Thursday, December 28, 2006

Farewell to Funk

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Ask any baby boomer about the day that President Kennedy was assassinated and they will have a story for you including details like where they were, how they found out, who they were with, and their personal reactions. Regretfully, I cannot share a personal account of that fateful day in 1963, however on December 25, 2006, our country suffered the loss of another American hero and the day’s events will remain vibrant in my memory.

The day that James Brown died I was in Grandma Noreen’s front room in Clio, Michigan. I was drinking eggnog that tasted like bourbon and watching the news while everyone else was getting gussied-up for mass. It was Christmas. Word of Brown’s passing came from some effervescent, over-enthusiastic newscaster/small-town celebrity, Angie Something-or-other. Her self-tanned smirks and sorority girl hair-flips left me unsure of whether she truly is a friendly do-gooder and local philanthropist or just a self-indulged socialite with the hots for the camera guy. We wouldn’t have been friends in high school. She was definitely a cheerleader.

Angie delivered the news of James Brown’s death in the same way that she delivers the traffic report and updates in Iraq – as if all of her viewers require closed captioning and are naughty, silly incapable toddlers. I imagine she says words like naughty and silly and wrinkles her nose and giggles wildly about how naughty and silly she sounds. She spoke slowly with over-exaggerated expression as a concerned parent would, “The. God. Fah. Ther. Of. Soul. James! Brown! Passed. A. way. Early. This. Morn……..” Her vowel practice trailed off as I focused on the theatrics of her pout.

My mother entered the room, ready for mass, in leather pants.
“James Brown died today,” I said solemnly and vacantly. “I can’t believe it.”

“Why not, honey?”

“He was only 73. It wasn’t his time.”

“He probably wasn’t good to his body… ate a lot of trans fats and fried food.”
This was her immediate rebuttal, said matter-of-factly as if I should have considered this already.

For the remainder of the day, I mourned the Godfather’s passing by means of several bizarre rituals, which - in retrospect - leave quite a cause for concern. Initially, I became extremely saddened and drank considerable amounts of bourbon-flavored nog. I thought of James… of his sweaty showmanship, his fancy footwork, his amazingly bouffant hairstyle, his horrifying celebrity mug shot, that song on the radio in the early 90’s that said repeatedly, “James Brown Is Dead.” Were they prophetic? Perhaps they shared my mother’s dietary sense and noticed JB’s intake of southern cooking.

LA Style - James Brown Is Dead

One more legend down. For a moment I felt a wave of thankfulness and relief that it wasn’t Willie’s time yet. Then I scolded myself for comparing the value of two legendary lives based on my personal preferences. The word ‘legend’ immediately triggers memories of an old Nintendo game. I start to imagine Willie in Zelda’s little green peter pan getup, and I laugh. I sing Sex Machine and I Got You in the bathroom mirror, instructing my reflection to “Get Up! Get On Up!” Then I spend the remainder of the evening pondering trans fat intake, both my own and Willie’s.

I heard on the news this morning that The Reverend Al Sharpton plans to parade James Brown’s body through the streets of Harlem in a horse-drawn carriage. I guess they’ve got one last show at New York’s Apollo Theater. It seems as though even the godfather of soul can’t stay on the scene like a sex machine forever.

I would like to think that James Brown’s last words would be some soulful universal message to us all.
People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul!

“The hardest thing about being James Brown is I have to live. I don't
have no down time.”
- James Brown

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
James Brown 1933-2006
Rest In Peace

A Mad Tea-Party

The holiday season doesn’t have to allude to fruitcakes, ugly sweaters and stuffy parties. This was exemplified at the Screamer Design Holiday party. An eclectic sampling of Austin’s creative minds – both young and old – stopped by the Screamer studio to join in the reindeer games.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Festivities included live music from It Was Divine Justice and Empty Phantom as well as the opportunity to work on a collaborative painting. It was also the launch of the Screamer design team’s black and white zine project. The prototype issue, "Zero" features submissions from local artists, writers and creative minds based on their personal interpretations of ‘zero.’

A large canvas hanging outside the studio was blank when I arrived. Paints of every color and brushes of every size stared up anxiously at the blank space, begging to be used. Initially, partygoers stood at a distance and studied the white space cautiously, as if it were a strange species of some undiscovered form of revelry. Some seemed frightened by the immensity of the blankness and the possibility of chaos and creation that may be induced. This didn’t last long. Once the first drop of color braved the canvas, the creating began. For several hours, artists, hipsters, friends and family exercised their right to slap some paint around. As the party dwindled and the crowds parted, what we found was this collaborative Lovechild:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
(Much larger in real life. Massive, actually.)

The muchness of this painting may be best described by a quote from the narcoleptic Dormouse in Alice’s rabbit-hole adventures…
“They drew all manner of things – everything that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness – you know you say things are ‘much of a muchness’ – did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness!”

Keep your ears to the ground for the next Screamer shindig, and your eyes peeled for the next edition of the Screamer zine, “One.”

Let’s Make Like a Rock and Roll

A few weekends ago, Mason and I decided to cure our dance fever at South Congress’s rockabilly hotspot, the Continental Club. The CC is notorious for its bad-boy, burlesque background, and it still oozes with the American hot rod vintage culture of the late 50s and early 60s. As soon as you step foot inside the door, you enter an otherwise forgotten world of boogie-woogie rock n’ roll – which is endearing, considering that the music and culture of rockabilly has somewhat defied the odds in its American progression. For the most part, it has managed to escape big-business homogenization and stay true to itself.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We started off swingin’ to the high energy/heavy twist beat of Austin’s The Jungle Rockers. The slap bass and fast picking of these greased-up slicked-back rockers set fire to our dancing feet. Pompadours were bopping around the dance floor – a whole lotta shakin going on.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The Weary Boys were next to take the stage, and seemed to draw a sizable crowd of loyal fans. The crazy-haired fella is fiddler phenom Brian Salvi. My goofy friend Greg looks strikingly similar to Salvi, but lacks the crazy nest-head hair and bluegrass twang. I wonder if Brian also talks like Huckleberry Hound and shares Greg's fascination with old school Twin Peaks episodes. My mind wanders…..
Check out The Weary Boys on myspace to sample some tracks from their new album Jumplin’ Jolie.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Be Aware

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The history of AIDS awareness is endemic with errors and falsehoods. The frightening ignorance of leading politicians by neglecting to openly discuss or acknowledge the disease reared blatant labeling and unfounded stigma. Our world has continuously failed to get it right.

Conservatives and Evangelists such as Rev. Graham forever chastised gay men by exclaiming that this disease was a result of sin. Declarations that “we reap it in our flesh when we disobey our God” were delivered to audiences with widely-assumed truth. Originally, medical experts in America developed the misnomer GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency disease), giving the virus an inaccurate title and the homosexual community an elusive stigma.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

When medical experts announced in 1983 that the blood supply was contaminated with traces of the virus, the blood banks refused to notify the public of the severity of the risk and refused to recall the tainted blood supply. Lack of proof and scientific evidence were cited as reasons for the contamination cover-up.

When researchers requested additional government funding, they were denied. Reagan’s U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the lovely Margaret Heckler, shot back with a response that was both wildly unfounded and dangerously inaccurate. In 1984, Heckler announced that the cause of AIDS had been discovered, and promised that a vaccine would be ready for testing within the next two years…

…Two years later it’s 1985. Nearly 40,000 AIDS cases have been reported in the U.S. alone. Over 16,000 have fallen victim to the disease, and to the callous discrimination. We are no closer to finding a vaccine.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Designer Keith Haring

In 2000, governing bodies declared a promise to immobilize AIDS by 2015. According to the World AIDS Campaign:
New reports by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that, as of 2006, the epidemic continues to spread in every region of the world. By now more than 65 million people have been infected with HIV and well over 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, 2.9 million in 2006 alone.

Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.
World AIDS Day 2006