“Howl, howl, howl, howl!”

16 January 2010: Beware of Professors!

Having spent nearly forty years of my life teaching in classrooms at the University of Kansas and elsewhere, it puzzles me that, on the one hand, Americans in general seem to believe in the virtues of a good education but, on the other hand, they ultimately also seem to distrust their teachers.

Barack Obama was a professor.  He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.  He was depicted by the media as the epitome of “cool” and “hip” on the campaign trail, through the inauguration, and through his first 100 days in the White House. But then, inevitably, the tides turned.  Now the same pundits are saying that Obama is much “too cool” and “aloof.”  Why does he seize every opportunity to give us “teachable moments” as though we’re still in school?  He’s just “too professorial.”

Is there something really intrinsically wrong or untrustworthy about our teachers and professors?  If so, let’s stop sending our kids to school, stop taking out student loans to go to college, stop funding universities and all higher institutions of learning.  We don’t really need a president who is “too professorial” and makes us feel stupid.  What we really want is a folksy leader whom we can chew tobacco and go to church with, hunt abortionists and four-legged animals with, go bowling or balling with, have a beer with.

Now is the time for the Republican Party to inherit the “cool” factor.  They should get “with it” and start wooing all the women and other marginalized voters in this country by bringing back George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in drag.  If “ignorance is bliss,” then who better to lead us in 2012 than faux females like Sarah Palin and Liz Cheney?  Who wouldn’t want to have a drink with these two charming Airheads of State? Well, perhaps not a beer.  Maybe an aperitif, or is that too European, too socialist, too liberal, too elitist, too professorial? Well, then, maybe a Screwdriver.  At least the orange juice will provide some healthy Vitamin C while we’re getting screwed into alcoholic oblivion.

13 January 2010: How Dark Is Light?

In her autobiography Thursday’s Child, Eartha Kitt talks about growing up in the cotton plantations of South Carolina in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and how she was ostracized by blacks and whites alike because her lighter skin color made her neither black nor white.  So how did she go on to become a great celebrity not just in nightclubs and recording studios, but also in theatre, movies and television?  In 1950, Orson Welles called her “the most exciting woman in the world,” and cast her as Helen of Troy in his production of Dr. Faustus. 

Given the recent controversy over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s remark about the game-changing likelihood of white Americans voting for a “light-skinned” African-American in the 2008 presidential election,  I’ve compiled a partial list of African-Americans in Hollywood movies.  I’m presenting them not chronologically but alphabetically, making it harder perhaps to see if in fact there is any kind of  pattern or commonality in the pigmentation of black screen faces through the decades.

Here are the black women whose images flickered in our minds—Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Ruby Dee, Whoopi Goldberg, Pam Grier, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Queen Latifah, Butterfly McQueen, Mo’Nique, Juanita Moore, Beah Richards, Diana Ross, Anna Deavere Smith, Cicely Tyson, Ethel Waters, Vanessa Williams, Oprah Winfrey.

And the black men whose names on the marquee brought us into the movie houses—Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett Jr., Dick Gregory, James Earl Jones, Spike Lee, Eddie Murphy, Sydney Poitier, Chris Rock, Howard Rollins, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Paul Winfield. 

And then, of course, there’s Michael Jackson, in a sad class by himself, someone whose pigmentation changed with his every public appearance. 

Leaving Hollywood and the world of make-believe behind, how about the real world?  Do we have a different set of criteria for the pigmentation of blacks in sports, in academia, in politics?  As the nation gets ready to celebrate Martin Luther King Day next Monday, I find myself wondering—If MLK had been born decades later, with the same darker skin and the same oratorical skills, would we have elected him President of these United States?  And would all the “tea-baggers” and right-wing Republicans crucify the “dark-skinned” King even more than the way they’ve been crucifying the “light-skinned” Obama? 

Maybe Harry Reid was wrong.  Maybe we aren’t ready.  Maybe Hollywood needs to pave the way some more.  Maybe Quentin Tarantino needs to remake Gone with the Wind with Kanye West playing Rhett to Mo’Nique’s Scarlett and, maybe this time, quite frankly, my dear, we ought to give a damn.

12 January 2010: Sarah Palin Vs. Ellen Degeneres

Today’s headlines reveal that Sarah Palin is joining Fox News as a regular commentator, and that Simon Cowell is leaving “American Idol” at the end of the season.  Now that Ellen Degeneres has replaced Paula Abdul on “Idol,” my guess is that Fox is grooming Moose Palin to join Buckaroo Degeneres on “Idol” after Cobra Cowell’s departure.  I’d love to see these two women lick each other in a catfight.  Wouldn’t that be a marriage made in heaven…or hell…or maybe California? 

And when she quits “Idol” halfway through her contract, Moose Palin will go for Rush Limbaugh’s job and run for President of the United States in 2012.  I think that’s what she really meant to tell Katie Couric in that infamous interview, that she can see Rush from her window in Alaska, and maybe her head up on Mount Rushmore as well.

6 January 2010: The Gospel According to AVATAR

Where TITANIC (1997) showed us the great divide between social classes in allegedly egalitarian societies, with its “message” successfully embedded in a breathless love story between the haves and the have-nots, Canadian film-director James Cameron now picks up where Al Gore left off in AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006).  Although Cameron’s AVATAR can be viewed and reviewed as a movie which bashes American-style capitalism and militarism, I personally see it as the first Green Movie for the Masses.  It’s too bad that AVATAR was not released last December, when the Copenhagen climate summit was in progress.  With Cameron’s permission, President Obama might have distributed DVD copies of the movie to the delegates, and the summit might have produced different results.  But, it’s not too late.  As is their wont, the Chinese will pirate and distribute illegal DVD copies of this movie to all of Asia, and maybe the yellow masses will be moved to do something about climate change where our world leaders have failed. Although the protagonists in AVATAR look blue, I cannot help but think that if you mix BLUE and YELLOW, you’ll get GREEN.  Thanks to THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO AVATAR, we are finally getting a true marriage between ART and PROPAGANDA.

4 January 2010: Harder! Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

At my age, encounters with frisky strangers occur rather rarely, so my New Year’s resolution is to fly as frequently as I can, in order to enjoy free full-body rubdowns and massages in the expert hands of airport security people. 

Here’s some dialogue out of a new Quentin Tarantino remake of an old Russ Meyer movie:   “Lower, please.  That’s it.  Don’t be shy, now.  Harder!  Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!  Oooops. Sorry about that.  You can keep the soiled underwear if you like.  Hey, what’s with the handcuffs?  I’m not into that kinky stuff!  No, please.  Not the baseball bat!  I’m a tight end, not a wide receiver!”

31 December 2009: What’s Inside Your Orifice?

Full-body scanners are designed to penetrate the clothes we’re wearing and, for the common good and safety of the flying public, will show unlucky airport security workers gross images of our overfed bodies in all our naked glory.  But, according to The New York Times, as wonderful as these scanners are, they cannot reveal things which have been tucked between the enormous rolls of fat on the bodies of really obese people, nor can these scanners “see” what has been shoved into the orifices of our bodies.  God help us.  What’s to keep a terrorist from stashing everything he needs up his heinous anus (or her versatile vagina) and then, once in mid-flight, to scratch themselves inappropriately and blow everyone to smithereens? Also, what if someone’s traveling with a pretty pooch who starts to poop sticks of dynamite, or a felonious feline whose purrs begin to sound like a ticking time bomb? Full-body scanners won’t do the job, but full-body x-rays will.  And that’s why everyone needs affordable health-care, even your pets, because full-body x-rays at airports are bound to be expensive, and insurance companies won’t pay for them, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions like…FEAR OF FLYING.

16 December 2009: Ben Who?

At a time when newspaper and magazine readers seem to be abandoning print for sexier electronic media, one might expect Time magazine to select someone more bankable for its much-anticipated 2009 Person of the Year cover story—Sarah Palin? Tiger Woods? The Gate Crashers at the White House?  Heck, maybe even the Balloon Boy.  But no.  The honor goes to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.  My guess is, most Americans will say “Ben Who?” and reach for The National Inquirer at the grocery store checkout counter.  But wait.  Maybe the publisher of Time had a secret deal with everyone on Wall Street to buy a thousand copies of the magazine with their hefty Christmas bonuses, to roll up and use as Yuletide logs in their cozy multi-million dollar homes, as the rest of us continue to shiver and slobber in ours while poring over unsatisfying centerfolds of Carrie Prejean or Levi Johnston.  I guess only Time will tell.

13 December 2009: Four Hours to Orgasm!

Just when we’ve all become accustomed to hearing about “erections lasting more than four hours” thanks to Viagra, comes word that there is a new drug in the market which cures premature ejaculation in men.  According to The New York Times, Johnson & Johnson “has developed Priligy, a pill aimed at men who ejaculate before copulating or within seconds of beginning…by helping to prolong latency time before orgasm.”  It’s not being marketed yet in the United States, but when it is, I’m sure it’ll come with the usual warnings about side effects, most likely about tireless penises that take more than four hours to orgasm.  Women should be extra careful that their men don’t take Viagra in conjunction with Priligy, or they will all turn into chafing dishes overnight.

11 December 2009: Tiger Burning…

William Blake (1757-1827) said it all in his poem—a song not of innocence, but of experience.  A true visionary, Blake knew about our man, over two hundred years ago, and that this is the way many among us now wish to remember “The Tiger.” 

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil?  What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?