would RFK have taken our country in a different diplomatic directon? Would we have been less imperialistic, less greedy, less hypocrytical in foriegn affairs and trade? Would we have been better global neighbors? Would he have been more cognizant of protecting Earth's climate and resources. Would we be less hated in the world? Could he have made a difference that would have prevented the AIDS epidemic? Would we be a different America, a better America?

Please take a few minutes to listen to Ted Kennedy eulogize his brother. Note how his words still apply to our current world.

Ted's wavering voice is still emotional for me.

From the eulogy:
"Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

"Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital, quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change."

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not."

"At the University of Natal in Durban, I was told the church to which most of the white population belongs teaches apartheid as a moral necessity. A questioner declared that few churches allow black Africans to pray with the white because the Bible says that is the way it should be, because God created Negroes to serve. "But suppose God is black", I replied. "What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?" There was no answer. Only silence." South Africa, June 1966

"The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country."

"Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it."
From his last speech, June 6, 1968

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Only in America!

The wall of racism is real in the United States, but for the FIRST time in my life I feel it's a wall made of clay and is not insurmountable.

The damage done by the Bush type of politics stopped cold any progression to America's ideals by using our political arena as a partisan, nasty, controlling, blaming, ineffective cess pool; by fostering a pungent, divisive, evasive, racist, homophobic and fear filled reactionary atmosphere; and using and encouraging the press to be a bunch of talking pundit heads, witch hunters and character assassinators, all with agendas they try to pass off as news. This Commander-in-chief is a user. I hate users. He used a national tragedy in every way he could, including shoving our freedoms and privacy rights aside in a sham of "safety". If he knew history, he'd know that the founding fathers wrote those very freedoms during troubled and dangerous times.
Sorry to bring all that up on such a positive morning.
Last night, Barack Obama became the first Black American to clinch a nomination for the United States Presidency.
You just don't know what a relief and a thrill it is to know that there are tens of millions of voters who want a better America. It's historical for both Obama and Hillary Clinton. We Americans took an effing sledge hammer to many old predjudices.

I know tears were certainly shed by all races who never thought such a day would ever come.
Monica and I both had a moment when we wished our moms were here to see this.

On the anniversary of Dr. King's I Have A Dream speech, Barack Obama will accept the Democratic nomination. But, that moment won't be about Barack Obama, it will be about all of us.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Marilyn Monroe: An American Icon

June 1st was Marilyn Monroe's birthday. She is such an American icon, such a part of American history. Alex has some interesting things to say about her. Sheila O'Malley has a wonderful MM tribute with some not commonly known stories, facts, quotes and pictures like the ones below.

Norma Jean in jeans

To read Marilyn Monroe's story is to grasp a big part of Americana. She is Hollywood's greatest starlet turned beautiful sex symbol super star. She is the misunderstood loner, and the most sought after pin-up. She is known for her T and A but was also a great actress\comedienne. Her career includes stars like Brando, Gable, Lemmon and Olivier. Her personal life includes playwright Arthur Miller and baseball great Joe DiMaggio. She was no one dimensional character. She was intelligent, complex and multi-talented.

“What I really want to say: That what the world really needs is a real feeling of kinship. Everybody: stars, laborers, Negroes, Jews, Arabs. We are all brothers.
Please don't make me a joke. End the interview with what I believe.”