Tom’s Infinite Desert Island Playlist, Pt. 2

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http://www.shopradiocast.com/product_images/p/510/fugees__13823_zoom.jpg“Killing Me Softly” – Fugees

While the sophomore release from the Wu-Tang Clan over promised with “Triumph” and under-delivered with Wu-Tang Forever, The story of the Fugees follow up to Blunted on Reality, The Score, is one of unexpected greatness that slowly crept into the public consciousness. The album boasted some of the era’s most amazing cuts –  “Fu-gee-la”, “Ready or Not” and “How Many Mics” to name a few – but the song that propelled the album and the group into the stratosphere was the unbelievable Roberta Flack cover, sung by Lauryn Hill.

 

On the surface, the song is as simple as can be: a minimalist hip hop loop, coupled with a limited but brilliant live bass track from Jerry Wonder. But it’s Lauryn’s incredible vocal that brings you to your knees. Every note is flawless, but the slight rasp to her voice gives the song a raw feeling. It makes the anguish the song wants to showcase as apparent as an exposed nerve, and the whole world stopped to feel Lauryn’s pain.

It’s only right that this song makes the list: The song is supposed to be a bit of a tearjerker, but hearing it always makes me happy.

https://popmusicmagic.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/friendly-fires-pala1.jpg?w=198&h=198“Pala” – Freindly Fires

Prior to the release of Pala, Friendly Fires made a bit of noise by dressing up like skeletons in a video, but failed to make much impact outside of the UK. They came to my attention via a crazy remix by Aeroplane to “Paris”, and after digging into their catalog, I came across the title track to their second album, and have kept it in heavy rotation ever since.

The song is almost like a dream set to music: ethereal synths gracefully take you to a paradise, so beautiful and filled with life, that you wouldn’t care if you died there. It seems appropriate, considering the circumstances.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/rapgenius/marvin-gaye-whats-going-on.jpg“Inner City Blues” – Marvin Gaye

In another of many classic soul tracks that made the playlist, “Inner City Blues” isn’t  a pick-me up, but it is a masterpiece from one of the genre’s greatest. Taken from Marvin Gaye’s classic album What’s Going On, the song encapsulates the plight of ghetto life – existence, because as the stark lyrics remind us, “This ain’t living”. It hooks you from the opening piano chord to the “What’s going on” reprise at the end, painting a picture of the bleak inner city more clearly than any camera could ever hope to.

It says a lot that, for a lot of people, the message contained within the words is still as relevant today as it was in 1971. While some songs on the desert island playlist might make you long for a return to civilization, “Inner City Blues” might make you not want to come back.

“That’s All” – Genesis

Phil Collins is one of my favorite artists, and I’m pretty sure he has at least one song that’s a favorite of almost everyone in the world. If you can’t name a song by Phil Collins – either from his solo work or his time in legendary prog rock group Genesis – that doesn’t speak to you in some way, then you need to pay Mephistopheles a visit, and try to get your soul back.

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I advise against a fiddle contest challenge, but do what you gotta do.

I chose “That’s All” because it’s an elegantly simple pop record with funky intentions, thanks to a crazy electric piano riff. The song is every good relationship in a nutshell: You’re with someone that drives you so crazy, you wanna escape through the sewer system to freedom. There’s only one thing keeping you in the house with this person: You’re in love with them. Its the one thing that’s somehow everything, and great music can crystallize that feeling in all its forms.

http://www.stonesthrow.com/uploads/news/0afe508f718c0c91042a1a326f96fdf3.jpg“The Edge” – David McCallum

A lot of you might know this piece by David McCallum only as the sample bed for Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode”, but there’s an amazingly cinematic piece of music hiding just beyond the incredible guitar loop. It brings to mind a hard-boiled detective, walking the mean streets and playing by his own rules.

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This is about as tough as the scenario gets in my imagination.

A song that can take you to another place just seems like it would be good for a place where a scenery change won’t be happening soon.

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“You Should Be Dancing” – Bee Gees

 

 

 

That’s right. I picked a song from the Bee Gees.

Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it’s a disco record. It’s also one of the best from the era – You don’t score that many hits by accident, after all – and a bit of silly fun never hurt nobody. Besides that, it’s a desert island: I don’t have to care what anyone thinks.

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I left my shame on the mainland – right next to my fucks to give.

Tom’s Infinite Desert Island Playlist, Pt. 1

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Without further ado, here’s my playlist, in it’s entirety:

You can enjoy it now, while I break down the list in no particular order, starting with the first selection:

 

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“Triumph” – Wu Tang Clan

What you may notice from the top is that there is surprisingly little hip-hop on this list. It surprised me too, but because the idea is that you only get one CD worth of songs, I didn’t want to fill it with just one type of music. (I failed, but we will get to that in a moment.) But, if I had to choose one song to place in the Pantheon, it would be Triumph, every time.

 

The name is completely appropriate for the record, as it announced the triumphant return of hip hop’s most elite rap group to the stage after their critically acclaimed debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and an amazing collection of solo albums. This song found the Wu in top form, striding the beat like roman generals returning to the fanfare of an adoring public.

Triumph is hip hop in its uncut, purest form. There were no weak links; every verse was as hard and precise as the next, and there was no room for a hook as every member of the clan got a turn. Old Dirty Bastard played the role of hype man here, and set the tone for one of the hardest records the genre had ever produced.

This song could easily be picked as the swan song of Hip Hop’s golden age. The album was pretty uneven, ranging the gamut from bangers like “It’s Yours” and “Reunited” to abysmal dreck like “Black Shampoo”. But at the time, that didn’t matter: I personally can’t remember a song that made me feel the level of anticipation for an album that I felt the first time I heard it.

And if I had to choose one Hip Hop song to bring me back to the genre’s finest hour, I doubt I could find a better replacement.

http://www.gq.com/images/style/2013/05/daft-punk/daft-punk-630.jpg“One More Time” – Daft Punk

These days, everyone knows who Daft Punk is: The Pharrell Williams-helmed “Get Lucky” has been played almost half to death. But at the time of Discovery’s release, the electronic duo were mostly relegated to club play, and “One More Time” was their first big hit. It was also the song that made me aware of the genius of these two perpetually helmeted Frenchmen, and from the moment I heard the song and saw the anime infused video, I was forever hooked.

The reasons for this selection are relatively simple: I like house. It’s an obscure genre, one that gets barely any recognition and even less airplay on mainstream radio, but it has soul. And I’m always on the lookout for any music that can make me feel something, if but for a fleeting moment. Also, on a desert island, you need a record that can lift your spirits and make you forget about your abysmal circumstances. One More Time fits the bill, and then some.

Baden and I will worry about constructing the vine elevator for the tree-house tomorrow. Tonight, we’re gonna celebrate.

http://daily-songs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ltd.jpg“Love Ballad” – L.T.D

This is but the first of many soul records that made the list. Earlier, I said that my favorite songs are the ones that make me feel something. It wasn’t on purpose, but it’s no wonder to me that the warm inviting tones of soul would dominate.

70’s funk group L.T.D. was not exactly a ground-breaking band; in fact, most of their music would barely stand out from the dominant R&B sound of that era. But “Love Ballad”, beautifully arranged and featuring the glorious vocals of Jeffrey “The Wizard Of” Osbourne, is the group’s lighting in a bottle moment.

It’s one of those rare songs that simply and perfectly encapsulates what love, the thing we all long to obtain and hold on to, is all about. The final refrain sums of the intangible quality of love better than any song I’ve ever heard before:

What we have is much more than they can see…

There was a moment when I debated replacing this song with “I Love You” by Lenny Williams, but I like the tempo of this record a little bit better, so it won out.

https://lh5.ggpht.com/nn1DFnhLH9_Da1vwOtzX73Y2GaW-BuQu3ZRGDmBDvFSlqaws9f2ohWlGs0zu7var_e4ri2Vlsw“Paradise” – Sade

In keeping with the vein of enjoying your imposed vacation from the things of man comes the music of Sade. Music is an ever changing medium, and some older artists are stuck in a time capsule, either producing music that sounds dated, or failing miserably to keep up with current musical trends in order to stay relevant. Listen to just about any 90’s Michael Jackson record, then compare it to his newer stuff, and you’ll know what I mean.

 

I like Sade’s sound particularly because it never changes, yet never sounds out of date. It’s that timeless quality that I believe makes this a perfect addition to the desert island playlist.

Trouble – “Coldplay”

Before Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin became a of favorite of rap moguls and tabloid fodder for his “conscious uncoupling” from Gwyneth Paltrow, he and his band were blowing up with their debut album Parachutes, and “Yellow” was getting played all over the place. Their more subdued follow up single, “Trouble”, is my favorite song from the band, and, like Daft Punk before it, hooked me to them.

A simple song about a guy attempting to apologize for messing something up horribly, it just struck a chord with me, as it reminds me of the many situations I’ve personally FUBARed over the years.

And, if you’re stuck on a desert island, the chances are pretty good you messed up somewhere along the way.

http://i.ytimg.com/vi/GaioIutcHKI/hqdefault.jpg“Requiem for a Tower (Lux Aeterna)” – Simone Benyacar, Daniel Nielsen, and Veigar Margeirsson

At some point on a deserted island, the longing for human physical and emotional contact will win out, and your mind will either break, or focus on one thing: escape. It’s at this moment you will need a selection to inspire you, and get you prepared for the daunting task.

Check.

 

“Requiem for a Tower” is an orchestral remix of Clint Mansel’s “Lux Aeterna” from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, that was made for the trailer of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The original is hauntingly beautiful, and perfectly underscores the hopelessness that permeated that film. The remix, with its full orchestra and chorus, adds power to the equation, transforming the piece from one of heartbreaking struggle to one of epic glory. It cuts out abruptly, leaving the outcome of the struggle ambiguous, which makes it perfect for sailing a raft made of two sea turtles roped together with back hair into the great unknown.

Will you make it? Will you die? There’s no way to tell, but this song will hype you up just enough to try, dammit.

“Summer Madness” – Kool and The Gang

A desert island is a great place for peaceful reflection, and I imagine that, on nights when you can get past your circumstances, would be pretty beautiful.

 

 

“Summer Madness”, one of only a handful of pure instrumentals by Kool and the Gang, is a perfectly tranquil track for enjoying a crisp sunset, contemplating life and its meaning, and just general relaxation – something you will have plenty time for when the sea turtles break free from their flimsily constructed hair restraints, and leave the waves to wash you back to your tropical prison.

You’re probably gonna be here for a long time; you might as well enjoy it.

Listen to Me on Black Tribbles Tommorow!

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I have been invited to join the Black Tribbles tomorrow for a discussion on top 10 MCs of all time.

For those not aware, the Black Tribbles (http://www.gtownradio.com/content/blogsection/59/134/) are a Philadelphia based group that covers sci-fi, comics, television, movies and a variety of other subjects. They recently collected some hardware at the Philly Geek Awards, but over the last couple of years they’ve really gotten a lot of momentum in the Philadelphia media, and they’re going to ruin their sterling reputation by having me come on.

For a little perspective, this is the article that started it all, our humble attempt to rank the top MCs in hip-hop (http://blacklikeyou.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/the-10-greatest-mcs-of-all-time-intro/).

I knew it was unrealistic. There are omissions, there are things that I didn’t feel great about after I did. I was pretty hard on Jay-z. But I get to talk about it again. It may be a complete disaster, but it will be a funny one. Check in Thursday at 8:45 pm and see what happens.

 

Power Man and Iron Fist: Getting Ugly

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Sometimes even an average comic can hit on greatness. Marvel never really allocated their resources to Power Man and Iron Fist, even though writer Jim Owsley (who became Christopher Priest) and artist M.D. Bright went on to long, productive careers. And it took decades for Marvel to get the hang of writing Danny Rand and Luke Cage.

(Sidebar, Luke Cage should have appeared in a film by now, and Marvel was going to make an Iron Fist kung fu movie with Ray Park. Talk about missed opportunities.)

But ‘Getting Ugly’ is special.

Power man Cover

‘Getting Ugly’ focuses exclusively on Luke Cage aka Power Man, one of the Heroes for Hire, who works for a commission most of the time. The story starts with a killer that is targeting black people pretty much randomly. (And that killer is called…high blood pressure! No, wait.)

Power Man 1

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Luke is getting pressure from all sides, although I wouldn’t take guff from a Billy Dee Williams ripoff. If only there was another hero to help him with this immensely powerful villain-

Power Man 4

Great. The Falcon.

Oh God, the Falcon is so lame. It like they have a box of powers and once all the good ones are gone they split the leftovers between the black heroes. At some point, they were down to stupid costume and flight, and good hair and impeccable parallel parking, and that’s how the Falcon came to be.

If you were in a fight and needed backup you are literally better off with Squirrel Girl than with the Falcon. They capture the bad guy, but it takes a turn.

Power Man 5

And Cage loses it. He’s been taking shots from everybody and they’re adding up. The military handles this indelicately, which is kind of a problem.

Power Man 6

Power Man 7

The headband and the yellow shirt were wack, and later comics made him much stronger, but there’s a reason he’s called Power Man. He bursts into the stockade and proceeds to stomp a mudhole into this guy and walk it dry.

Power Man 9

So Cage knocks him out and then-

Power Man 10

William Blake is black. He’s a self-hating black man, which means after the military gets done with him he got a job at Fox News.

Power Man 11

As it turns out, punching a computer to make it work isn’t always the best thing to do. But Priest ends this story on a gorgeous last page.

Power Man End

I think Priest was around 21 when he wrote this. He was ahead the curve, I’d say.

Horror 101: Auntie Mui

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rigor mortis_with tung

I doubt I was the target audience for Juno Mak’s Rigor Mortis, and so it is difficult to be fair about it. For me, this film was a blend of a kung fu movie, CGI spectacle, a foreign drama, and a Shaw Brothers vampire film, and it wasn’t a smooth blend. It also was marketed as a modern day hopping vampire story which created expectation of a movie that was a lot more fun (and faster paced) than this one.

But Horror 101 is about great characters and great performances and sometimes they exist in a vacuum.

Nina Paw Hee-Ching plays Auntie Mui, a seamstress in an apartment who loses her husband to an accident. Unable to cope with the grief, she resorts to dealing with a priest in her tenement, who tries to use black magic to bring her husband back.

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The rites don’t really work, and a deteriorating and desperate Mui isolates herself from her neighbors and everyone else, caring for the elaborate rituals to animate her increasingly monstrous husband, until the priest finally mentions one last possibility, the use of the blood of a virgin.

In the best scene of the film, she lures a small child into the bathroom where her husband is, closes the door and allows him to consume the child. None of this is shown, of course, the film focuses on her face instead, as partially shown here.

Hee-Ching was already the highlight of the film at this point, but its here that her performance hits another height. As the screams behind her grow, her resolve begins to crack, and then her conscience takes over.

There’s an unbroken take of this attack, but the camera stays on her face as one emotion after another goes through her mind, and the scary thing is that you know what she is thinking. That to me, is incredible acting. The last time I saw anything this good was Bob Hoskin’s face at the end of The Long Good Friday. I can’t immediately think of a third example.

This is a great performance buried in a forgettable film. Pity.

Horror 101: Julian Karswell

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nightofthedemon_MacGinnis

First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my debt to www.britishhorrorfilms.co.uk  for alerting me to this film and many others. It’s a wonderful witty site that has provided me hours of entertainment, and is worth viewing. We are in agreement here, that whatever praise is heaped on this movie is insufficient.

Curse of the Demon is an adaptation of M.R. James story ‘Casting the Runes,’ which is a sign of good taste right there. Jacques Tourneur directs, which is another good omen.

Part of the reason the film works is the performance Niall MacGinnis as Julian Karswell, a magician and cult leader and the villain of the film. Not a lot is known about the cult, because people that investigate it tend to have convenient accidents, and people who leave don’t end up too well either.

Now he faces the skeptical Dr. John Holden who is determined to continue the investigation and also discover the secret of his predecessor’s death. What he doesn’t realize is that Karswell uses a spell, a spell centered on a rune that is drawn on a piece of parchment and then surreptitiously given to a victim. And at midnight, whoever possesses that rune dies in the most horrible way imaginable.

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Karswell initially plays the character as inappropriately warm (he is introduced as the clown at a children’s garden party!), which is disarming, as later he becomes sinister demonstrating more and more of his power. But that’s what we expect of this sort of villain.

Where Curse of the Demon separates itself from the pack, is when we realize that Karswell is manipulating forces that he is terrified of as well, and that they are increasingly out of his control. We are used to our villains being at the top of the pecking order. Karswell is very aware of where he falls in that hierarchy…and it isn’t very high, which makes for a far more interesting character.

The movie ends as it must, with Karwell’s death by his own methods, but it never answers one question – was Karswell as powerful as he intimated, or someone with a couple cheap tricks? Like a true magician, we’ll never know.

 

The Most Depressing Batman Story Ever: A Long Slow Death

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Alan Grant writes a back up story in the 75th issue of the Shadow of the Bat title. This was around the time of ‘No Man’s Land,’ which was another name for the now-defunct Lilith Festival an event where Gotham City had been subjected to an earthquake that cut it off from the outside world. While this story has the always welcome Norm Breyfogle penciling and Mark Buckingham of Fable’s fame, inking, that is not why I call your attention to this classic, dear reader.

Simply put, this may be the most depressing Batman story ever.

It begins with poor Walt who injures his son by accident, completely defeating the whole point of the trust exercise.

Batman page 2

Yikes. Keith is now paralyzed and speechless. Thankfully, Walt’s wife is there for him.

Batman page 3

I believe in a previous life she comforted Job. Gotham being Gotham, his upset wife and handicapped kid aren’t the only problems he has to deal with.

Batman page 6

There was only one more thing Walt needed to make his life even more complicated…

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That’s right. His hot young employee falls for him. Walt being Walt, he has no idea what to do, and tells his wife that he was mugged. He gets found out by his wife THAT NIGHT, because he is the unluckiest person who has ever lived.

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Keep in mind that he hasn’t had an affair, in fact, his only sin so far is poor hand eye co-ordination. While viewing the lights with the his family, his son speaks, giving them all hope. Walt calls for a family dinner.

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Walt mans up. But there is still a small matter of that earthquake…

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Yeah. That just happened. This is the story of Walt, the dude who couldn’t catch.

Horror 101: Mr. Mascaro

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bdolls clown butler

Charles Band is someone who gets to do what he apparently loves and what he loves is cheap horror films, mostly about killer dolls. They are generally not good films, but at least they don’t take themselves seriously.

I don’t know when or why I watched Blood Dolls, but it wasn’t very engaging, and it had a very odd performance from lead Jack Maturin when suddenly Mr. Mascaro (William Paul Burns) showed up  as his henchman.

People are often afraid of clowns, and many films try to work this phobia, but Mr. Mascaro is different in that he isn’t the slightest bit jovial. He’s deadly serious, utterly intense. Where there is a temptation to ham this role up, he underplays it. If Richard Kuklinski wore clown makeup, he’d be Mr. Mascaro.

bdolls mascaro is the best

After some cursory research, I found out that his character is related to another Band film, Demonic Toys, and that he is playing the live action version of the Jack in the Box. This character has appeared in nine (!) other films in the franchise, all of which I have not seen, and I do not intend to rectify that.

jack in the box

But Mr. Mascaro is a standout. He is never actually used to his potential, and I don’t see this actor participating in a film again, which makes this another missed opportunity, but that’s what Horror 101 is for. As the gravel-voiced, calmly maniacal Mr. Mascaro, there is nothing funny about this clown.

Tom and Tom: Our Anniversary

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Happy-anniversary-card

Believe it or not, this humble blog has lasted for exactly two years. We’ve put out an article roughly every three days, something that I’m particularly proud of. We’re not making fine art here, but they’re articles that I like, that make me laugh, and I’m glad they’re part of my FBI profile.

Lacking an ombudsman, I have to self-reflect on our work. A man I very much respect once told me that the biggest room in any house is the room for improvement. There are two things that bother me about how things have turned out.

I always wanted this to be a collaborative effort, and I wanted other people to get involved, especially women. I wanted to do more than pay lip service to diversity. That was a miserable failure. I cannot tell you the amount of women I approached to participate, even under anonymity, to no end, and so I’ve let it go. This site is going to reflect a male point of view and there’s not much I can do about it.

Our biggest failure is one I still don’t know how to address, which is that because of the title and look of our site, white people often don’t feel welcome.

Tom and Tom Black like You is a reference to an In Living Color skit, (which I suppose dates us) it was Tom’s idea, and I thought it was a hoot.

black like you

But a lot of white people didn’t get the joke.

The moment they saw that, they thought it was a ‘black’ site and there was nothing to appeal to them. The idea that white people are excluded from what I’m talking about is preposterous, my wife is white, and I’ve written about rock guitar players and British teleplays. We are black, that is our identity, and we’re never going to pretend we’re not, but hopefully at least some of what we talk about can simply transcend race, and so far, we haven’t really communicated that, and I’m not sure how to tweak that yet.

On a lesser note, I know I did a terrible job of editing, something that I had to work on, and the tone of the site is all over the place, which I think is difficult for a couple of reasons. We’re both diverse guys, and the site was going to reflect that, but it’s a little more than that, I think.

The first reason was a change in my philosophy. We used to kind of check the cultural barometer and write about what was happening. After a while, I didn’t see the point in being the 200th website to write about Lady Gaga, as no one was going to see us anyway. So lately, I explored what I liked about the Internet in the first place.

When I first got the Internet (in 1997) it was a lot cruder, but a lot more fun. If you had the patience, you could go through search results for any topic and find the most obscure webpages imaginable. For somebody that loved minor subjects and actors with sparse filmography, it was a goldmine. Then search engines changed and no matter what, you mostly got the same websites for stuff, because they paid to be at the top. What you’re seeing right now is me trying to give you things that you’ve never heard about, or stuff that other sites don’t talk about. I want fun Internet.

The second thing is harder to talk about.

Some of this site was dedicated to satire, or at least social consciousness. I’m kind of burned out with that. That’s because of Trayvon Martin, which for me is one of the most mortifying social moments of my life.

My wife and I are talking about having children. I have a lot of anxiety about the idea of children and the responsibility of shaping a human life. I worried about the world this kid would have to live in. This did not help.

Imagine your child wants to go to the corner store. Like all teenagers, he’s a goofball, and right now he’s driving you nuts doing stupid stuff in school, but he’s a good kid. And he goes to the store and never comes back.

Some random guy in your neighborhood decided he was a threat. He stalked him with a gun, a gun that he wasn’t supposed to have, as part of a Neighborhood Watch duty that he wasn’t actually on. Your son ran, but eventually he decided he wasn’t going to run anymore. And he got shot in the street, fighting for his life.

Of course you don’t know that, because even though the police are on the scene, no one tells you about your son’s death. What they do is carefully remove the killer (who is the local magistrate’s son, and buddies with a lot of the guys on the force) from the scene. They don’t even put him in jail overnight, which you would get for outstanding parking tickets. They don’t interview witnesses. They let the scene go cold. The first officer on the scene, who is responsible for creating the crime scene is one of the most notorious fixers on the force. And the only reason they even bring charges after more than a month, is because of national uproar.

Your neighbors loudly support the killer.

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Your son died in clean khakis, designer sneakers and a hoodie because it was raining. They demonize him. They find old pictures of him, making faces, wearing a ‘gangster’ grill and they try to make him seem scary. They say that he shouldn’t have worn a hoodie and maybe he wouldn’t have looked suspicious. If you’re scary to some people its okay if you die.

He got suspended from school for smoking weed, a substance that America is rapidly legalizing, but in his case it just marks him as one of the ‘bad ones.’ You go to trial. It’s a joke. They tear one witness apart for her halting testimony, not realizing that English was not her first language. State law allows you extreme latitude to use your gun to defend yourself against any threat, but here the law does not protect your son, who had no lethal weapon, nor pursued anyone. There’s a Stand Your Ground Law, but in Florida, black people don’t have ground to stand on.

The killer gets off scot free.

The killer becomes a celebrity. He appears at gun shows where he is congratulated for gunning a teenager that he outweighed by a hundred pounds. The police give him his gun back. It’s the law after all. He goes on to terrorize his girlfriend and her family with his guns. He learned nothing from it all.

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They make targets shaped like your son so white people can pretend they’re shooting him. You couldn’t stop the production of them if you tried. It’s a free country after all.

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Elsewhere, Michael Dunn, a white, petulant, software developer fires ten shots into an SUV because he got into an argument with black teenagers over playing their music too loud. He kills 17 year old Jordan Davis with nine of those bullets. All of the teenagers were unarmed. The jury did not find Dunn guilty of murder on Davis. Not first, not second, not manslaughter. The charges he got convicted on were for the people he missed. Somehow he got convicted of attempted murder for the people he didn’t shoot, but got away with murder for the person he actually did kill.

Frankly, if you want to shoot a black person and get away with it, I’d head to the Sunshine State as soon as possible.

“He shouldn’t have worn a hoodie,” my father (the former Black Radical!) said.

My father.

Trayvon Martin stripped away everything else and exposed the ugliness in people that I didn’t want to see. Satire only exists when people are intelligent enough to understand the joke, when society has no perspective, then it simply becomes a form of autoeroticism.

I tried to work through it. But then I would see Trayvon Martin, lying on the ground, terrified, long-limbed and lanky like a faun, eyes wide open above the terrible rictus of his mouth.

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I just couldn’t write.

Then Mike Brown got shot in Ferguson. I didn’t want to write about that either. I’ve been stopped by the police more times than I can count. I nearly got shot to death by police in front of my home with a basket of laundry. It was the second time police had nearly gunned me down at that point. But no one cares, because in America, my life isn’t worth anything.

Honestly, a fair-minded person knows what happened to Mike Brown with just the bare minimum of facts. For any police work, the first officer on the scene is the most important one, and most of his work is done in the first twenty four hours. Few witnesses were interviewed. Police confiscated cell phones, in case there was video footage on them. That’s all you need to know right there.

But something marvelous happened. At first, protestors were attacked by police, but no one cares if police harass minorities, just look at the Broken Windows policy in New York.

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But then the media showed up. And the police unashamedly continued their knuckle dragging brutality.

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They tear gassed children, threatened and arrested reporters with impunity, while simultaneously spouting Goebbels-level propaganda through various media. They attacked the crowd, claiming that residents had thrown Molotov cocktails, when embedded reporters saw only a peaceful protest. They tear gassed and detained their own Senator. They claimed that Mike Brown attacked the police officer and tried to take his weapon when there were no close range powder burns on his body and he was shot on the top of his head and inner arms – indicating a surrender gesture.

The entire country can see poorly-trained, armored, aggressive para-military troops that don’t care about the Constitution, or your rights, or who you are. They don’t see race, the only color they protect is blue. And they really don’t care if you film them or complain, because no one is going to do anything about it. In the end, the union will show up and fight any real discipline and that is how it will end.

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And if those blurry videos with those shadowy figures pointing guns and screaming at you make you apprehensive about the people that are supposed to protect, if it makes you wonder where things went wrong, if it makes you feel like someone should do something before things get out of control – well now you know how I’ve felt my entire life.

See?

I told you we were all black now.

Return to The Island: Tom’s Desert Island Playlist (Intro)

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As I, like the rest of our adoring fans, read through and listened to Tom’s Desert Island Disc, my mind slowly drifted towards said island, and I imagined what it would be like if I had only a collection of amazing tunes to keep me company (as a volleyball with a bloody handprint might not be readily available).

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Just doesn’t quite have the same ring as Wilson, does it?

Picking the only CD you’ll ever hear for the indefinite future is a daunting task. It has to contain songs that you’ll never tire of hearing, but it also has to be upbeat enough to keep you from constructing a hanging noose from the old VHS tapes that washed up on shore a few days after you did. It should also keep you going while you forage around looking for the essentials:

Food and fresh water,

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firewood and kindling,

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a lifetime supply of booze in an underground cavern,

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and coconuts to make CB radios from.

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It seems most of my castaway survival knowledge comes from TV and movies. That might pose a problem later.

 

A surprising number of Tom’s selections were a good place to start. Some of the artists will most likely make my own list, but some of the selections were so depressing, they would make me wish I’d been marooned with a pistol containing a single shot. My own taste dictates a lot more uptempo pieces, but to each his own.

After much delay, I’ll be presenting my own version of the Desert Island playlist soon. In the meantime, I’m gonna study up on how to build a treehouse.

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This seems like a good place to start.

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