Archive for Michael Jackson

I Wanna be David Blair Black! R.I.P. This Strong Voice from Detroit

Posted in art & music, culture, politics, race, racism, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2011 by Sunshine Superboy

David Blair was a friend of mine, especially back when I was living in Michigan. Blair was a fierce soul, a talented crooner, a passionate poet, and a kindred black geek with deeply powerful politics.

This is a video from Blair’s performance at the 2009 Allied Media Conference. It took place mere days after Michael Jackson’s death.

What Kinda Black??!

“What interests me about [Jackson’s] life – and about writing about him – is that everything that he is calls to mind a discussion of race, gender, sexuality, poverty, stardom, rags-to-riches and age,” Blair told Between the Lines in 2009. “He’s a very American figure. I don’t think that all that Michael Jackson is could’ve been produced anywhere else in the world but right here.”

Over the weekend, renowned poet, singer and songwriter David Blair was found dead in his apartment. Blair, who was born in New Jersey but lived in Detroit since the 1990s, was a prolific artist. He earned a National Poetry Slam Champion title, performed with Urban Folk Collective and the Boyfriends, and taught poetry and songwriting in Detroit Public Schools. Performances took him throughout the U.S., Russia, Europe and South Africa.

Blair was also a 2010 Callaloo fellow, a 2009 Seattle Haiku Slam champion and the recipient of Seattle’s 2007 BENT Mentor Award for LGBT Writers. He was named best urban folk poet by Detroit’s Metro Times and best folk artist by Real Detroit Weekly.

His first book of poetry, Moonwalking, about the life of [Michael] Jackson, hit book shelves in April 2010. Although a cause of death has not been confirmed, Blair may have suffered heatstroke before he was found by a maid. No foul play is suspected. He was 41 years old.

He also made Emily Dickinson’s “Farewell” an African-American spiritual like Omigod. Here’s a link to the vimeo of it at Detroit’s Institute of Arts. And below is Blair’s performance at the TEDxDetroit fest last Fall.

Blair, buddy, we will miss you sorely…

Be at Peace,
Sunshine Superboy

Blair and the Boyfriends

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“They Dont Care About Us”: New Orleans housing (in)justice

Posted in anthropology, art & music, politics, race, racism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

My friend put together this trailer for a film he is working on. Given so many past themes of Michal J. Jackson and New Orleans, I felt compelled to share:


Update: just to clarify its not a trailer for their full length documentary, its a special intro for pieces (which can be found here) on housing justice made for the 4th anniversary of katrina. The website also has the trailer for their full documentary.

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also. while we at it, my friends Alixa and Naima, who are in cahoots as Climbing PoeTree have a road show called Hurricane Season, which you should catch in yr town as it rolls through. It deals with the continuity between post Katrina exploitation and repression of black people all the way back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. And its fierce. Respek:

so long,
Sunshine Superboy

Purple Rhinestone Eagle talons of doom and glory

Posted in art & music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

yo, so many craptacular bands get helluv attention, and its enough to drive a rhinestone cowboy back to a dried up arroyo. And so, its really special when good friends, who make good music, finally have their violet-letter-day, their day in the sequins, their roll in the hay with birds of prey…

Behold, ex-philadelphian, proud portlanding, PURPLE RHINESTONE EAGLE
(as interviewed by the Days of Lore)

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It was a few years ago while doing an article on Portland’s New Bloods that I stumbled upon Purple Rhinestone Eagle. The name was enough. And the music … sort of this doom-y Sabbath-meets-Love love-fest led by a lanky guitarist who channeled Hendrix and Blackmore provided the final blow. I was also intrigued by this tight-knit community of musicians made up of women who celebrated diversity and sexual freedom with the DIY spirit of punk rock in a city that, while liberal, is still 95 percent white.

Purple Rhinestone Eagle—guitarist/vocalist Andrea Genevieve, bassist Morgan Ray Denning and drummer Ashley Spungin—released its latest EP Amorum Tali in March on Eolian Records. It’s a psychedelic blast from another time and place, where black-light posters come to life. Where riffs rule (and rattle your ribcage). Where black leather and tie-dye go together and peace and love frolic on gloomy days.

It’s looking to be a busy year for the three-piece. PRE will hit the road for six weeks, but not before playing a fist-full of Portland shows, including an afternoon performance at the PDX Pop Now! fest on July 26. Then it’s back in the studio to record a full-length follow-up to Amorum Tali. I’ll just let them explain. The ladies of Purple Rhinestone Eagle took some time to talk to TDoL about music as a tool for social change, MJ vs. Prince, and giving their audiences “loin vibrations.”

TDoL: Purple Rhinestone Eagle is active in many causes for queer and women’s rights. What are your thoughts on rock ‘n’ roll as an avenue for bringing awareness?

Andrea: I feel that music can be a very good tool for social change. It doesn’t take place of the hard work that is done by activists/organizers, but music can be a great motivator. Also, it’s a great way to release all sorts of feelings and emotions. People really need that. It’s essential to feeling human.

Morgan: Also, sometimes it feels like causes can become exclusive or create divisions … music is a great connector. It brings people together to focus on the positive aspects of movements and people, rather than focusing on all the negative things that happen in the world.

You put out a zine as well …

Andrea: Well, we’re slowly working on a zine. It was mainly Ashley’s idea but we’re all going to write and contribute to it. It’s going to be an “etiquette” zine for how to respectfully approach/compliment female musicians. A lot of “compliments” we (and other female musician friends) receive actually don’t feel like compliments. For example comments like, “Wow, I didn’t expect that” or “That was great. You play like a dude,” feel really shitty because it makes you realize how many preconceived notions people have about you because you’re a lady.
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Morgan: People just need to think a little bit before speaking sometimes, and we hope this zine will help with that, along with giving music-making ladies a place to share and vent about their experiences.

Ashley: We all got it pretty bad on tour, but I think I got it the most. I mean people started throwing things at me. “Hey i think you are a good drummer! Now I’m going to throw this empty beer can at you!” What? I wanted to make a PowerPoint presentation and show it after we play while we break down. The zine is a little more reasonable.

You started out in Philadelphia. What brought you to Portland?

Andrea: We went on tour with New Bloods a couple of springs ago. We were all having a tough time in Philly and we wanted a little mental health vacation. Also Portland is a great place for music so we decided to go for it and move 3,000 miles from everything we knew. Pretty romantic, I must say.

Morgan: Portland has been good to us … the scene here is incredibly friendly and supportive. We all decided playing music was one of the best things in all of our lives, so why not get serious about it? Here we can do that.

Tell me about the recording process for Amorum Tali.

Andrea: We recorded Amorum Tali in a full analog studio. The first recording we did in Portland was digital and although it sounded great, we really feel that for our sound we need to record the old-fashioned way—on tape. We recorded for about three and a half days and then mixed for about three days. It was a tedious process that turned out beautifully. We’re really excited to get in the studio again this fall. We’ve got all of these crazy ideas for this time around.

Where does the title come from?

Andrea: The title means “Talons of Love” in Latin. The “Talons of Love” concept is something that has been with us since the inception of this band. It’s kind of an inside joke that also holds great significance to us, if that makes any sense.

Aside from the more obscure music you listen to, what’s something you like that might surprise people?

Andrea: Yeah lots of weird, obscure music. But uh, I do enjoy a little Erasure from time to time. I guess that might be surprising. And despite what Ashley might say, I’m not into Journey.

Morgan: I’m actually kind of a pop punk freak … something I get picked on for, but I feel no shame …

Ashley: Late-’60s era Grateful Dead. People, give it a chance!

Andrea, what/who made you pick up a guitar?

Andrea: It wasn’t any one person that made me decide to take up the guitar although I do have some big heroes/sheroes. I just had this really strong desire to learn how to play it. I was about 15 when I started. It’s such a finicky instrument but so alluring! I’m still in the process of figuring out all its beautiful subtleties. Total life long student and super proud of it.

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What influences your live performances?

Andrea: I love the way the MC5 handled the stage, James Brown, etc. Rock ‘n’ roll is this sex-love-apocalypse explosion. I love anyone who can channel that raw energy.

Morgan: I love Freddie Mercury and Iggy … they both just owned it. Our song “Loin Vibrations” is actually about the relationship between those on stage and those in the crowd … it is extremely sexual, whether you’re literally feeling the low end rumbling in your loins, or feeling the energy passing between the people involved … capturing some of that is our goal.

Ashley: Animal from the Muppets … and Ginger Baker.

And if you had to choose between …

Page or Blackmore?
Andrea: Oddly, I’d have to say Page.
Morgan: Agreed.
Ashley: Same. I just can’t get behind Deep Purple. Rainbow on the other hand …

Zeppelin or Sabbath?
Andrea: The Edgar Winter Group. Just kidding, Sabbath for sure.
Morgan: No question: Sabbath.
Ashley: Sabbath. Every. Day.

Bonham or Moon?
Andrea: Bonham. But Moon is my homie, too.
Morgan: Moon!
Ashley: I could go on about this one but I will just answer. Bonzo!

MJ or Prince?
Andrea: Prince. What a god.
Morgan: Prince … what a tiny, amazing man!
Ashley: MJ … I’m still grieving.

You have a long tour ahead. What’s life on the road like?

Andrea: We’re the type of band that likes good food and yoga on the beach. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy partying it up and staying up late, but we like to stay pretty healthy, too. And we take really long to do anything (like getting up in the morning, deciding what snacks to pick out … ). All of our roadies attain the great patience of wise monks by the end of tour.

Ashley: Touring is like a quest to bring forth the music to the people. Each day we venture to a new location and with us we bring rock ‘n’ roll sorcery. It’s nonstop jokes, weird snacks (which, yes, sometimes take me a while to pick out), meeting great people, and getting inspired by the places we see. It’s very far out.

if you have a chance to catch them on this tour, fo sho check them out, and support the new EP while yr at it.

“The Eagle is Upon You, There’s No Time to Run”,
Sunshine Superboy

(the best part is when the shower door opens and morgan is just totally staring the puppet down. ROFLMAO!!!)

the Transmigration of Michael J. Jackson

Posted in art & music, humor, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

michael-jackson-34-314a082508

Are we good now?

Have we fully recovered?

Have we gotten a grip?!!

If you’ve staved off Jackson marathon fatigue, or if you’re stumbling upon this at some future time, I recommend checking out the wtnr radio shows from last week which had some of the best retro-phonics of MJ I’ve heard. A lot of Jackson 5 stuff, and the Zartan show has my fav cover ever of Caetano Veloso doing Billie Jean. You can’t miss out on this kinda stuff folks.

…We had just turned onto my street, 3 blocks from my house in fact, when the cab driver confessed that he had “teared up” at the televised memorial service of Michael Jackson Rex. He didn’t call him that. I just put that in there. Just now.

Had I heard that Congressional Democrats were working on a Resolution honoring the late Mister Jackson? No, actually- (slow down a bit, this is my street). But I take it you saw this on TV? Yes, the driver assured me. Background digging revealed that:

House Resolution 600, lists several charitable acts by Michael Jackson over his long career and proclaims him as an American legend, musical icon and world humanitarian. He is, as the sponsoring Congresswoman said, “someone who will be honored forever and forever and forever and forever and forever.”

and forever?? (ps- the GOP is trying to block it. winners.)

“Michael Jackson is universal”, the cabbie attests. Did I mention I’m in Africa?

“You should have seen it on TV”, he persists. MJ was such a humanitarian he won Guinness Records and I would have been quite impressed. I reassured him that I was plenty impressed with the Pop King. (And I am!) I’ve felt, however, that its imperative to plunge oneself into the local culture, and cast off the preoccupations of American cultural imperialism. Its just bollocks that he kicked it while I was overseas, but I wasn’t going to cling distantly to the American media just to get my fair slice of it. I mean, I was in South America on 9/11 dammit! I get how this goes…

Oh but the memorial service was something else- I should have seen it. “Yeah”, I nodded, squinting to make out the street sign. ” I heard Stevie Wonder and a whole mess of people came out to perform there”. And at some point, I divulged my own misty-eyed moment. Sister Janet gave a brief but moving testimony at the BET awards. Her grief was palpable. It was almost too much for me. s-MICHAEL-JACKSON-large The pictures is what killed me. There was something in michael’s 70s prepubescent face that reminded me of my brother, and something in the contented little sister face of Janet Jackson that bore an uncanny resemblance to my own sister in the 80s.

I’m not saying that they reminded me of my brother and sister. What I’m saying is that the two of them actually looked like each of them respectively. Up to and including their age gap, the lighter complexion of Janet vis-à-vis Michael. Whatever it was, my body reacted before my mind could figure out what was going on. And by time my mind caught up, decades of quirky, ambivalent behavior had been tossed aside. Jackson was- and had always been- Ours. He had been Black. We put a Black man to rest this week.

As I paid the cab-fare, I realized also, pulling up to my house that Michael was everyone’s. And that this was not a national pop culture event confined to the US (as the NYT article discusses). It wasn’t just something that global papers were printing as a story for the fuck of it. The world felt some ownership of the Once-Smooth Criminal, and the World felt some loss.

So, obvi I’m smitten with the 70s MJ, but my favorite video, thriller aside, is from the a couple decades later. We’ll get to that. First I need to share this thing about the re-Negrification of Michael J. Jackson. Its from the NYTimes, so they use no such language of course. I’ll juxtapose it with a magazine cover from 1979, when MJ was more dreamy than I ever even knew. (seriously, would you not totally make out with that?! I mean, not in a gay way, just like in a “yr hot so lets make out, yeah?” kinda way)

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Mr. Jackson was to music what Michael Jordan was to sports and Barack Obama to politics — a towering figure with crossover appeal, even if in life some of Mr. Jackson’s black fans wondered if he was as proud of his race as his race was of him.

But since his death many African-Americans have embraced Mr. Jackson without ambivalence. In scores of interviews across the country over the weekend, few expressed the kind of resentment some once had for his strangeness, his changing appearance, his distance from the cherubic Michael of the Jackson 5.

Darrell Smith, 40, a filmmaker in Brooklyn, recalled that “when his skin started getting lighter,” many black people said Mr. Jackson did not want to be black. Now, he said: “I honestly feel like I lost a brother. It’s a pain inside me.” Some African-Americans said those most determined to discuss Mr. Jackson’s failings were white. “The system likes to take black men down,” said Stan Jamison, a 61-year-old house painter, leaning against a fence on Sunday outside the old Jackson home in Gary, Ind. “They did it to Ali. They did it to Tyson.”

And with that, a new version of the Filipino prisoner’s thriller (they practiced for 8 hours the day after he died and performed it for a huge audience at the prison).

And finally. My favorite video was actually the sibling two-force team up of MJ and Janet, taking the negroes (and ex-negroes?) of space trope to stellar dimensions. Was this not utterly groundbreaking for 1995? Please for the love of god watch this in full screen mode.

And watch for a couple things:
a) check the contrast of Michael’s angles and Janet’s struts. They def play to their talents.
b) the desolate beauty of the two of them feeling alienated (and angsty), literally performing this as if in space- away from us all, and also ponder the space-pod send off as a Valhalla-type departure for MJ. Yes I’d make a nutso literature professor
c) Janet= WAY hotter than Michael. If I wanna do her in this video more than him does that complicate my sexuality?
d) the badass dance breakdown! it RULES!
e) the (not so) subtle critiques of art, materialized in the ornate vases and the (trophy-like) ‘cool’ rows of electric guitars
f) Janet standing up and pissing for like 2 seconds-mid video
g) the very beginning and very end are simply amazing. Blast- who the fuck directed this video?! Honestly, the last… say… six seconds or so leave me speechless.

Hope thats not too much build up. Enjoy!

I think I need to end it with that. Its been a long enough digression from yr workday, yes? I’ll bid you adieu and leave you with a little political humor/absurdity to tie it all together.

You Make Me Wanna Scream,
Sunshine Superboy

As many have noted, there’s only one person who is stoked about the passing of MJ, and Farrah Fawcett, and all the other celebs who crossed the river Jordan last week… (and add Oscar Meyer to that list)

oh, but what idiot would fumble a glorious assist from God Almighty?!