Sunday, December 31, 2006
Here are the CliffsNotes for 2006 (to enjoy the unabridged version — including spirited responses, ad critiques, cultural news and more — simply review the past year of MultiCultClassics):
The Sony Playstation Portables graffiti-style ad campaign was banned in cities like Philadelphia, and dissed nationwide. Wal-Mart customers seeking online purchases of Planet Of The Apes and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory were directed to also consider films with Black themes. The Vidal Partnership, Dieste Harmel & Partners and Bromley Communications were listed in Advertising Age’s Agency Of The Year report, with Vidal earning a five-star rating. Burrell Communications was crowned Advertising Age’s Multicultural Agency Of The Year. Marketing y Medios anointed Grupo Gallegos as Advertising Agency of the Year, acknowledging the shop increased its billings 91 percent, won 8 out of 9 new business pitches and nabbed awards including The New York Festival’s Gold, a Silver Pencil at D&AD and a Silver Lion at Cannes. The American Advertising Federation released the AAF Survey on Recruiting and Multicultural Advertising Trends, essentially revealing the industry is clueless about recruiting and multicultural advertising trends. New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, led by Patricia Gatling with NYC Councilman Larry Seabrook, announced intentions to subpoena ad industry honchos over minority hiring practices. Advertising Age’s Multicultural Agency Of The Year Burrell Communications dumped head creative Steve Conner, replacing him with Leo Burnett veteran Lewis Williams. adidas angered Asians with a limited-edition shoe displaying a character sporting buck teeth, slanted eyes and other cartoonish features deemed racist. At an industry conference, True Agency CEO Richard Wayner declared, “The ad industry is essentially a segregated industry in terms of how people work and think. … It is sanctioned segregation and supported by clients.” A media executive at McCann-Erickson filed an age discrimination lawsuit that charged, “The ultimate goal of McCann-Erickson was to replace its older workers with younger employees, based not on performance, but on McCann-Erickson’s discriminatory desire to create a more youthful image, which McCann-Erickson felt it could achieve by ridding itself of its older employees and replacing [them] with younger employees.” Senator John Kerry called for an investigation of the federal government’s record with a policy (signed into law in October 2000) designed to boost minority advertising contracting opportunities. The American Association of Advertising Agencies hired a lobbyist to handle the diversity hearings proposed by New York City’s Commission on Human Rights. The national federation of Columbian coffee producers hired a new actor to portray Juan Valdez. New York City’s Commission on Human Rights scheduled hearings on the ad industry’s diversity dilemmas to occur during Advertising Week. Black Enterprise President-CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr. proclaimed, “This is one of the most racist industries in this country. Period. I’m angry about it. Agencies are licensed to practice racism, not just in hiring but also in investing in [multicultural] media.” Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Renetta McCann said, “Curiously, while we operate in an industry that prides itself on participating in the cultural zeitgeist, if you will, we are not an industry that is tremendously comfortable with differences. … In my 28 years, I’ve had about five substantial conversations on the issue of racial diversity in advertising. That’s about one every five years.” Jay-Z ordered a boycott of Cristal champagne after Louis Roedere’s managing partner Frederic Rouzaud made comments the rap mogul deemed racist. Two U.S. Hispanic shops won Cannes Lions: Grupo Gallegos nabbed a Bronze Lion for its Energizer spot, while La Comunidad won a Cyber Lion for its Virgin Mobile internet campaign. Don Richards, Senior Vice President of Agency Diversity Programs at the 4As, displayed disturbing cluelessness during a New York Public Radio interview with True Agency CEO Richard Wayner and Advertising Age reporter Lisa Sanders. Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield felt an Oreo cookie campaign — starring American Idol’s Randy Jackson — displayed insensitivity because, well, a Black man and the term Oreo should never appear together in a commercial. The minority population at PepsiCo received a major lift as Indra Nooyi was named CEO, making her the company’s first female CEO and the first woman of color to take the role. Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield offended folks by writing, “Vegas is overbuilt at the moment and facing stiff competition from the Indian tribes our forebears somehow forgot to slaughter.” Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI) oversaw a September session entitled, “Truth in Advertising: How You are Affected by the Practices of Ad Agencies and Their Clients.” Self-proclaimed futurist guru Marian Salzman published a ridiculous Adweek perspective on youth and urban culture — and Salzman’s Web site claims she “identified such trends as wiggers.” Advertising Age wrote, “Several ad agencies under scrutiny for their lackluster diversity-hiring practices have pledged to ramp up their minority recruiting, signing agreements designed to forestall potentially embarrassing public hearings planned for later this month [during Advertising Week].” Anheuser-Busch yanked its Bud Light campaign starring Steve and Zagar after Native American groups argued Zagar, who resembled a Yanomamo tribesman, was offensive. Adweek wrote, “Omnicom Group has agreed to pay $2.5 million over five years to promote diversity at advertising agencies and establish a marketing program at Medgar Evers College, according to New York City Council member Larry Seabrook.” On the same subject, Advertising Age quoted Seabrook as saying, “We went to Omnicom and we kicked ass. … But they came to the table. Omnicom put their money where their mouth is.” Advertising Age also wrote, “Ninety-three percent of respondents to Ad Age’s poll about the new diversity hiring agreement signed by 11 ad agencies with the New York Commission on Human Rights say the agreements will not bridge Madison Avenue’s diversity divide. Only 7% of respondents thought it was a solution or at least a beginning.” Advertising Age pissed off folks by writing New York City’s Commission on Human Rights is “asking the industry to lower its standards” with the demands for diversity. A car dealership in Ohio sparked controversy for wanting to run a radio ad proclaiming “a jihad on the automotive market.” The 4As hired PR firm GolinHarris to help the industry cope with bad press. Radio talk-show host and activist Sanford Moore was recognized for his tireless efforts in bringing attention to the ad industry’s diversity issues — plus, he appeared at a public hearing and made references to economic colonialism and slavery. Advertising Age wrote, “New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook blasted ad agencies who failed to show [in September] for a public hearing on minority-owned media, saying they ‘ran like chickens with their asses plucked clean,’ and suggested a subpoena might compel them to do so in the future.” 4As President-CEO O. Burtch Drake presented a full page of propaganda in Advertising Age, arguing the industry is deeply concerned about its hiring practices. Advertising Age blogger Marc Brownstein offered a naïve and ignorant take on the industry’s exclusivity; however, he vowed to establish change at his Philadelphia-based agency. MultiCultClassics identified Marc Brownstein as the latest culturally clueless character (like Rastus, Aunt Jemima and the Frito Bandito) to come out of Madison Avenue. Bob Garfield critiqued The Flavor of Love by writing, “This would be the VH1 ‘reality’ show starring rapper Flavor Flav — the clownish, alarm-clock-necklace guy from Public Enemy — sorting through various sluts and hos in search of a mate. … Just when you thought [Black] culture couldn’t be degraded and exploited any more comes this, the mutha lode. At least Stepin Fetchit blazed a trail for black film actors. All Flavor Flav is blazing a trail for is Viacom’s trip to the bank.” Anheuser-Busch hired Jay-Z as Co-Brand Director for Budweiser Select. Chevy launched a campaign for its Silverado trucks with John Mellencamp singing, “This Is Our Country” — even though the 60-second spot showcased zero Latinos, Asians or Native Americans. Media conglomerate VNU, noting the incredible increase of Latino consumers, made the peculiar decision to dump Marketing y Medios, the trade publication dedicated to Latino marketing. Dona De Sanctis, deputy executive director of the Order Sons of Italy in America, wrote an Adweek editorial blasting the ad industry and media for perpetuating Italian-American stereotypes. The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined the ad industry diversity drama, plotting to hold workshops and hearings. Groundbreaking Chairman-CEO Ann Fudge “retired” from Young & Rubicam after only three years on the job. When MultiCultClassics debuted in 2005, the inaugural essay mentioned Fudge’s surprise over the “dearth of diversity” she discovered at Y&R. Oh, how times have changed. Happy New Year.
[Click on the essay title above to reread MultiCultClassics Essay One.]
Poll dancing in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• AOL presented AP poll results showing Americans are optimistic about 2007, with 72 percent of folks feeling good about prospects for the nation and 89 percent believing positive things will happen for themselves and their families. The New York Times presented AP poll results showing Americans are pessimistic, with 60 percent predicting a new terrorist attack and 70 percent anticipating global warming problems leading to another natural disaster. Looks like bipolar pollsters will continue to increase in 2007.
• AP poll results showed more illegal immigrants are seeking the assistance of smugglers to help them cross the border. About 50 percent of folks surveyed admitted using smuggler services in 2005, versus 1 in 3 in 2004 and 1 in 6 in 2000. The Border Patrol’s enhanced efforts have led to increased smuggler activity, as immigrants demand better traveling tactics. “[A more aggressive Border Patrol] has turned a modestly lucrative business into a fantastically profitable industry,” said an immigration expert at the University of California, San Diego. AP poll results will probably show smugglers are optimistic about 2007.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
[The headline for this concept was inspired by advertising icon Jerry Della Femina’s book, “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor.” The title allegedly refers to a gag slogan proposed for the Sony client during a brainstorm meeting. Even back in 1971, ad executives were bashing Asians. Imagine that.]
An unforgiving MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Miss Nevada USA Katie Rees is not getting her title back, insist pageant officials (see Essay 1470). The decision was prompted when photos of Rees exposing herself and kissing other women appeared online (see above). Donald Trump indicated he would look into the matter, leading to speculation that he might grant a pardon ala his decision to forgive Miss USA Tara Conner. Based on the pics, Rosie O’Donnell might throw her support to Rees.
• The American Journal of Public Health released a study showing too many kids are fat by preschool, and Hispanic children are at higher risk. Focusing on three-year-olds in low-income families, the figures indicated 32 percent of White and Black kids were overweight, versus 44 percent of Hispanics. Researchers were unable to determine causes for the differences. No comments yet from Donald Trump or Rosie O’Donnell.
• Not to be outdone by the Los Angeles Fire Department, four Los Angeles Police Department officers charged they were victims of racial discrimination. The cops — two Blacks and two Latinos — filed a lawsuit claiming the city failed to adequately investigate their complaints over being excluded from a special unit. Hell, city officials were probably too busy dealing with LAFD screw-ups.
• A dangerous hip-hop dance is growing in popularity, despite already causing two deaths. “Ghost riding the whip” involves having a driver get out of his car and dance around and on the slow-moving vehicle. “It did not take Einstein to look at this thing and say this was a recipe for disaster,” said a California police spokesman. No word yet from DJ Einstein, but performing the stunt could turn you into a ghost.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Friday Night Fights in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump continue to battle, with O’Donnell posting the following on her blog:
“a young girl in nyc
meets a pimp
he cons her into a life of illusion
she works for him
no fun - no fucking - no future
she is owned
when she sneaks out -
to party the night away
he roughs her up a bit
shames her in front of the others
teaches her to behave
for his own benefit”
Trump fired back with the following gems:
“Well, it’s too bad. … I think she’s got something wrong with her. I think she’s cracking up. … Rosie is basically a very untalented person who’s a bully. Her intelligence is less than average in my opinion. … Can you imagine the parents of Kelli [O’Donnell’s partner] … when she said, ‘Mom, Dad, I just fell in love with a big, fat pig named Rosie’? Can you imagine the expression on their face? … She calls me a pimp just because I helped someone who was in trouble. … Rosie got mentally beaten up by me because she’s a mental midget, a low-life. I think she’s got a death wish.”
Wow, Trump is starting to sound like the worst kind of pimp. And the “death wish” comment borders on a legitimate threat.
Has anyone else thought that the next version of “The Apprentice” should pit pimps against prostitutes?
Both of these fools appear to be taking advice from Michael Richards and Mel Gibson.
Behaving badly in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• A Bronx woman was whipped into a frenzy over whipped cream at Dunkin’ Donuts. A worker (depicted above) allegedly failed to add whipped cream to the patron’s hot chocolate. So the angry woman threw the scalding drink in his face, scratched him and beat him over the head with a door she tore off a refrigerator. America Runs On Dunkin’ — and psychotic rage.
• Now the cop who arrested Mel Gibson — and received the actor-director’s anti-Semitic rant — charges he’s been harassed by his police department superiors. The officer has allegedly been transferred to a different assignment and subjected to a lengthy interrogation; plus, investigators searched his home, seizing his personal computer and phone records (FYI, folks are trying to determine how details of the bust were leaked to a Web site for celebrity news and gossip). “His life and career would be a lot different had he not made that arrest,” said the cop’s lawyer. The harassment will really get ugly if Gibson offers the cop free tickets to Apocalypto.
• Donald Trump continued to fire away at Rosie O’Donnell. During a phone interview, Trump declared, “Rosie’s a loser. She’s been a loser always. … Her show failed, her magazine failed. Barbara Walters gave her new life, but she’ll fail at that also because she’s inherently a stone-cold loser.” When asked if the feud might end, Trump announced, “It will never end on my behalf because I’ve exposed Rosie for what she is: a very dumb human being. … She’s got no intelligence, but I’ve known that for a long time. Unfortunately, Rosie’s pulled the wool over the public.” Well, at least two folks remain untouched by the holiday spirit.
• Mike Tyson was busted for driving under the influence and possession of cocaine. Strangely enough, the man who served prison time for rape, allegedly beat his ex-wife and bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear during a boxing match did not cause a scene during his latest arrest. So maybe one person was touched by the holiday spirit.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Banned news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The King does not rule in the U.K. The British have a ban on kids’ advertising that could wind up costing Burger King $196 million. The fast feeder’s head of northwest Europe said, “… advertising is a key part of our drive to get kids and families into our restaurants. It will have a major impact on our top line.” Hey, you can’t always have it your way.
• Universal Studios Theme Parks have banned trans fats from the food served to visitors. No plans yet to force Shrek to diet. Wonder if Universal Studios has the guts to ban trans fats from product placement shots in its TV programs and movies.
• The chief executives of Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motor Company allegedly held a powwow last week, although the issues discussed remain unknown. “We meet regularly with other automakers on a variety of topics of mutual interest,” said a Ford spokesman. “We don’t discuss the content of these meetings.” Bill Ford probably just wanted to know if he could get a deal on a new Corolla.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Why Kwanzaa should matter to everyone
BY LESLIE BALDACCI Staff Reporter
A mere 1.6 percent of Americans observe it, and it’s been criticized as separatist and contrived, but Kwanzaa may be the perfect holiday for all Americans to rally around. So “Habari Gani!” Today is the third day of Kwanzaa.
If you just took a second glance at my picture and decided “she’s playing,” I assure you I am not. Maulana Karenga, the college professor who founded Kwanzaa 40 years ago to encourage black Americans to reconnect with their African heritage, says all are welcome at the table. And why not? Africa, scientists say, is the motherland of us all.
Christmas and Hanukkah are more than 2,000 years old. Kwanzaa was born of the civil rights movement, when America was forced to make good on the promises of the Constitution.
The Fourth of July is our big flag waver. But on that holiday, the questions rarely go beyond “Got a cold one?” and “That meat about done?” Fireworks are fun, but after the big finale, everyone packs up and goes home.
The seven principles of Kwanzaa already thread through the national dialogue. Viewed in an American context, they provide the focus for a relevant and reflective national celebration. If all Americans practiced the seven principles of Kwanzaa, our nation would be stronger for it.
The seven principles
Habari Gani means “What’s the News?” in Swahili. The question is answered by one of the seven principles each day. Here’s why they matter to every citizen:
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. Americans struggle to balance ethnic pride and diversity. We need to work harder at it. Unity at home and throughout the land seems more elusive than ever in the information and technology age. Family feuds pass for entertainment on TV, bitter insults pass as political discourse. We struggle with immigration reform, affirmative action, educational inequity. Why does it take an event like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina to bring us together?
Kujichagulia (Self-determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. Another way to say “First Amendment.”
Ujima (Collective work and responsibility): The expectation is that everyone contributes and everyone has an opportunity for a job. We saw this play out in Illinois’ minimum wage referendum and Chicago’s “big box” debate. The nation is diminished because we have failed to deal responsibly with universal health care and school funding.
Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain business enterprises and profit from them together. This principle is the “Made in America” tag. It’s supporting neighborhood businesses. It’s choosing which salesperson gets your commission for a big purchase like a major appliance or car.
Nia (Purpose): Building and developing our community. Call it gentrification, call it tax increment financing, call it a block club or community association or parish or school spirit.
Kuumba (Creativity): To leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Responsible citizens keep the grass cut, sidewalk shoveled, pick up litter, curb the dog, volunteer, plant community gardens and trees.
Imani (Faith): To believe in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. This is patriotism.
Kwanzaa, like Christmas, involves gifts for children. But two gifts are mandatory: a book and a heritage symbol. What child in the land would not do better with those two gifts? With only those two gifts?
In the coming days, we will learn whether Barack Obama will run for president, a possible candidacy spun off the strength of his call for unity. If that sentiment is what people are hungry to hear, then surely the principles of Kwanzaa have a wider audience.
“Any particular message that is good for a particular people, if it is human in its content and ethical in its grounding, speaks not just to that people, it speaks to the world,” says The Official Kwanzaa Web Site. “The message of Kwanzaa has a universal message for all people of good will. It is rooted in African culture, and we speak as Africans must speak, not just to ourselves, but to the world.”
Whether you wrap yourself in Kente cloth or the American flag, the principles of Kwanzaa give us a lot to think about as countrymen.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
In March 2005, DiversityInc.com criticized Advertising Age and Adweek for doing a lousy job of presenting diverse editorial and imagery. MultiCultClassics reported on it way back in Essay Fourteen, and even offered suggestions in Essay Seventeen.
This recollection surfaced after perusing the competitors’ 2006 review issues (depicted above).
As recently detailed in Essay 1452 and Essay 1457, Advertising Age ranked the industry’s diversity problems as the second biggest story of the year, right behind the fiasco involving DraftFCB and Wal-Mart. Additionally, New York City Commission on Human Rights leader Patricia Gatling and Jay-Z were named among “10 Who Made Their Mark” in the business. Over the past year, Advertising Age has often been clumsy and clueless; however, their willingness to engage cultural topics deserves a certain degree of respect.
On the other hand, Adweek appears completely oblivious to anything non-White. Their year-in-review coverage made no mention of the diversity problems. Nada. Zero. Zilch. The closest Adweek gets to Black culture involves a cameo by Ali G. And despite the exploding Latino market that brought dramatic growth to multicultural agencies, the trade magazine only saw fit to briefly highlight ABC series Ugly Betty — but just in Barbara Lippert’s inane essay on the alleged shifts in beauty standards. Of course, Adweek also failed to note parent company VNU’s decision to dissolve Marketing y Medios.
Instead, Adweek unloaded major advertisers’ media spending, a painfully obvious “The Top 10 Ideas Of 2006” countdown, a dreadfully dull interview with IPG CEO Michael Roth, outdated viewpoints by prehistoric writers, corny Q&As and the obligatory “What’s In, What’s Out” chart.
Somebody please start 2007 already.
[Click on the essay title above to review Essay Seventeen.]
Breaking news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Forget racial tensions and gang affiliations as motivators for prison riots. A Nebraska jailhouse ruckus broke out because an inmate broke wind. Another convict took offense to the odor, leading to fisticuffs. The sheriff also pointed to overcrowding as a cause. “You just can’t get a reprieve from one another,” said the sheriff. “When you’ve got a guy causing problems passing gas, there’s no way to get away from the smell.” Talk about cruel and unusual punishment.
• USA TODAY reported one-third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or nearly so. Parents appear to be leading the issue, as two-thirds of adults are overweight. The situation is among the “most critical public health issues,” said the chairman of a report committee from the Institute of Medicine. “There is no one segment of society that’s going to solve this alone. It has to be a concerted, coordinated effort. That’s one of the things that’s missing now.” If you want to rally folks together, offer to hold the meeting at Mickey D’s.
From The Chicago Tribune…
Godfather of soul, and of our goal
By Clarence Page
WASHINGTON -- Can James Brown really be gone? Are we sure? After all, no one could stage a false exit better than the Godfather of Soul.
He’d be singing “Please, Please, Please” down on one knee at the foot of the stage, his face gleaming with sweat, his pompadour gleaming with pomade, after two hours of sweet pulse-pounding soul stirrings. Then his dapper assistant would appear and drape a bright satin cape over Brown’s shoulders and Soul Brother No. 1 would slowly stand up and turn around slowly and step rhythmically offstage as the band and backup singers, moaned “Please, please don’t go-oh-oh … “ and … the … crowd … would … go … wild!
And Brown would stop, shake off the cape, which the dapper aide would catch in the nick of time, and dance back to center stage for an encore! And another! And another!
It was pure cornball show biz, but we, the James Brown Baby Boomers, loved it because Brown did it with so much, ah, yes, soul!
In fact, he defined “soul” in the 1960s and forevermore as much as Sam Cooke or Aretha Franklin or Ray Charles or the Supremes or Jackie Wilson or Marvin Gaye or anybody else in the rhythm-and-blues pantheon. His 1962 “Live at the Apollo” hit album set the mood for countless “blue-light” parties in our parents’ basements. His eye-defying, quick-shuffling, rubber-legged dance moves were widely imitated but never quite duplicated. Others like Joe Tex or Jackie Wilson or Al Green might be able to drop the mike, spin around, drop into a split and catch the mike before it hit the stage floor, but never with the same level of style, flair and all-out screaming passion as Brown.
Ever wonder where Rev. Al Sharpton found his exotic hairstyles? Blame Brown.
J.B. befriended Sharpton, then a prodigious teen preacher and youth leader who became Brown’s road manager in the 1970s. When Sharpton married show business and civil rights activism, he learned from the master.
Ever wonder why Mick Jagger started dancing like a madman on stage? Blame Brown.
As a singer, Jagger was a remarkably calm-looking chap until the Rolling Stones were booked to follow Brown in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1965. As “The T.A.M.I. Show” (Teen-Age Music International) video documentary reveals, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” whipped those California kids into such a frenzy that a nervous young Jagger decided to explode onto the stage with an improvised chicken walk dance that soon became his trademark. Jagger has hardly stopped moving onstage since.
And after surviving the Motown wave and the British invasion, Brown proceeded not only to “go political,” as many performers did in the 1960s, but write the anthem for a new sociopolitical consciousness: “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” No one drove the nail into the coffins of “colored” and “Negro” as acceptable labels as much as Brown’s song did.
Yet, as music and message, I prefer the less known anthem with a mouthful of a title that says it all: “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get It Myself).”
Musically, the song’s compelling beat displays to full effect Brown’s distinctive emphasis on “the ones” (the one and the three, instead of the two and the four) in his rhythms. Its message offers an important response to the many people who were asking in the midst of urban riots and a rising black power movement in the late 1960s, “What do black people want?”
If Brown’s answer is what it sounds like in his songs, “We want equal opportunity, not guaranteed results,” it should come as no surprise that he endorsed Richard M. Nixon in 1972 for president. After all, it was Nixon, not John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson, who actually signed the first affirmative action executive order into law.
Looking back, it is easier to appreciate the message Brown was trying to give. “Black power” rose in 1966 in the wake of the civil rights movement as a slogan in desperate search of a program. Brown, a 7th-grade dropout, suddenly became the least academic but most influential voice to give a little intellectual meat to the new movement.
As an impressionable student, I was changed forever by Brown’s recounting in an interview in the late 1960s about his own struggles against childhood poverty. “I used to shine shoes on the front steps of an Augusta, Ga., radio station,” he said. “Now I own that radio station.” So could we all, he was telling our generation, if we took full advantage of the doors that were opening to us.
Unfortunately, Brown took great advantage of those open doors only to lead a life of maddening swings between wealth and ruin, artistic genius and spouse abuse, amazing fitness and drug abuse. Yet he kept coming back for encores and honors. The curtain has come down on his turbulent life. This time his exit is for real. But we still have his music, his memories and his messages, still taking encores for many years to come.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Playing around with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• USA TODAY reported on the small but growing market for religious board games and toys. From Kosherland — a Jewish spin on Candy Land — to Biblical action figures, there seems to be a niche demand for more wholesome entertainment. But don’t expect to find the Mel Gibson “Passion of the Christ-opoly” or Michael Richards “Kramer Kwanzaa Kit” in toy stores soon.
• The gay wedding industry is another market increasing in popularity nationwide. Despite legislation banning same-sex marriage, couples are going all out to celebrate their unions. “For the longest time, there was so much shame and privacy around it that people didn’t really give themselves permission to have ceremonies like this,” said an Arlington-based wedding consultant. “(Now) the market is growing as the headlines remain out there.” Somebody in Hollywood ought to produce a gay spin-off of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
• An anti-bias campaign in Virginia is stirring controversy and fear. The work is intended to provoke thinking about anti-Muslim feelings, featuring posters and bus cards with messages in Arabic script. The actual translations are ordinary phrases and children’s rhymes accompanied by statements like, “Misunderstanding can make anything scary” and “What did you think it said?” Concerned and confused citizens have complained and even called the police to investigate. “It’s so great that we’re getting feedback, even if it is negative, because it shows that people are looking, they’re thinking,” said the executive director of A More Perfect Union, a project of the Virginia Interfaith Center. “And it really proves the point that this script right here conjures up certain ideas in our heads that we have to work with.” Somebody get Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr.’s opinion on this pronto.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Warning on Muslim gets it all wrong
It’s hard to decide where to start when criticizing Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.), who thinks Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, poses a serious threat to American values. His complaint is short on the facts and short on logic, not to mention being short on tolerance. And it’s disrespectful to the voters who elected Ellison.
Goode sent a letter to voters citing the election of Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and a Muslim, as a warning that Americans need to crack down on immigration or there would likely be “many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the [Quran].”
First of all, Ellison isn’t an immigrant. He’s an African-American convert to Islam who can trace his American roots back to 1742.
And Ellison wants to use the Quran in a private swearing-in ceremony -- after the official event, which requires no religious text. Such constitutional niceties don’t register with Goode, who objects to Ellison’s decision to not use the Bible. But doesn’t it make more sense for Ellison to swear on the book that he regards as the most relevant and holds with the most reverence? Not to Goode.
Goode should learn a lesson from Ellison. “I want to let him know that there’s nothing to fear,” Ellison told the New York Times. “The fact that there are many different faiths, many different colors and many different cultures in America is a great strength.”
From The New York Times…
Nanny Hunt Can Be a ‘Slap in the Face’ for Blacks
By JODI KANTOR
Last month, Jennifer Freeman sat in a Chicago coffee bar, counting her blessings and considering her problem. She had a husband with an M.B.A. degree, two children and a job offer that would let her dig out the education degree she had stashed away during years of playdates and potty training.
But she could not accept the job. After weeks of searching, Ms. Freeman, who is African-American, still could not find a nanny for her son, 5, and daughter, 3. Agency after agency told her they had no one to send to her South Side home.
As more blacks move up the economic ladder, one fixture — some would say necessity — of the upper-middle-class income bracket often eludes them. Like hailing a cab in Midtown Manhattan, searching for a nanny can be an exasperating, humiliating exercise for many blacks, the kind of ordeal that makes them wonder aloud what year it is.
“We’ve attained whatever level society says is successful, we’re included at work, but when we need the support for our children and we can afford it, why do we get treated this way?” asked Tanisha Jackson, an African-American mother of three in a Washington suburb, who searched on and off for five years before hiring a nanny. “It’s a slap in the face.”
Numerous black parents successfully employ nannies, and many sitters say they pay no regard to race. But interviews with dozens of nannies and agencies that employ them in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Houston turned up many nannies — often of African-American or Caribbean descent themselves — who avoid working for families of those backgrounds. Their reasons included accusations of low pay and extra work, fears that employers would look down at them, and suspicion that any neighborhood inhabited by blacks had to be unsafe.
The result is that many black parents do not have the same child care options as their colleagues and neighbors. They must settle for illegal immigrants or non-English speakers instead of more experienced or credentialed nannies, rely on day care or scale back their professional aspirations to spend more time at home.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
Monday, December 25, 2006
From The Associated Press…
Is Santa an illegal immigrant?
HAZLETON, Pa. -- A satirical new Web site pokes fun at Mayor Lou Barletta by claiming he has banned Santa Claus, “the nation’s most prominent undocumented worker,” from the city.
Playing off the mayor’s recent crackdown on illegal immigrants, the Web site says Barletta has launched a campaign against the jolly old elf, who is “not an American, nor is he legally recognized for residency or occupational purposes in this country.”
Barletta attracted national attention earlier this year when he pushed through a tough, first-of-its-kind law targeting illegal immigrants.
The law, which a judge has blocked pending a legal challenge, penalizes landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and employers who give them jobs.
Barletta wasn’t amused when he learned about the Web site last week, referring it to state police because it solicits online credit card donations.
“Santa Claus is welcome in Hazleton as he’s welcome everywhere,” Barletta told Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” show.
[Click on the essay title above to visit the Web site.]
A Merry MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Mickey D’s is struggling to find an alternative to trans fat oil, particularly with its fries. Earlier test-market results were not good, with customers calling to complain about attempted changes. Mickey D’s may even opt to inform customers of any future revision after it’s been implemented — or maybe not at all. Better keep your eyes on your fries. And Mickey D’s lies.
• Donald Trump is griping again, this time with residents of Palm Beach, Florida, over an American flag at his Mar-a-Lago Club. The town had complained the 15-by-25-foot flag with its 80-foot pole violated zoning codes, and threatened to fine Trump. “You don’t need a permit to put up the American flag,” said Trump last October. “The day you need a permit to put up the American flag, that will be a sad day for this country.” Then he probably went on to argue the flag in question is no larger than Rosie O’Donnell’s underpants.
• Police in Bennington, Vermont issued beer glasses featuring their department logo to local bars and restaurants. The intent is to make people think twice before drinking and driving. “One of the ways we let people know we're out there is through increased visibility,” said a police official. “We don’t want people driving impaired at all.” What’s next — cop logos on bongs and syringes?
• Just in time for the holidays, Michael Jackson has allegedly returned to the United States. Jacko was spotted in Las Vegas, where insiders claim he hopes to revitalize his career. “Vegas is about wild and weird and crazy. If Michael Jackson is going to come back, this could be the place to do it,” said one Las Vegas producer. Looks like Jacko’s found the perfect home.
From The Associated Press…
Soul singer James Brown dies
His influence on rap, disco and funk are indisputable. He had been hospitalized briefly with pneumonia.
By Greg Bluestein
The Associated Press
ATLANTA — James Brown, the legendary singer known as the Godfather of Soul, has died, his agent said today. He was 73.
Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia on Sunday at Emory Crawford Long Hospital and died around 1:45 a.m. today, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles A. Bobbit was by his side, he said.
Copsidas said that Brown’s family was being notified of his death and that the cause was still uncertain. “We really don’t know at this point what he died of,” he said.
Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the last 50 years. A generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson, among others. Songs such as David Bowie’s “Fame,” Prince’s “Kiss,” George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song” were clearly based on Brown’s rhythms and vocal style.
If Brown’s claim to the invention of soul can be challenged by fans of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, then his rights to the genres of rap, disco and funk are beyond question. He was to rhythm and dance music what Dylan was to lyrics: the unchallenged popular innovator.
“James presented obviously the best grooves,” rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told the Associated Press. “To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one’s coming even close.”
His hit singles included such classics as “Out of Sight,” “(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.
“I clearly remember we were calling ourselves colored, and after the song, we were calling ourselves black,” Brown said in a 2003 Associated Press interview. “The song showed even people to that day that lyrics and music and a song can change society.”
He won a Grammy award for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (best R&B recording) and for “Living In America” in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male). He was one of the initial artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.
From the 1950s, when Brown had his first R&B hit, “Please, Please, Please” in 1956, through the mid-1970s, Brown went on a frenzy of cross-country tours, concerts and new songs. He earned the nickname the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.
With his tight pants, shimmering feet, eye makeup and outrageous hair, Brown set the stage for younger stars such as Michael Jackson and Prince.
And rap stars of recent years overwhelmingly have borrowed his lyrics with a digital technique called sampling.
Brown’s work has been replayed by the Fat Boys, Ice-T, Public Enemy and a host of other rappers. “The music out there is only as good as my last record,” Brown joked in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
“Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I’m saying? You hear all the rappers, 90% of their music is me,” he told the Associated Press in 2003.
Born in poverty in Barnwell, S.C., in 1933, he was abandoned as a 4-year-old to the care of relatives and friends and grew up on the streets of Augusta, Ga., in an “ill-repute area,” as he once called it. There he learned to wheel and deal.
“I wanted to be somebody,” Brown said.
By the eighth grade in 1949, Brown had served 3 1/2 years in Alto Reform School near Toccoa, Ga., for breaking into cars.
While there, he met Bobby Byrd, whose family took Brown into their home. Byrd also took Brown into his group, the Gospel Starlighters. Soon they changed their name to the Famous Flames and their style to hard R&B.
In January 1956, King Records of Cincinnati signed the group, and four months later “Please, Please, Please” was in the R&B Top Ten.
Though most of Brown’s life was glitz and glitter, he was plagued with charges of abusing drugs and alcohol and of hitting his third wife, Adrienne.
In September 1988, Brown, high on PCP and carrying a shotgun, entered an insurance seminar next to his Augusta office. Police said he asked seminar participants if they were using his private restroom.
Police chased Brown for a half-hour from Augusta into South Carolina and back to Georgia. The chase ended when police shot out the tires of his truck.
Brown received a six-year prison sentence. He spent 15 months in a South Carolina prison and 10 months in a work release program before being paroled in February 1991.
After his release in 1991, Brown said he wanted to “try to straighten out” rock music. He was soon on stage again with an audience that included millions of cable TV viewers nationwide who watched the three-hour, pay-per-view concert at Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.
In 2003, the South Carolina parole board granted him a pardon for his crimes in that state.
Adrienne Brown died in 1996 in Los Angeles at age 47. She took PCP and several prescription drugs while she had a bad heart and was weak from cosmetic surgery, the coroner said.
He and his fourth wife — Tomi Raye Hynie, one of his backup singers — had a son, James Jr., now about 5.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Only one more MultiCultClassics Monologue until Christmas…
• Fired publisher Judith Regan hired a lawyer, who announced there’s a witness to dispute the assertion that Regan made an anti-Semitic remark (see Essay 1451). The witness, a temporary assistant, had listened in on the conversation and supports Regan’s insistence that she never said “Jewish cabal,” just “cabal.” The lawyer proclaimed, “We now have a witness saying that she never said it. … So it is defamatory and false to say she said it.” It looks like Regan is organizing a shrewish cabal.
• Now the woman who won the title of Miss Nevada USA has lost her crown, dethroned after risqué photos of her appeared online. “I am so sorry this happened,” said the woman. “So many of us don’t realize how our actions, even one night of poor judgment, can affect the rest of our lives.” She and her lawyer are begging Donald Trump for a second chance like the one he granted Miss USA Tara Conner (see Essay 1459). Although in this case, maybe they should be speaking to Hugh Hefner.
• A labor rights group released a report charging Bratz dolls are produced in a China factory where workers clock up to 94 hours per week. No comment yet from Rosie O’Donnell.
• Isaac Hayes is trying to sell a Grammy, but the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences is suing to stop him. Leland Collectibles sought to auction off the statuette for Hayes, and the Academy is demanding its return instead — even though a firm official insisted they’ve sold Grammy awards in the past. The Academy won’t say why Hayes is not allowed to sell his award. Guess they’re just some bad mother…
From The New York Times…
Fan Asks Hard Questions About Rap Music
By ERIK ECKHOLM
CHICAGO — Byron Hurt takes pains to say that he is a fan of hip-hop, but over time, says Mr. Hurt, a 36-year-old filmmaker, dreadlocks hanging below his shoulders, “I began to become very conflicted about the music I love.”
A new documentary by Mr. Hurt, “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” questions the violence, degradation of women and homophobia in much of rap music.
Scheduled to go on the air in February as part of the PBS series Independent Lens, the documentary is being shown now at high schools, colleges and Boy’s Clubs, and in other forums, as part of an unusual public campaign sponsored by the Independent Television Service, which is based in San Francisco and helped finance the film.
The intended audiences include young fans, hip-hop artists and music industry executives — black and white — who profit from music and videos that glorify swagger and luxury, portray women as sex objects, and imply, critics say, that education and hard work are for suckers and sissies.
What concerns Mr. Hurt and many black scholars is the domination of the hip-hop market by more violent and sexually demeaning songs and videos — an ascendancy, the critics say, that has coincided with the growth of the white audience for rap and the growing role of large corporations in marketing the music.
Ronald F. Ferguson, a black economist and education expert at Harvard, said that the global success of hip-hop had had positive influences on the self-esteem of black youths but that children who became obsessed with it “may unconsciously adopt the themes in this music as their lens for viewing the world.”
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Shopping for news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Target pulled a CD carrying case featuring Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s likeness after folks complained the Marxist revolutionary was a murderer and totalitarian symbol. “What next? Hitler backpacks? Pol Pot cookware? Pinochet pantyhose?” wondered one critic. Target responded by declaring in a statement, “It is never our intent to offend any of our guests through the merchandise we carry. … We have made the decision to remove this item from our shelves and we sincerely apologize for any discomfort this situation may have caused our guests.” Then again, the trendy retailer has always been considered revolutionary.
• P.Diddy wants to know who let the dogs out. It turns out that the “faux fur” collars on his Sean John coats weren’t “faux” after all, actually coming from a canine called a raccoon dog. “I was completely unaware of the nature of this material, but as soon as we were alerted, the garments were pulled,” said Combs. How come he never pulls his albums when they turn out to be dogs?
• The country’s first openly lesbian fire chief (working in Minneapolis) was demoted amid discrimination and sexual harassment charges. She’s facing lawsuits from four firefighters — three women and a man — alleging various acts of biased behavior. No word yet from Rosie O’Donnell.
• The Ohio couple charged with forcing some of their 11 foster kids to sleep in cages may now be facing a similar scenario (see Essay 272). A jury convicted the two of felony and misdemeanor counts, leading to the possibility of serving jail time. Which should make the couple feel right at home.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Still duking it out with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump went a few more rounds in their Battle of the Network Egos (see Essay 1459). Trump said O’Donnell was “unattractive,” a “bully,” and attracted to Miss USA. “Ultimately, Rosie is a loser, and ultimately [The View] will fail because of Rosie,” proclaimed Trump. O’Donnell introduced her partner on The View and remarked, “I was afraid to leave her home in case somebody with a comb-over came and stole her from me.” If this were a boxing match, the bell would ring “ching-chong” already.
• Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) refused to back down from his anti-Muslim letter (see Essay 1459). “I will not be putting my hand on the Koran,” declared Goode. Muslims across America can breathe a sigh of relief over that announcement.
• Condoleezza Rice remarked on whether the country is ready for a Black president:
“I’ve thought for a long time, actually, that this was barrier that an individual could certainly overcome. I think we shouldn’t be naive. Race is still an issue in America. When a person walks into a room, race is evident. It’s something that I think is going to be with us for a very, very long time.
“I don’t think we are colorblind and I don’t think we are going to be colorblind in my lifetime. But I think we have become capable of looking past color to see capability, to see merit and character and to overcome stereotypes and to be able to therefore trust somebody’s abilities. And that’s what people look for, I think, when they are looking for a president. Yes, I think a Black person can be elected president and I think they’ll probably in the final analysis be judged by all the things that Americans ultimately end up making their decision on.”
No word if Rice is ready to enter the presidential ring.
From USA TODAY…
Immigration issue blew up in 2006
By William M. Welch, USA TODAY
From massive urban marches by Latinos to law-enforcement sweeps of illegal meatpacking workers, 2006 was a year when immigration became the domestic issue the United States could not ignore.
Concern about the influx of illegal immigrants, mainly from Mexico, grew into a major issue that echoed through the November election campaigns.
Towns and cities across the country expressed frustration with the issue by passing anti-illegal-immigration ordinances and resolutions.
Hundreds of thousands of Latinos marched through Los Angeles and other cities in the spring to show their opposition to get-tough legislation. Many waved Mexican flags, prompting criticism.
The long border with Mexico was a focal point of the debate. Congress voted to construct 700 miles of double-layered fencing along the border.
President Bush directed 6,000 National Guard troops to the border. He proposed a “guest worker” program that would offer citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the USA. Opponents derided the proposal as an amnesty for lawbreakers, and it was not acted on by Congress.
Volunteers with the Minuteman Project kept up their patrols. The border remained porous. Near San Diego, federal agents found numerous secret tunnels, raising fears that if poor immigrants could get into the USA that way, so could terrorists.
Federal immigration officials stepped up enforcement. Last week, more than 1,200 meatpacking workers suspected of immigrating illegally were arrested in six states. Some face identity-theft charges.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
From The Chicago Tribune…
Hitler the trendy tyrant
German dictator no pariah to some in India, the Tribune’s Kim Barker reports
By Kim Barker
Tribune’s South Asia correspondent
KHARGHAR, India -- When an Adolf Hitler-themed restaurant opened its doors in a suburb of cosmopolitan Mumbai in August, many were horrified. The restaurant, Hitlers’ Cross, changed its name a week later to Cross Cafe, but it is hardly the only example of how some Indians view Hitler and his legacy.
Hindu fundamentalist groups praise Hitler’s leadership skills. A college poll a few years ago showed he was perceived as an ideal leader. Books and videos of him are top sellers. Most patrons prefer to call Cross Cafe by its previous name. Plates and cups still bear the Hitlers’ Cross logo, with a Nazi swastika in place of the “O.”
“We call it ‘Hitler’ only,” said Ashish Anant, 18, an aeronautics college student who likes to come to the cafe with friends. “We say, ‘Let’s go to Hitler.’ It’s a trendy name. It’s different.”
It’s not clear why Hitler is popular in some circles. Some experts say it’s because of a belief that Indians were the original Aryan race. Others say it’s because Hitler used the traditional Hindu good-luck symbol of the swastika, rotating it slightly. Those who believe strongly in the caste system of India also may like Hitler’s eugenics and race beliefs.
Any praise for Hitler is not reflected in national policy. India has strong ties with Israel and views it as an ally in the war on terror. And Jewish and non-Jewish Indians were horrified by Hitlers’ Cross. Daniel Zohar Zonshine, the Israel consul general in Mumbai, looked visibly upset when talking about the portrayal of Hitler in India, especially Hitlers’ Cross. He said he thinks the owners wanted the free publicity that comes with such controversy.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
Diss-cussions in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Rosie O’Donnell has now targeted Donald Trump, griping over his forgiving gesture to Miss USA Tara Conner. O’Donnell huffed that Trump is no role model for 20-year-old Americans, as he’s been divorced twice and caught in affairs. Trump fired back, dissing O’Donnell’s looks, past talk show and magazine. He’s even considering suing her. It might be tough for either one to find any supportive character witnesses.
• Controversial publisher Judith Regan was apparently investigated and reprimanded for making an anti-Semitic remark at work in 2003. Regan had bragged about replacing the scrolls in a neighbor’s mezuzas with ripped up dollar bills. When asked if Regan was a racist, one editor remarked, “She was an equal opportunity insulter of everyone. … I did not think of her as a generalized racist.” Perhaps she’s more of a specialized racist.
• Representative Virgil H. Goode Jr., a Republican from Virginia, stirred controversy by sending a letter warning the recent election of the first Muslim Congressman was a threat to the nation’s values. “I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped,” said Goode. He also cautioned that there will “likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.” However, the guy probably has no issues with Rosie O’Donnell, Donald Trump and Judith Regan.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
AdAge.com listed “10 Who Made Their Mark” — recognizing folks who made an impact in the advertising industry during 2006. Among the group:
The man also known as Shawn Carter came out of early retirement this year and started throwing his marketing weight around. He was featured in one of the spots in HP’s critically lauded effort. He withdrew his support for Cristal champagne after the company dissed the hip-hop crowd. Then he went to bat for Anheuser-Busch when he accepted the title of co-brand director for Bud Select.
4. Patricia Gatling
The lack of diversity in the ad industry is something agencies would rather not discuss in public. But under Gatling’s leadership, the New York City Commission on Human Rights this year applied some very public pressure. Using a mix of subpoenas and shame, Gatling, poked, prodded and bullied the ad industry into making sweeping promises to remedy the situation.
Yo, baby, it’s a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• China is instituting new rules for foreign adoptions, turning down applicants who are single, obese and taking anti-depressants. Wow, they must really be pissed off at Rosie O’Donnell.
• O.J. Simpson is being sued again by Fred Goldman, father of murder victim Ronald Goldman. This time, Goldman is charging Simpson collected over $1 million on the cancelled “If I Did It” book and TV deal. Simpson owes Goldman $30 million after losing a civil suit. Wonder if Simpson will complain about a Jewish cabal working against him.
• The Los Angeles Fire Department continues to reel with controversies. Now officials working on two high-profile cases involving racial discrimination are claiming documents sent to a top commander were messed with — including having forged signatures. The officials insist reports were written and autographed without their consent. Looks like the shenanigans are not confined to the firehouse kitchen.
• A civil-rights group in Brooklyn protested at CNN studios, arguing talk-show host Lou Dobbs’ reporting on immigration is racist. While the group accused Dobbs of bashing immigrants with terms like “army of invaders,” a CNN spokesperson claims the reporter also gets “positive” reviews. CNN is probably the choice channel for The Minuteman Project.