Sunday, December 31, 2006

OK, so we're taking the holidays off

I had wanted to do a New Year's edition of the Revolution 21 podcast but, alas, festivities and some sort of weird bug have put the Mighty Favog down for the count(down).


We (the imperial "we," don'tcha know) will be back next Friday, OK? OK.

OH . . . did I mention that I thought I might be having the Big One early Tuesday morning? And Mrs. Favog's name is Elizabeth, so I really could say "AHHHHHH! This is it! I'm havin' the Big One, Elizabeth!"

But I didn't. And apologies for the gratuitous Sanford and Son references.

I, HOWEVER, DIGRESS. Late, late night Christmas (or early, early morning Boxing Day, as the case may be) I fell asleep on the couch watching old movies after a late supper of a couple of bowls of the Favog's Famous Christmas Eve Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Woke up about 3 a.m. with a heck of a chest pain.

Your Mighty Favog was concerned. After I described the symptoms to the doctor on call at our medical group, she was concerned, too.

Thus began an eight-hour trip to the emergency room, where the Mighty Favog was injected, inspected, stress-tested and IV-fitted more than Arlo Guthrie on the Group W bench. The verdict: Something else was doing a damned fine impression of a heart attack.

The Mighty Favog is fine. Woefully out of shape, but not a cardiac case.

Even Friday's gastrointestinal X-ray-palooza didn't turn up anything . . . and I was certain it would. Musta been a bug going around that dramatically lowered my spicy-gumbo tolerance . . . and pretty much had me down for the count for the next day or so.

Still, funny what you think about when the doctor thinks you COULD be having a heart attack. And it wasn't any big fear of death.

It was more along the lines of:

1) I'm not done here yet. There's more I can do to make the world just a little better than I found it. Please, God, I want to finish my job here on earth. And . . .

2) Damn! I really need to drop about 50 pounds or so.

Pass the Splenda.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Blessed Christmas to you


It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold! "Peace on the earth, good will to men, From heaven's all gracious King! The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come, With peaceful wings unfurled, And still their heavenly music floats, O'er all the weary world; Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing. And ever o'er its Babel sounds, The blessed angels sing.


Yet with the woes of sin and strife, The world hath suffered long; Beneath the angel-strain have rolled, Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not, The love song which they bring: O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on, By prophet bards foretold, When, with the ever-circling years, Shall come the Age of Gold; When peace shall over all the earth, Its ancient splendors fling, And all the world give back the song, Which now the angels sing.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Live from 1969, it's the Munchkin Favog


As noted in the previous post, I did do a Christmas edition of the Revolution 21 podcast . . . it's just that, for the most part, I recorded it 37 years ago.

No, I'm not going to go into a long exegesis about the artistic -- and psychological and philosophical -- roots and ramifications of the show. That would be kind of self-important and dumb, wouldn't it?

If you get it, you get it. If not . . . maybe you'll enjoy the next show. Just thought it would be a different take on the whole Christmas-program thang, you know?

Anyway, I was just thinking about how you get older, Christmas becomes kind of bittersweet, as you remember all those people who aren't around anymore and the far-away places (both physically and metaphysically) of your childhood. They're . . . gone. But they're not.

And they're never so Not Gone as at Christmastime, when the communion of saints becomes so truly, tangibly here that sometimes it gets eerie. You know?

OH . . . . Little Favog, age eight, says hey from Baton Rouge, La. So does Mama and Daddy. (Daddy also says "CUT IT OFF!") And the aunts and uncles. And Grandma.

To listen, go to the podcast player to the right, at the top of the page. Also, go back to the Revolution 21 homepage and click on "Podcast." That will take you to the podcast page on podOmatic.

Be there. Alohohohoha.

OK, here's the lineup for the Christmas show

You know, you turn the show over to your eight-year-old self, and nothing gets done right. The little bugger won't stop counting into the microphone -- whoa, THAT's never been done before -- and he won't announce any of the songs.


And it's not like Mama and Daddy were being helpful in any way. OK, OK, Daddy! I know . . . cut it off!

ANYWAY . . . in order, here's the musical lineup from the Big Show for Christmas 2006:

Blind Boys of Alabama
In the Bleak Midwinter (w/ Chrissie Hynde & Richard Thompson)
2003

Bing Crosby
White Christmas
1947

Elvis Presley
Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)
1957

Elvis Presley

Santa Claus Is Back in Town
1957


Bing Crosby
I'll Be Home for Christmas
1943

Bing Crosby
Adeste Fideles
1942

Bing Crosby and David Bowie
Peace On Earth; The Little Drummer Boy
1977

Heidi Joy
Do You Hear What I Hear?
2000

Carla Thomas
Gee Whiz, It's Christmas
1963

Otis Redding
Merry Christmas Baby
1968

Ray Charles
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
(w/ Stefanie Minatee and the Voices of Jubilation)
2004

Ray Charles
Silent Night
2004

Nat "King" Cole
The Christmas Song
1946

Harry Connick, Jr.
When My Heart Finds Christmas
1993

Brian Wilson
Joy to the World
2005

Bruce Springsteen
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town

(Live at Winterland 1978)
1978

Jackson 5
Someday at Christmas
1970

Aaron Neville
Please Come Home for Christmas
1993

Leroy Anderson
Sleigh Ride
1951

Platters
Winter Wonderland
1963

Santo & Johnny
Twistin' Bells
1959

Elvis Presley
I'll Be Home for Christmas
1957

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Then again, on the other hand . . .

Of course, the previous post IS NOT to say that SOMETHING won't have to be done about Iran and its nutwagon president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To wit:


Iran is now a "nuclear power," its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, delcared Wednesday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

During a speech delivered in the Western Iranian province of Javanroud, Ahmadinejad said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran is now a nuclear power, thanks to the hard work of the Iranian people and authorities."

The announcement of Iran as a "nuclear power" is bound to significantly escalate tensions between the West and Iran, and marks a dramatic stage in the Islamic Republic's nuclear campaign.

In recent days, the US military has begun to build up forces around the Gulf, in what is being seen as as a warning to Iran.

Ahmadinejad was also reported to have announced that "Iranian young scientists reached the zenith of science and technology and gained access to the nuclear fuel cycle without the help of big powers."
And, of course, there's this . . . for the umpteenth time. I think President Looney Tunes (theirs, not ours) has said it enough to assume he's serious:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched another attack of Israel and its allies the United States and Britain in a speech Wednesday morning.

The Iranian news agency reported that, during his speech in western Iran, the Iranian president said that the US, Britain and Israel are doomed to disappear.

"The aggressive forces will vanish, while the Iranian people will survive – since all who chose God will survive and those who distance themselves from God vanish like Pharaoh," said Ahmadinejad in his speech.

"The US, Britain, and the Zionist regime will vanish since they have distanced themselves from God. This is a divine promise," he added.

Ahmadinejad also referred to the international motion towards imposing sanctions on Iran for refusing to put an end to it's nuclear program. "They threaten us with punishments. But they must know that nuclear energy is the Iranian people's right, and they will insist on that right," he explained.

On Tuesday, Iran demanded that the UN Security Council condemn what it said was
Israel 's clandestine development of nuclear weapons and "compel" it to place all its nuclear facilities under UN inspection.
You know, the frustrating thing about Ahmadinejad is that he occasionally drops small kernels of spot-on observation and truth amid the most insane rantings. For instance . . . yes, nations that turn their backs on God and divine truth ultimately are going to be in deep doo, one way or another.

But, no, Mahmoud's notion of what the one true God is is pretty damned whack. And, no, God Almighty DID NOT appoint His Nutty Buddyship to be the worldwide Divine Justice police.

Unless, of course, Mahmoud is to be our 21st-century Nebuchadnezzar. In which case, we are in very deep divine doo, indeed. But even if that were to be the case, the Iranian president needs to beware . . . 24 years after Nebuchadnezzar died, Babylon was gone, gone, gone.

Fell to the Persian, Cyrus.

And the Jews, of course, are still around, despite the Babylonians' best effort. As is their nation, Israel.

YEP, something has to be done about Ahmadinejad's Iran. But Godamighty, I don't trust George W. Bush to do it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ayatollah! You sank my battleship! And my cruisers!
And my aircraft carriers . . . and my assault craft!

If you have a halfway long memory, you have to be thinking "Uh-oh" about now. From CBSNews.com:


The Pentagon is planning to bolster its presence in the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran's continuously defiant government, CBS News reports.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin says the U.S. military build-up, which would include adding a second aircraft carrier to the one already in the Gulf, is being proposed as a response to what U.S. officials view as an increasingly provocative Iranian leadership.

Recent Iranian naval exercises, support for Shiite militias in Iraq, and Tehran's allegedly peaceful nuclear enrichment program — which U.S. intelligence believes is designed to produce a bomb — have all lead to the planned changes, Martin reports.

Military officers say the build-up would take place after the first of the year, not with the aim of actually attacking Iran, but strictly as a deterent.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be nuts, but I suspect he may be smarter than the entire Bush Administration, and he has the home-field advantage. And his naval commanders surely have thought of this and this (which is where the halfway long memory part comes in).

See, in 2002 war games representing an invasion of Iraq -- right next door to Iran and with a tiny Persian Gulf coastline (unlike Iran's long Gulf coastline) -- a retired Marine general wiped out an entire American armada:

In the first few days of the exercise, using surprise and unorthodox tactics, the wily 64-year-old Vietnam veteran sank most of the US expeditionary fleet in the Persian Gulf, bringing the US assault to a halt. What happened next will be familiar to anyone who ever played soldiers in the playground. Faced with an abrupt and embarrassing end to the most expensive and sophisticated military exercise in US history, the Pentagon top brass simply pretended the whole thing had not happened. They ordered their dead troops back to life and "refloated" the sunken fleet. Then they instructed the enemy forces to look the other way as their marines performed amphibious landings. Eventually, Van Riper got so fed up with all this cheating that he refused to play any more. Instead, he sat on the sidelines making abrasive remarks until the three-week war game - grandiosely entitled Millennium Challenge - staggered to a star-spangled conclusion on August 15, with a US "victory".

If the Pentagon thought it could keep its mishap quiet, it underestimated Van Riper. A classic marine - straight-talking and fearless, with a purple heart from Vietnam to prove it - his retirement means he no longer has to put up with the bureaucratic niceties of the defence department. So he blew the whistle.
As at Pearl Harbor, you don't get "do overs" in real life when your fleet ends up on the bottom of the deep blue sea. If the Iranians have enough explosive-packed aerial drones, rocket-powered torpedoes and speedboats with suicide jockeys at the helm, all of Rome's jet fighters and all of Rome's high-tech defense systems won't be able to save George W. Bush, head in hands, from crying "He sank my battleship! And my carriers! And my cruisers . . . ."

King George's know-nothing hubris has just about broken our Army and Marines in the Iraqi desert. Is he aiming to finish the job (and maybe cripple the Navy, too) in Iran?

Monday, December 18, 2006

'O God, I thank you that I am not like
the rest of humanity . . .'

And if you were wondering what the previous post about Louisiana 1970 has to do with anything concerning America 2006 . . . keep reading. And it's not always purely a matter of black and white. Here's part of a Sunday article in The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate about the city's perception -- and reception -- of Katrina evacuees from New Orleans:

But 51-year-old Charlotte McGee, a New Orleans evacuee now living in FEMA’s Renaissance Village trailer park, still bristles at the mayor’s initial comment.

“When your black mayor, who looks like me, makes racist comments, it hurts,” she said. “He doesn’t want us here, and now no one does.”

For the evacuees of the costliest hurricane in American history, the past year has been a crash course on how to radically adapt to new homes, jobs and schools.

They desperately cling to and still defend the reputation of their native city. Some feel persecuted, blamed for crime in Baton Rouge.

“I’ve read about racism, I’ve heard people talk about it, but I never saw it,” McGee said. “It hurts me to the core. You hate me because I am black, because I am from the city of New Orleans. I am not an illegal alien. I am your neighbor. I am an American.”

Margaret Chopin, a 56-year-old from Gentilly, said that on a recent trip to Wal-Mart she heard a group of people talking about how the “good blacks have to suffer for the bad blacks from New Orleans.”

It’s the kind of comment that might rub nerves raw. But Chopin, who said she’s been insulted repeatedly the past 15 months, chooses to pray instead.

“Usually I don’t say anything,” said Chopin, who lives in Renaissance Village. “I don’t want to be ignorant like them. I pray, I thank God for what I do have.”

Chopin said the perception that the evacuees are simply criminals overrunning Baton Rouge is wrong.

“That’s how everybody thinks up here,” Chopin said. “Some of us are professionals. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science, but you don’t hear about those people. Sure, more people is more crime, but is it us? Is it the evacuees? No.”

Unlike McGee and Chopin, 38-year-old Percy Clennon did not spend weeks of sleepless nights inside the River Center. He spent them sleeping on the floor with his wife at a relative’s home in Old South Baton Rouge.

Clennon knew the move would be tough but didn’t expect to be treated harshly in the food stamp line and at grocery stores. More than a year later, the dirty looks and nasty comments persist, he said.

“Where’s the Southern hospitality?” asks Clennon, who is from the Third Ward of New Orleans. “I am shocked. I didn’t think my own race would treat me this way. I am not racist, but I thought the white people would have been doing this. In the end I actually got more love and support from them.”


BATON ROUGE, LA. -- They look for all the world like internment camps. The long rows of identical white trailers sit on flat, grim, barren expanses of land that are enclosed by metal fences. Armed guards are stationed at the entrances around the clock.

More than a year after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of the poorest victims from New Orleans still are living in these trailer parks run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They have ironic names, like Mount Olive Gardens and Renaissance Village. A more accurate name would be Camp Depression, after the state of mind of most of the residents.

The "parks" are nothing more than vast, dusty, gravel-strewn lots filled with trailers that were designed to be hitched to cars for brief vacations or weekend getaways. The trailers, about 200 square feet each, were never meant to serve as homes for entire families. But in these FEMA parks, it's common for families of five or six, or even more, to be jammed into one trailer.

I stood outside a trailer at the Mount Olive encampment last Monday afternoon, talking with Geraldine Craig and her 21-yearold daughter, Danielle Craig. The women, who have been unable to find jobs, seemed baffled and depleted by their long ordeal. As we talked, Danielle's 2-year-old son, Javonta, scampered around in the dust and gravel.

Danielle's daughter, Miracle, was 5 months old when Katrina struck. The baby was ill and receiving oxygen when it became clear that the family had to evacuate. "The doctors were taking care of her, and she couldn't hardly breathe," Danielle said. "After we left, we ended up in a shelter. I said that my baby needed oxygen, but they told us we had to wait.

"They finally sent us to a medical building, and they put her on oxygen for about two hours. But the doctor said there was nothing wrong with her."

Like so many thousands of others left destitute and all but despondent by Katrina, the family moved on - to Texas, back to Louisiana, eventually to Baton Rouge. It was too much for Miracle, who never got the proper medical treatment. She died last March. Her heart disease wasn't accurately diagnosed until an autopsy was performed.


(snip)

[Irwin] Redlener, the author of "Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do," said he was outraged that so many thousands of the poorest victims of Hurricane Katrina are still stuck in limbo - unable to find jobs or permanent housing, denied adequate medical and educational services and with no idea when, or if, they will be able to return to New Orleans.

"The recovery of this catastrophe in the Gulf has been as badly mangled by the government as the initial response," Redlener said. "Fifteen months have gone by, and you still have these thousands of people who in essence are either American refugees living in other states who have no idea what's going to happen to them, or they are living in these trailer camps or in isolated trailers on their old property, which has been destroyed. They're just waiting for something to happen. And the wait is interminable."

Geraldine Craig said: "We just recently went down to New Orleans, and they got nothing going yet, not in our neighborhood. So we're going to be here a while."

The residents of Mount Olive Gardens and the even larger trailer camp at Renaissance Village in nearby Baker, La., face challenges that seem almost insurmountable. Even minimum wage jobs are very difficult to find and difficult to get to because there is little public transportation. Many of the residents are elderly, disabled or illiterate. Some are mentally handicapped.

See, America's racial cesspool is just a manifestation of a much larger human problem: We think it's quite acceptable to throw some people away. In our affluent American society, we find it easy to throw people away because they're the "wrong" color . . . or class.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept tens of thousands of people into the Baton Rouge area from "the slums of New Orleans." At least that's how New Orleans was perceived when I was a child in Louisiana's capital city. To folks like my mother, "New Orleans" always required the modifier "da slums a."

"Da slums a Noo Orluns."

Looks like things down there haven't changed so much in the past four decades.

Oh, that everyone were light, bright and had never been near a slum! (Especially "Da slums a Noo Orluns.") How happy we'd all be then!

But if everyone were wealthy, brilliant, suave, debonair and had never done anything unseemly in his or her entire life . . . he or she would hardly be human. Jesus Christ never would have had to be born of Mary -- or sacrificed at Calvary -- and we wouldn't be celebrating Christmas in a few days.

We'd be celebrating our eternal UberHumanity in the Garden of Eden. Eternally.

But that's not how it has all worked out for us, has it? We needed that first Christmas Day, and we needed that first Good Friday, too. And that first Easter Sunday sealed the deal . . . that we might have hope despite our status as hopeless screw-ups.

If "those people" are screwed up beyond all telling, guess what. You are, too.

And if they're screwed up, you're screwed up and I'm screwed up, I guess that makes us all in this together, sorely in need of being washed clean by the blood of the Lamb of God.

But we as Christians can't remember our dignity. Nor can we remember our neighbor's. And the government can't remember anybody's.

Which is a sad damn commentary as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the little God-Man, Jesus, who was born to die as the perfect Passover sacrifice so that death wouldn't be the Final Answer for a bunch of schmucks such as ourselves.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Yes, Martin Luther King Jr., was a great, great man


(OK, this post will have some rough language. And it will use the N-word. A lot. But to tell this story -- and to be true to the times I'm recalling -- it has to be done. Reader discretion is advised.)

* * *

The latest episode of the Revolution 21 Podcast spotlighting MLK and the Dreamers and their song "Great Man" has gotten me thinking . . . and remembering little slices of life from long, long ago (a couple of years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination) and far, far away (my hometown of Baton Rouge, La.).

On one hand, it seems like memories from an alien planet and an alternate timeline. On the other hand, hell no it doesn't. I find myself wishing I could impart what's in my heart and in my brain -- basically, the life experiences and heart of a middle-aged man who grew up in the segregated South and actually remembers that "great man," MLK Jr. -- to those Omaha teen-agers who decided to do a simple little song about the civil-rights leader.

Perhaps I can accomplish this a little by resurrecting -- and updating -- something I wrote almost 10 years ago. Here goes.


* * *

JOE'S BARBER SHOP smelled of witch hazel, hot shaving cream and talcum powder. Of old magazines, the newsprint of strewn-about State-Times and Morning Advocates, and of sweat and cigarette smoke.

When you opened the front door onto Scenic Highway, Mr. Joe's place might smell of complex hydrocarbons, too. The front gate of the Humble Oil and Refining Co.'s Baton Rouge complex sat slap-dab across the street.

One summer day in 1970, though, Mr. Joe's just smelled.

"My boy ain't goin' to school with no goddamn niggers," this fellow said from up in one of Mr. Joe's three barber chairs -- under the placard that proclaimed the establishment a proud "Union Shop" -- to expressions of sympathy from Mr. Joe, my old man and the rest. Fearing his son's life might be in mortal danger, the man was popping off about having his kid pack heat.

Blame it on the Feds. A federal judge had just ruled against East Baton Rouge Parish's grade-at-a-time "freedom of choice" school desegregation plan, which had taken effect in 1963, started with the 12th grade and worked its way down to the sixth grade. Starting in the fall, a "neighborhood school" plan would take over, coupled with voluntary majority-to-minority transfers. For the first time, all students in a school's attendance area -- black and white -- would go to the same school.

Not a popular concept in the all-white, working-class world of Joe's Barber Shop.

I was 9 years old.

Summer gave way to fall in 1970 -- to the surprise of many white folks (including, I imagine, the guy planning to arm his son), the world did not end -- and school opened, "integrated" under the neighborhood schools scheme.

"Integrated" Capitol High School was supposed to have 230 white students and 1,363 blacks. Five whites showed up for classes. And "integrated" McKinley High was supposed to have 81 whites and 1,051 black students. No whites showed up.

That fall, I returned to suburban Red Oaks Elementary School, a sprawling, brick-and-concrete 1950s monument to homogeneity and bad taste that assaulted the eyes with its covered walkways and copious amounts of puke-green paint. My parents saw no need to place a snub-nose .38 in my book sack; there was little chance I'd face assault by some snarling black menace from "Bucktown."

Chances were much better that I'd be assaulted by gangs of snarling white menaces from North Red Oaks.

In the fall of 1970, I was starting fourth grade, and for the past three years I had hated all-white, de jure-segregated Red Oaks Elementary. The only thing worse than Red Oaks, I imagined, must be having to go to "the nigger school," which, I was assured, just might happen if I messed up bad enough.

In the fall of 1970, Janice Grigsby was starting fourth grade at Red Oaks, too. She hadn't had the opportunity to work up a good hate for the place; this was the first year she and her little brother could attend.

Janice was black, and though her family had lived just a few blocks from the school since before there was a school there -- before there was a neighborhood, even -- she had been barred from Red Oaks by force of law, relegated to "the nigger school."

I remember that Janice had skin the color of a Hershey bar, a pair of pigtails and a big smile. She was the first black person my own age I'd ever known. And despite almost a decade of racial indoctrination -- with warnings about "nigger music," "nigger rigs" and "nigger lovers," deliveries from "the drugstore nigger" and subtropical heat that left you "sweatin' like a nigger preacher" -- despite growing up with Jim Crow as the crazy uncle in the attic, I liked Janice. She was in Mrs. Anderson's class with me, and I found that I didn't care whether she was black, white, purple or green.

She was a friend.

I remember that Janice and I used to play together at recess. I'd pull her pigtails, she'd chase me, and we'd both have a grand time.

My folks had no real problem with this. Poor Southern kids during the Great Depression, they grew up around black folks. And the only difference between them and "the niggers" was a society and a legal system that placed blacks at the bottom of the pecking order and "white trash" a little bit above.

So, for some white folks, there was nothing overly unusual about playing with black kids. Or about being friendly -- not friends -- with blacks as an adult, so long as everyone remembered that God Almighty ordained that whites were the superior race.

On the other hand, you had problems if black folks got "uppity." Uppity included such concepts as sitting in the front of buses, voting and using the same restrooms as whites. Or going to school with whites.

I guess that, by 1970 standards, my parents were something less than white-supremacy hardliners. I know they weren't hot on the idea of racial integration, not by a long shot. But I suppose they figured that if the Feds were letting the "coloreds" (what polite white folks called blacks in 1970) into "white" schools, there was no use being mean to them, or in keeping your kid from playing with Janice Grigsby.

The powers-that-be at Red Oaks Elementary, however, didn't see things the same way.

More than three decades later, I remember one day when Janice and I were playing at recess, following the standard rituals of 9-year-old boys and girls. Soon enough, Mrs. Anderson got my attention, took me aside by a red-brick wing of classrooms and gave me a good talking to.

Maybe I ought not be playing with Janice, she gravely advised me. It didn't look right, she was worried about it, the Red Oaks administration was worried about it, and white boys hanging around with colored girls wasn't wise. In 1970, it seems, certain white adults were worried about miscegenation, even among the playground crowd.

Janice Grigsby, one of two lonely black children among hundreds of white faces at Red Oaks Elementary, was to be isolated. Blackness was akin to the mumps, and the authorities were worried about infection.

At day's end, I walked across the playground, then over the foot bridge of heavy timbers and the pungent smell of creosote, then across Darryl Drive and down the sidewalk to home. My mother was waiting, and I told her I couldn't play with Janice anymore.

She was outraged. To this day, I'm not sure where that outrage came from -- perhaps it was that defiant suspicion of authority bred into a class of white folk raised dirt poor and accustomed to being beaten down by the powers-that-be. Maybe it was a subconscious compulsion to do the right thing despite her own prejudices and enculturation. Maybe it was the invisible hand of God determined to see that such blatant injustice, such cruelty directed toward a 9-year-old girl, not pass unnoticed.

Whatever it was, it caused my mother to go straight to the phone book, look up the number of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pick up the telephone and give whomever answered at the NAACP an earful about the shenanigans going on at Red Oaks Elementary School.

In an old movie, the outrage of the righteous would have come down foursquare upon the heads of Mrs. Anderson and her partners in crime, and Janice Grigsby would have lived happily ever after. But old movies are just that, and morality plays were long out of fashion by the dawn of the '70s.

Life did not get easier for Janice. Her black face stood out like a bulls eye in Red Oaks' lily-white world, and she took her shots from Mrs. Anderson, a surly, tanklike woman who had about as much business in the classroom as Pol Pot would have had on Amnesty International's board of directors.

No, for Janice, ridicule at Mrs. Anderson's beefy hands became a daily ritual.

For instance, every Monday was lunch-money day, and the proper procedure for paying for the week's meals involved paying separately for your lunch and for your milk -- or something like that. One Monday, Janice did something horrible. She brought a single check from home to pay for everything.

You would have thought Janice had just set fire to the classroom.

"What am I supposed to do with this!" Mrs. Anderson thundered. "Cut it in half?!?"

The classroom erupted with the laughter of small minds. The cruelty of a middle-aged teacher toward a little girl is really funny when you're 9, I guess.

But Janice just sat there. She just took it.

I am not sure why this is the incident that sticks in my mind after all these years and all these miles away from Baton Rouge. There were others, many others. But as the years have passed, those incidents have subsided into the fog of memory. All that remains is the surety of Mrs. Anderson's withering remarks, the hoots of my classmates and Janice just sitting there.

Taking it.

And I remember that I hated Mrs. Anderson. I really did, and I don't know that I'm sorry I hated her.

I left Red Oaks Elementary after the fall semester of 1970. Like Janice, I was the butt of many jokes and much abuse -- at the hands of Mrs. Anderson and little rednecks with littler minds. I didn't fit in, probably was too smart by half when being smart was a one-way ticket to Adolescent Hell, and I rebelled mightily.

I ended up at the next school over, Villa del Rey Elementary. It was a much better school, though I still had my problems.

My new fourth-grade teacher was Mrs. Hawkins. She was black, talented and a sweet soul amid a sea of, on average, slightly more affluent little rednecks. I spent a while catching up on my studies, thanks to the curricular deficiencies Mrs. Anderson brought to the classroom along with her sunny disposition.

In many ways, it was Mrs. Hawkins who caught hell at the hands of her students. More than once, students might be heard to mutter "nigger" under their breath after being disciplined. I know she had to have heard, but I don't remember her ever saying anything.

And I am ashamed to admit to being among those who muttered the N-word. Like they say, racism isn't congenital; it's learned. And oftentimes we learned all the wrong lessons.

I didn't see Janice Grigsby again until seventh grade at Broadmoor Junior High, where there was just a small handful of black kids. We didn't hang out together anymore, but I did notice one thing about her -- it seemed that her smile wasn't so big anymore. At least not often.

The dresses she once wore, I recall, had given way to a denim jacket and pants. It was fitting; she seemed to me at the time as this James Deanlike loner amid the junior-high hustlin' mob. I don't think we spoke much, if at all, during those years. But then again, the black kids had their world, and we whites had ours. The teen-age rednecks and thugs ruled supreme -- and perhaps the Mrs. Andersons of the world had won our hearts and minds.

Too, somewhere along the way at Broadmoor, Janice had to repeat a grade. I wonder whether maybe she, at some point along the line, had bought into the subtext of Mrs. Anderson's daily barrage: Niggers are stupid. Niggers don't belong. You're stupid, Janice. You don't belong.

From time to time, I wonder whatever became of Janice. Did she graduate? Is she happy? Did she ever come to terms with how that old battle axe treated her?

Is she married now? Does she have kids of her own? Grandkids?

Is Janice alive?

Of one thing I am sure: Janice Grigsby was a real little girl who suffered in very real ways due to the aftershocks of America's Original Sins -- slavery and bigotry. One's dead and buried; the other's still alive, burrowed deep into the American psyche like a mutant gene unleashing deadly cancers.

Yes, I'd like to think things weren't as bleak as my 9-year-old eyes viewed them; at least I would like to think my memories of Red Oaks, and Janice, have been darkened, have been fogged over, by the jadedness of adulthood.

But I don't think so.

And I don't think things are as changed as lots of people -- lots of people white like me -- would have us all believe. Better, yes.

Good? Probably not.

That bunch of teen-agers -- MLK and the Dreamers -- was 20 years from being born when Martin Luther King Jr., died. And they are right; he was a "great, great man."

And somebody shot him dead. Shot him dead for his greatness.

Somebody'd probably shoot him dead today, too.

God help us. Lord, have mercy.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ahmet Ertegun, RIP

Another giant has fallen.

NEW YORK - Ahmet Ertegun, who helped define American music as the founder of Atlantic Records, a label that popularized the gritty R&B of Ray Charles, the classic soul of Aretha Franklin and the British rock of the Rolling Stones, died Thursday at 83, his spokesman said.

Ertegun remained connected to the music scene until his last days — it was at an Oct. 29 concert by the Rolling Stones at the Beacon Theatre in New York where Ertegun fell, suffered a head injury and was hospitalized. He later slipped into a coma.

“He was in a coma and expired today with his family at his bedside,” said Dr. Howard A. Riina, Ertegun’s neurosurgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Ertegun will be buried in a private ceremony in his native Turkey, said Bob Kaus, a spokesman for Ertegun and Atlantic Records. A memorial service will be conducted in New York after New Year’s.

Ertegun, a Turkish ambassador’s son, started collecting records for fun, but would later became one of the music industry’s most powerful figures with Atlantic, which he founded in 1947.

The label first made its name with rhythm and blues by Charles and Big Joe Turner, but later diversified, making Franklin the Queen of Soul as well as carrying the banner of British rock (with the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin) and American pop (with Sonny and Cher, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and others).

Today, the company, part of Warner Music Group, is the home to artists including Kid Rock, James Blunt, T.I., and Missy Elliott.

“Ahmet Ertegun was a true visionary whose life’s work had a profound impact on our cultures musical landscape, as well as around the world,” said Neil Portnow, president of The Recording Academy.

(snip)

In later years, Ertegun signed (Bette)
Midler, Roberta Flack and ABBA. He had a gift for being able to pick out what would be a commercial smash, said the late producer Arif Mardin, who remembered one session where he was working with the Bee Gees on an album — but was unsure of what he had produced.

“Then Ahmet came and listened to it, and said, ‘You’ve got hits here, you’ve got dance hits,”’ Mardin once told the AP. “I was involved in such a way that I didn’t see the forest for the trees. ... He was like the steadying influence.”

One strength of the company was Ertegun’s close relationships with many of the artists — relationships that continued even after they left his label. Midler still called for advice, and he visited Franklin’s home when he dropped into Detroit.

“He cared first and foremost about the artist and the music — much more than the business,” Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates said. “He believed that if the artist was true to him or herself, good business would follow. Sadly in today’s atmosphere, this isn’t the case. But, during Ahmet’s days of influence it was.”

His friendships extended to the younger generation, too, including Kid Rock and Lil’ Kim.
Besides his love of music, Ertegun was also known for his love of art, and socializing. It was not uncommon to find him at a party with his wife, Mica, hanging out until all hours with friends.

Although he was slowed by triple-bypass surgery in 2001, he still went into his office almost daily to listen for his next hit.

Music mogul Quincy Jones called Ertegun “definitely one of the pioneering visionaries in this whole scene.”

“He was a very 360-degree person. He loved to have a good time. He knew how to party, which is my kind of guy, and he knew how to work. He knew how to look into the future and how to execute to bring it to fruition,” Jones said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

American pop music would have been very different if there had been no Ahmet Ertegun. I'm glad we don't have to find out how.

May he rest in peace.

What Atlantic Records has meant to American music will be the primary focus of tonight's Revolution 21 Podcast. That, and a look at the Omaha teen-agers who took a minimalist ditty about Martin Luther King Jr., all the way to London -- and to a top-seven finish in the search for the world's best young band.

Be there. Aloha.

New Orleans steps up in Iraq War effort:
Army tests new PsyOps tactics on 'Yats'

You know, if we just let President Bush and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco do for Iraq what they've done for South Louisiana -- particularly for New Orleans -- that just might be a workable game plan.


I project the insurgency would crumble in a year, its spirit and will broken. After all, look how well the pilot program is going in finishing off Louisianians, who bear some small, yet not insignificant, similarity (particularly the colorful New Orleans tribe sometimes known as the "Yats," or Howsicus Yo'mamacus An'demensis) to the squabbling hordes of old Mesopotamia.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

The yellow award letter from the state Road Home program -- meant, at long last, to be the final statement of a flood victim's federal rebuilding grant -- started on a celebratory note: "Congratulations!"

With all their savings tied up in their flooded-to-the-ceiling Lakeview house, and desperately needing that money to live, Saul and Mildred Rubin, both in their 90s, had been waiting for their grant award for months. In the meantime, they have been reluctantly living in a West Bank retirement community paid for in part by their children.

So what was the good news?

The government estimated the damage to their uninsured, 2,000-square-foot home -- which took on nearly 9 feet of water from the nearby 17th Street Canal breach -- at $550.

Even if the Rubins wanted to return to the devastated block of slab homes, they couldn't: The damage estimate, combined with a deduction because of a previous FEMA grant, concluded that the Rubins don't qualify for a rebuilding grant at all.

The letter does not make clear how Road Home officials calculated the Rubins' damage, but based on the $130-per-square-foot formula officials use to estimate repair costs for severely damaged homes, the couple's estimated damage would have totaled about $260,000.

In another case, April Allen, 37, a biological research technician living with her husband and two children in a FEMA trailer park, received a Road Home letter that estimated the catastrophic damage to her Vista Park home in New Orleans at just $6,430.

The two families' dilemmas are not unique, as a smattering of letters to the editor, weblogs and phone calls to state offices attest. Melanie Ehrlich, a founder of the New Orleans advocacy group Citizens' Road Home Action Team, said she has seen 15 yellow final award letters and found errors in 11 of them.

Among those errors: insurance proceeds for repairs to fences or outbuildings being counted against homeowners in reducing the amount of their Road Home grants; and FEMA payments for rental assistance -- a separate program that has no bearing on house repairs -- counted in deductions.

"I'm sure that a very large (number) of mistakes have been made because of the rush to get letters out quickly," said Ehrlich, a Tulane University human genetics professor.

Road Home administrators say they cannot publicly discuss the specifics of any applicant's case.

But officials with the state Division of Administration and Louisiana Recovery Authority who monitor the program said that, at this point, they have not noticed a major problem with errors in final Road Home award letters.

Residents who think their final award letter is incorrect can file a formal appeal, but Road Home staffers acknowledge they don't encourage such a step because it could cause delays in resolving problems. Instead, they recommend that homeowners call the Road Home assistance number, then press 6 and a "resolution" expert will respond as soon as they are able.

Road Home spokeswoman Carol Hector-Harris said that if a resident files a formal appeal, it's unknown how long it will take. "We haven't done any yet," she said.

Road Home administrators -- though they recently conceded a 25 percent error rate in so-called "preliminary" award letters -- dispute charges that they are still fumbling on a grand scale in the final letters, which they printed on yellow paper to distinguish them from the earlier, mistake-ridden batch.

Hector-Harris said "mistakes may happen here and there," but she could not estimate what the error rate might be in the final letters. She said Road Home officials have found no systemic pattern of foul-ups.

She suggested that some complaints about inaccuracies stem from simple frustration that proposed grant awards are not higher.

"A lot of times people decide that we don't know what we're talking about because they don't like what they're hearing," said Hector-Harris, who works for the contractor ICF International, based in Virginia. "People send e-mails all the time suggesting all sorts of things."

Whatever the scope of Road Home foul-ups, Alan Rubin, 62, who holds power of attorney for his parents, called the numbers in their award letter sheer foolishness. In addition to the $550 damage estimate, the much-anticipated yellow letter contains other curious figures, he said.

In noting that the Rubins must elevate their home, the letter lists $25,517 as an "elevation allowance." It also lists, without explanation, the same amount in an offer of an "affordable compensation loan," which the program makes available to those earning far less than the city's median income level.

Alan Rubin said the letter has caused considerable stress for his elderly parents.

"They're terrified," he said. "All of their cash in the world was tied up into the value of this house."

The errors, combined with the difficulty Alan Rubin, a retired businessman, has faced in getting a call through to the Road Home switchboard, led the son to believe that such errors -- after such a long wait and a cumbersome application process -- will lead people to abandoned their rebuilding plans.

"My concern is, the people we need in this city are going to say, 'Screw it,' and leave," said Alan Rubin, a Metairie resident who bristled with anger during a recent visit to his parents' ungutted home. "If they don't have time to do this thing right the first time, when are they going to find time to do it?"

JUST BEWARE the Cajun version of the roadside IED.

You think that the old pickup with the plywood extenders on the truck bed is a fisherman selling fresh shrimp on the side of the road. Fool.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Britney Spears: Paragon of 'partying ethics'

The saga of these twits passed the parody-proof frontier long, long ago. Now, the vapid Paris Hilton is defending the "partying ethics" of "Barebottom" Britney Spears, who proves every day in every way that "common" can't be cured by large infusions of cash.


In an entry on her page on the popular social networking Web site MySpace on Tuesday, hotel heiress Hilton called the attacks on Spears cruel and shameful.

"For people to call out her parenting skills on behalf of her partying ethics is appalling," Hilton wrote.

"Britney loves her kids to death, and I know for a fact that it truly hurts her when she sees these cruel things being written about her. She goes home every night to her babies and partying has not come in the way of her parenting," Hilton added.

Spears, who put her recording career and social life on hold for marriage and motherhood, said on her own Web site last week that she "probably did take my newfound freedom a little too far," but said she had not been out with friends for a long time.

Spears has been photographed with Hilton wearing plunging dresses and tight miniskirts on all-nighters at clubs in Las Vegas and Hollywood, shocking some of her younger fans and making her the butt of jokes. On at least three occasions, photographs of her getting out of cars revealed she was wearing no panties.

PORE BRITNEY. That lil' gal jes' cain't hep it, and folks are jes' so MEAN about her-a-goin' 'round ta them uppity juke joints all night long 'n' showin' her pride 'n' joy ter all them thar papanazis or whatever you call 'em.

On the other hand, though, there is one sure way to end "these cruel things being written about her."

***

Come close, Brit. I'll tell you how to stop this awful gossip. Let me whisper it in your ear, child. We don't want everybody to hear.

OK . . . .

STOP IT!!!!!!! STOP ACTING LIKE WHITE TRASH!!!!

DON'T. DO. THAT. ANYMORE.

STOP PARTYING. ETHICALLY OR OTHERWISE. STAY HOME WITH YOUR CHILDREN. PUT ON SOME DRAWERS . . . WE REALLY, REALLY DON'T NEED TO SEE IT !!!!!!

JUST. STOP. IT. NOW!!!!!

Oh . . . I'm sorry sweetie! Did I hurt your ear? Good.

NOW, STOP IT!

***

Pity the unfortunate offspring of Britney and K-Fed. Talk about your no-win situations . . . .

The very thought makes one wish that Los Angeles County had the Taliban Child Protective Services: Three complaints about the treatment of the Spears-Federline children, and the authorities knock over a concrete-block wall onto Britney and Kevin.

In a most ethical manner, of course.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Second verse, same as the first . . .

Taking the lead from their presiding bishop, the remaining living parishioners of Grace Episcopal Church of Newark, N.J., have reached out to their too-sexy-for-the-pope Catholic neighbors.

Some Roman Catholics whose spiritual lives are grounded in the Mass and in the sacraments are, nevertheless, unable to concur with the Vatican’s position on issues such as the role of women in the church, contra- ception, remarriage of divorced person, homosexual relation- ships, or abortion. They have become increasingly disaffected as the hierarchy’s response to dissent has grown more strident and authoritarian.

If you are among them, you may find a comforta- ble spiritual home at Grace Church in Newark.

(snip . . . like in a vasectomy)

At Grace Church you will find:

* Traditional Catholic worship, offered with care and reverence

* Worthy liturgical music, including Gregorian Chant

* A respectful approach to Scripture and Tradition, without fundamentalism or authoritarianism

* A diverse congregation that embraces divorced persons, gay men, and lesbians as fully as it embraces all others.

The Episcopal Church is not a Protestant denomination. As John Macquarrie, sometime Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, wrote, "Anglicanism has never considered itself to be a sect or denomination originating in the sixteenth century. It continues without a break the Ecclesia Anglicana founded by St. Augustine [of Centerbury] thirteen centuries and more ago…" The Episcopal Church is Catholic in polity. It has maintained the threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons. It faithfully ministers all the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Its liturgy affirms the sacrificial character of the Eucharist and the real, objective presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Nevertheless, its members differ widely in their theological positions. Since the sixteenth century many Anglicans—at times the majority—have embraced Protestant ideas; but other have always remained faithful to Anglicanism’s Catholic heritage, and the Anglican Communion has never departed from it in any essential. Grace Church, since its founding in 1837, has stood squarely with those who emphasize and treasure the Catholic heritage of Anglicanism.

On Sunday, December 17, after the 10 a.m. Mass, we shall hold a special forum for inquirers who wish to learn more about Anglican Catholicism. We are eager to welcome you at any time; but we especially invite you to join us then.


IN OTHER WORDS, "We don't believe in that crap, either, but the incense smells pretty and the bells sound nice. Coffee and doughnuts, anyone?"

It's all about thinking with one's little head, as opposed to the big one, isn't it?

You know, sometimes it's really difficult to endure as a Catholic when so many in the Church don't act like it has much to do with . . . well, anything. But my heart really goes out to those Episcopalians who try to be faithful to Christ when their denomination has taken the appearance of not giving a s#!+ and formalized it into actual doctrine.

We all need prayers here. And, being that St. Augustine said "Those who sing, pray twice," I feel a song in my heart.

EVERYBODY NOW . . .

I'm Henery the Eighth I am,
Henery the Eighth I am, I am,
I want to screw the floozy next door,
But damn Benedict don't want me to score,
So I will join th' Episcopalians,
They'll give me a rubber or a little pill,
I don't believe in all that Papist doo,
And th' Episcopalians don't believe it, too

Second verse, same as the first . . . .


(Hat tip:
Midwest Conservative Journal and Amy Welborn)

The questions we're afraid to ask

How long can a society last, do you reckon, when in the face of stuff like this, this, this, this and this, what we end up getting from Americans entrusted as guardians of moral seriousness and transcendence is idiocy like the Barney Mass and Franklin Graham's Talking Cow?


Just asking.

The Islamic extremists figuratively storming the West's gates are intent upon fighting us to the death because they see our societal unseriousness as a mortal threat to their continued existence, however utterly warped that existence might be.

Our response -- amid our own profoundly warped, yet profoundly different, existence -- is to scream "USA! USA! USA!" as we rest assured of the unending blessings of gods we've created in our own image. And though we have a sizable chunk of the American military fighting against the Mohammedan hordes in Iraq and Afghanistan, I don't think we have a clue in hell of what we're fighting for.

Just sayin'.

Americans and their political leaders contend we're fighting for "freedom," but how does our present notion of freedom differ from license? And if freedom equals license and we -- in our licentiousness -- by some miracle summon the wherewithal to defeat committed Islamic jihadism, how does that result in the "life of man" being any less "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" than if the Osama bin Ladens of the world won?

IN OTHER WORDS, why should we not just cut our losses and submit to the jihadis if ultimately our fate is going to be a case of "six of one, half a dozen of the other"?

Those are some of the questions we. as Westerners, are deathly afraid to ask. But if you listen carefully, those are the questions Pope Benedict XVI has been throwing in our clueless, self-absorbed faces for a while now.

Just been thinkin' is all.

Monday, December 11, 2006

'Dollar' Bill's Cold Cash Club tees: Wear 'em now
before all your fashion choices are day-glo orange

WHO NEEDS BANKS? Do like Louisiana's finest public servants and keep your extra cash on ice!

"Dollar" Bill's Cold Cash Club (listed, Nigerian Stock Exchange) is here to promote the simplicity and joy of keeping your money in your freezer!

Think of it! No bank fees.

* No having to get in the car and drive to an ATM.

* No ATM fees!

* No check fees!

* No service fees!

* NO BANK BUSYBODIES blabbing to the IRS -- or the Justice Department -- about your "frozen" assets!

Well, then! Now you can help us promote the cause of financial freedom by buying one of our "Dollar" Bill's Cold Cash Club tees! Rest assured that your money will be safe with us.

Right between the ribeye steak and the frozen corn.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Homina homina homina homina

From The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune:

Confounding political pundits and a slew of rivals who had become confident of his defeat, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, neatly sidestepped a roiling federal corruption probe to win re-election on Saturday to his ninth term in Congress.

Guilty pleas by aides and associates who admitted to bribing the congressman and the revelation in court documents that FBI agents had found $90,000 in marked bills stuffed into Jefferson's freezer had put the scent of blood in political waters.

A field of a dozen candidates began circling Jefferson in the primary. Hefinished first, but with only 30 percent of the vote, inspiring conjecture that his performance amounted to repudiation of an incumbent and that he would surely lose the runoff against state Rep. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans.

Instead, Jefferson, 59, scored a dramatic upset by racking up huge pluralities in African African-dominated precincts in Orleans, and winning outright in Jefferson Parish, where Sheriff Harry Lee had spent his campaign.The final margin for Jefferson in Jefferson Parish was 71% to 29% -- a margin that can be attributed to Sheriff Lee's furious political assault in the closing days of the campaign.

Lee not only endorsed to Jefferson, but in the final days, urged Jefferson Parish residents to stay home and not vote. The final tally shows that while 28% of registered voters cast ballots in the primary, only 15% voted Saturday.

Jefferson's victory was even more confounding because the Second Congressional District race was missing all the advantages that usually come with incumbency. Carter had the edge in funding raising, including from business interests that had backed Jefferson in the past. Most of the high-profile endorsements -- including those by two former Louisiana senators -- went to her, as well.

Un(expletive deleted)believable.

But not really. I was thinking like a Nebraskan, there, for a minute. That's kind of like trying to understand Iraqi insurgents by thinking like a Yale man.

Here's what I say: BRING THE TROOPS HOME FROM IRAQ! If W. wants to do some "nation building," take those 140,000 personnel, and all the armor, and all the political consultants, and all the civil-engineering teams (and all those billions of federal dollars for "helping children and building schools") and send them to Louisiana.

Of course, "nation building" may be just as futile in Louisiana as it has been in Iraq, and "the transformative power of democracy" probably will find itself "transformed" into foil-wrapped bundles of Franklins and Jeffersons in somebody's freezer (probably Jefferson's).

But at least the government of the United States futilely would be trying to instill American values into actual American citizens, and Louisiana schoolchildren would be blissfully ignorant in shiny new schools, as opposed to crumbling dungheaps of peeling paint and dripping ceilings.

I even have a spiffy operational name for the U.S. invasion of the Bayou State. Call it "Operation Reconstruction Resumed: Trying to Get It Right This Time."

'Dreamers' didn't 'win,' but they won


"Martin Luther King Junior was a great, great man . . . ."

AND OMAHA'S MLK AND THE DREAMERS is a pretty decent little -- OK, big at eight members -- band, sayeth an international panel of judges for the BBC World Service's
The Next Big Thing contest.

The teens, students at three local high schools, didn't win the whole thing (the winner hailed from Armenia). Or finish second (a tie between acts from England and Malawi). Or third (Brazil).

But if you ask your Mighty Favog, reaching the top seven from more than 1,000 entries from around the globe, then getting a trip to London, then playing live on the radio for 160 million listeners and having nice things said about you by a panel of music-industry luminaries . . . well, that sounds like a winner to me.

"We're going to have the party right here, right now," judge Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records said after the Dreamers' performance. "I love it."

See the BBC story
here. And here.

After listening to the band's "Great Man" for the first time a week or so ago, I found myself -- in a manner of speaking -- back at WLSU, Louisiana State University's then-carrier current radio station. It was the fall of 1979, and the B-52s' "Dance This Mess Around" was on the turntable.

My reaction was rather simple, and heartfelt.

"What the @#&! is THAT?!?"

HATED, ABSOLUTELY HATED, the song the first nine times I heard it. No. 10 was the charm.

Twenty-seven years later, I needed no ear adjustment with MLK and the Dreamers. I heard the rough outlines of a B-52s-type thang going on in "Great Man." Not a B-52s copycat, by any means, just a similar kind of "Oh, what the hell. Let's party!" aesthetic.

I liked.

Hey, kids! Send me a CD, will 'ya? The addy is at the bottom of the
Revolution 21 homepage.

BTW, the Omaha World-Herald did a nice
article (free registration required) before the Dreamers left for the UK.