Tag Archives: media

Iceberg Slim – Pulp Fiction

Iceberg Slim was the nom-de-guerre of a Los Angeles Pimp, whose story became famous when he turned to writing. At least one movie, and countless bad-ass characters in the movies are based on his character and style.

Not sure why the renewed interest – but Slim is part of 40’s-60’s black history, and was a model for others (apparently still) – as well as a character from which numerous movie depictions were based. Before the Drug Dealer of the 70’s – the black pimp was more likely to be at the top of criminal enterprise in poor black communities. These guys would flash their money and “power” based on a “Players Ball” purportedly created in the 1974 Movie, “The Mack” – although such “annual conferences” existed long before that in Chicago. Apparently some of these guys are still around as you will see in the video at the bottom of this post.

I remember watching from the street one of these back in the late 1970’s, at a certain club located in downtown Washington DC. Lots of flash, jewelry, and outrageous outfits.


The Pulp Fiction Pimp Who Inspired Chris Rock, Jay Z, and Snoop Dogg

Robert Beck was the godfather of Blaxploitation, one of the most influential African-American voices of the 20th century—and also among its most violently misogynistic.

For many of his 73 years on the planet, Robert Beck—aka “Iceberg Slim,” the subject of a new biography, Street Poison, by African-American literature professor Justin Gifford—was a lousy human being.

Beck—who by his own account violently brutalized women during his quarter-century-long career as a pimp, and later mythologized his felonious lifestyle in a best-selling memoir and a series of popular pulp novels—raised misogyny to an art form.

The smooth-talking, cold-hearted Beck, whose nom de plume celebrated his detached and chilly streetwise demeanor, was the vain and selfish only son of an irresponsible mother; a careless father of three mixed-race daughters and the estranged stepfather of a Caucasian son; and a manipulative and philandering husband who only redeemed himself in a second marriage late in life as his years of prison, drugs, and hard living took their inevitable toll.

Albeit ghetto-famous, with countless fans, he died penniless in Los Angeles of diabetes and gangrene; his fancy above-ground berth at Forest Lawn was paid for by Mike Tyson, one of Beck’s many celebrity devotees, who also include Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Ice Cube, and Ice-T (the last of whom co-produced a 2012 documentary tribute, Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp).

And yet, by Gifford’s estimation and that of others, Beck—born Robert Lee Moppins Jr. (later Frenchified to Maupins) in the slums of 1918 white-racist Chicago—was also one of the more influential voices in 20th century black culture and literature, to be ranked alongside James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.

Indeed, Iceberg Slim’s 1967 novelistic and poetic autobiography, Pimp: The Story of My Life, and his later works are widely credited with inspiring the Blaxploitation film genre and the beginnings of hip-hop and rap. His nine published books—translated into a dozen languages while one, Trick Baby, was adapted into a feature film—had sold an estimated 6 million copies by the time of his death, which might have made him the J.K. Rowling of black pulp fiction, if only his royalties were commensurate with his sales.

Beck’s pain and rage at having been callously exploited by his white-owned publisher, Holloway House—much as he had exploited and abused his revolving stable of prostitutes—is a recurring theme in Gifford’s meticulously-researched narrative.

The fact that Beck’s biographer is also white and middle-aged—an academic of somewhat younger vintage, Gifford teaches at the University of Nevada—is testament to the enduring crossover appeal of Iceberg Slim’s story.

It begins in Chicago’s Black Belt, during a period of lethal viciousness by white thugs against African Americans who dared venture out of the ghetto. Terrible race riots and mass murders comprised a history of violence that doubtless shaped Iceberg Slim’s adult identity as a revolutionary and Black Panther partisan.

Three incidents in his childhood seem to have left a searing imprint and shaped his future.

His biological father, a cook who’d grown up in “Nashville’s upwardly mobile and respectable black working-class society,” according to Gifford, had plunged headlong into the Black Belt demimonde of whoring and gambling, and saw his son as an inconvenience.

His mother, Mary, left her husband, taking her infant son with her, after refusing his demand that the baby be abandoned on a church doorstep—“so,” Iceberg Slim recounted, “he hurled me against the wall in disgust.”

The second formative experience—the memory of which forever haunted Beck and twisted his feelings about women—involved being 3 years old and sexually molested by a babysitter while his single mother toiled all day at a laundry. According to his autobiography, the babysitter forced him to perform oral sex.

“I remember more vividly the moist, odorous darkness and the bristle-like hairs tickling my face,” he wrote, “and most vividly I can remember my panic, when in the wild moment of her climax, she would savagely jerk my head tighter into the hairy maw.”

According to Gifford: “The event deeply scarred Beck—as his hateful language suggests—and he later attributed his anxious and violent relationships with the women he pimped to this incident.”

The third seminal episode—after his mother’s 1922 marriage to a devoutly churchgoing community leader and successful businessman, Henry Upshaw, whom Beck loved as his only real father—was her reckless decision to leave Upshaw after nine happy, stable years for a charming but violent street hustler.  Relocating from Chicago to Milwaukee with his mother and her boyfriend, Beck fell into bad company in the red-light district and became “street poisoned,” as he put it in his memoir. (Beck ultimately took the surname of his mother’s third husband, Ural Beck, a hardworking railroad employee in Milwaukee, whom she married in the early 1940s.)

“At the height of his career,” Gifford writes, “he would intentionally draw upon his traumatic memories—especially of the babysitter, as well as his mother’s betrayal during his teenage years—to fuel his cruel treatment of his prostitutes,” using a wire hanger as his preferred instrument of discipline….The rest here

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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Black History


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MMA Star Rhonda Rousey Challenges Floyd Mayweather

Bit of advice Floyd – this is one woman you better not try smacking around.

Ronda Rousey: I Could Beat Floyd Mayweather In ‘No-Rules’ Fight

Ronda Rousey says she can take Floyd Mayweather in a “no-rules” fight.

In a Reddit AMA on Monday night, the UFC women’s bantamweight champion was asked if she could beat the boxer “in a ruleless fight.”

Her response (emphasis hers):

Floyd is one of the best boxers of all time. He would definitely beat me in a boxing match. I unfortunately don’t get into “matches”. I fight for a living. In a no rules fight, I believe I can beat anyone on this planet. Boxing is a sweet science with strict rules that I respect very much and aspire every day to improve at. But you said ruleless fight, and that’s my honest answer. 

The comment comes just days after Mayweather took a verbal swipe at Rousey.

“I’ve yet to see any MMA fighter, or other boxer, make over $300 million in 36 minutes,” Mayweather said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Thursday. “When she can do that, then call me.”

The two have been trading verbal jabs for more than a year, with Mayweather famously saying, “I don’t even know who he is” when asked about her last summer.

Rousey got some sweet revenge last month, beating Mayweather for the “Best Fighter” award at the ESPYs.

I wonder how Floyd feels being beat by a woman for once,” she said after the win, referring to his long and well-documented history of domestic violence. “I’d like for him to pretend to not know who I am now.”

Rousey also referred to his history of violence against women in May, telling Access Hollywood the two would probably never fight “unless we ended up dating.”

No holds barred? I’d put my money on Rhonda if the fight ever reached the ground.


Posted by on August 11, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life


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Citizen Media Minutes…The Confederate Flag and Citizen Broadcasting

Back in the 60’s and 70’s I used to love to visit cousins who lived in New York City. The city was teeming with pirate radio stations, some of which only covered a few blocks. You could hear music that never made it onto any of the big company stations, whether latin, fusion, or jazz, San Francisco also had several famous pirate radio stations, which played part in the emerging culture of Haight-Ashbury.

Our technological society has allowed folks to create and voice their opinions through the airwaves. As in anything, some of that is good, some mediocre – depending on the originators and the thought put into their work. Seems like 100 years ago, but in the pre-internet age, there was an effort to re-create “Low-Power Radio“, to license station covering small area, such as community as democratic means of expression and local interest outside of the mainstream media. So called Pirate Radio was common prior to the 80’s, principally in urban areas, and derived their audiences from folks tired of the basic canned Top 40 formats and weak community interest programs by the licensed operators. It was pretty much eviscerated by Reagan era FCC rules. Black folks operated pirate radio, because of the “daylight rule” and difficulty in getting licensed. The FCC limited the number of stations in an area in any particular format. In the 50’s and 60’s almost no black radio stations were allowed to operate between the hours of sunset and sunrise on the then popular AM Spectrum.

That changed after Reagan, and there was an effort to restart the format. I started a LPR Station in the late 70’s which was looking to use low power as a means of communications in a business area, oriented toward providing information to the community about training and education being offered, events, business talks by local ventures, and interviews of local businessmen. The stiffening regulations of the Reagan FCC pretty much put the end to that effort due to the rising expense and regulations favoring the big companies. The goal had been to leverage that into the emerging Low Power TV in 1982 – however, the price on that skyrocketed, making breaking even extremely difficult. Since then, LPR and LPTV  never really took off, but folks are still trying. Some people believe it is the future of free over-the-air-radio. The cost of entry into LPR is less than $1,000 today, and the broadcast range, receivable by standard FM Receivers is about 3 miles. LPTV is substantially more expensive, due to the migration to Digital.

A modern equivalent of LPR is the YouTube Channel. No longer restricted by geographic region, small operators may host their own news and opinion shows. Three of the videos below are from just that sort of show. This group about the confederate flag…

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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life


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It’s Not a Riot…When it is White Folks

Let’s see, car windows smashed, police vehicles burned, Trader Joe’s and other stores looted… 2 Police injured…

We are talking about an upscale “civil disturbance” here.

The key here is they looted Trader Joe’s…Ostensibly just for a bit of Yerba Matte to clear tear gas sting and re-align their chakras…

At least two officers were injured as demonstrations over police killings turned violent in California overnight, with protesters smashing windows and hurling rocks at cops, according to authorities. Berkeley Police said officers used smoke and tear gas after crowds refused to disperse. What started out as a peaceful protest devolved into chaos when “splinter groups broke off and began hurling bricks, pipe, smoke grenades, and other missiles at officers,” according to Berkeley Police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats. She said six people were arrested in the melee.

She said “numerous officers” were struck and that one officer who was struck with a large sandbag was treated for a dislocated shoulder at a local hospital. Protesters vandalized cars, smashing windows and looting businesses, according to Coats, who said a Trader Joe’s, a Radio Shack and a Wells Fargo Bank were vandalized along with “numerous” police cars. The local police department was reinforced by more than a hundred officers from other local police departments, highway patrol and the county sheriff’s office.

Because 80% of the crowd in upscale Berkeley, Ca was white folks…It could not have been a riot!


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Posted by on December 7, 2014 in The Post-Racial Life


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Dear White People

“Dear White People” is touted as movie satire of the post-Obama era. To be honest, I haven’t seen it yet. Should be interesting….


And – “Racism Insurance”


Fascinating is this piece in American Prospect. If you follow the link there and look at the comment section – you will find the sort of racism discussed in the movie – here are a few, just from the few hours this one has been up:

“Black people can’t be racist. . .” is the latest argument from The Left.

It is a crap argument (obviously).

Proof? The country elected its first African-American (how i loath that term) President and the Black people embraced this as “pay back time”.
Which, of course, is Racist to the core. And now they are finally learning — you become what you believe to be true about others. (Now THAT truly is “pay back”) :0)

“Six years into his presidency, I am still waiting for my presents.”

Maybe if you have enough pride, integrity, and self respect to not sign up for your *FREE* Obamaphone, they don’t send you one.

The problem is the black community lives under a false pretense that the Democratic Party has it’s best interests at heart. The problem is the system is designed to keep blacks from being educated by unionizing teachers who have poor teaching skills and can’t be fired. The system also provides welfare instead of trade education…Democrat politicians run inner city schools with a mixture of incompetence and corruption, also turning a blind eye to the devastating end result of a social welfare system that breaks down ambition, creates idle time (and you know whose plaything that is) and fosters black on black crime that you are terrified to address, rather focusing on statistically insignificant (in comparison) white on black crime.

Grow up, don’t do hard drugs, finish school, don’t have babies out of wedlock.

You too can have “Privilege.”

After Ferguson, ‘Dear White People’ Arrives Right On Time

Satirizing racial tensions in the so-called post-racial America, Justin Simien’s film, Dear White People, follows the lives of several students at Winchester University, a fictional, mostly-white Ivy League college.  As it explores the topics of racism, white privilege, affirmative action and interracial relationships, the film almost serves as a rebuttal to everything claimed by people who deny that racism and white privilege exists.

At Winchester, students live in dorms fashioned as houses, with Armstrong Parker House being the house where black students have traditionally chosen to live. In the beginning of the film, Samantha White runs for head of house opposite her ex-boyfriend and son of the dean of students, Troy Fairbanks. Samantha wins. When Kurt Fletcher—son of the university president—picks an argument in the Armstrong Parker dining hall using thinly veiled racist comments, Samantha kicks him out, and strains begin to simmer.

Samantha hosts a radio show called Dear White People, using her platform to dole out bits of advice to fellow students. Some of them are funny: “Dear white people, the number of black friends required in order to not be considered racist just been raised to two.” While others point out backhanded bigotry: “Dear white people…dating a black guy just to make your parents mad is a form of racism.” Her radio show is a kind of public service, offering a glimpse of racism from a black person’s point of view.

To some it may seem like because black bus passengers are no longer relegated to the seats in the back and we no longer have separate water fountains, that racism is over. But to blacks, the quips from Samantha White’s radio show represents the myriad ways in which we still encounter racism today.

Inspired by real events, the climax of the movie is a Halloween party thrown by white students. The invitation calls for students to come out and “liberate their inner negro.” The theme? Dress up as a black person. White students don blackface and dance haphazardly to rap music. They pose for pictures contorting their fingers in what they think are gang signs. It’s offensive, but perhaps the most offensive thing is that this part isn’t fictional—several colleges have dealt with white students throwing parties just like this. When black students get wind of the event, they crash it and the racial tension on campus finally boils over.

But the most important moment in the film is when Samantha White, defines racism: “Black people can’t be racist, she says. “Prejudiced, yes, but not racist. Racism describes a systemic advantage based on race. Black people can’t be racists since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.” The treatment of white rioters and black protesters by the mainstream media is an accurate reflection of this definition.

In the wake of the ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, Dear White People is a cultural assessment that arrived right on time. Look at how Ferguson protesters were labeled as “rioters” and “thugs” while white students who rioted at a pumpkin festival for no apparent reason were simply “unruly” kids. That’s but one of many forms of the systemic privilege the Samantha White character is referencing.

Of course, screenwriter and director Justin Simien didn’t need Ferguson to make Dear White People timely. Systemic white privilege and the language of racism is an American tradition as old as the republic.

One doesn’t need to look any further than the vitriol spewed at President Barack Obama. Conservative pundits never miss a chance to claim that Obama is not a real American (see: white). He’s been called the food-stamp president, the affirmative-action president, and has been accused of giving free stuff to black people. (Six years into his presidency, I am still waiting for my presents.)

Undoubtedly, there will be people who continue to pretend that white privilege is a myth. They will decry the movie as “reverse racism” but Dear White People has a response. “How would you like if someone made a Dear Black People?” asks a white student in one scene. Samantha informs him that there’s no need, because media outlets, like Fox News, have already made it very clear how white America feels about black people.

Dear White People is a fresh take on being black in a white world. While the film leaves a bit to be desired in terms of deeper exploration of the issues at hand, it’s still a must-see—especially for white people.

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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in The Post-Racial Life


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Ebola And Media Hysteria

About once every year or two, somebody on Faux News says something intelligent. Shep Smith seems to be one of the more frequent commentators over there who actually speaks to reality, instead of fear mongering to the right. The most accurate, intelligent thing said on Faux News about the Ebola scare so far…

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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Domestic terrorism


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You Can See Me Now – In The Movies

Back before digital photography, the Film used in professional level cameras had distinct qualities in terms of color rendition. Certain types of Kodak tended towards blue, others were “warm” – enriching the reds and yellows. This meant if you were shooting anything with blue, the sky for instance – the rendition was spectacular. Browns and greens tended to be “muddy” and tonal quality – the differentiation between something with multiple greens for instance – tended to wash out into a “middling” color instead of the full spectrum. Fuji Film tended towards yellow, and produced really vibrant greens and, to a lesser extent browns…

Ergo – getting film to “see” black folks, or even render the plethora of skin tones was difficult, if not impossible. Getting fine detail was virtually impossible for darker skin tones.

Since similar film formulations were used to make movies – black folks just all came out as the same color – if you could see an detail at all.

‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin

In one of the first scenes of early Oscar favorite “12 Years a Slave,” the film’s protagonist, Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor , is seen at night, sleeping alongside a fellow enslaved servant. Their faces are barely illuminated against the velvety black background, but the subtle differences in their complexions — his a burnished mahogany, hers bearing a lighter, more yellow cast — are clearly defined.

Mother of George,” which like “12 Years a Slave” opens on Friday, takes place in modern-day Brooklyn, not the candlelit world of 19th-century Louisiana. But, like “12 Years a Slave,” its black stars and supporting players are exquisitely lit, their blue-black skin tones sharply contrasting with the African textiles they wear to create a vibrant tableau of textures and hues.

“Mother of George” and “12 Years a Slave” are just the most recent in a remarkable run of films this year by and about African Americans, films that range in genre from the urban realism of “Fruitvale Station” and light romantic comedy of “Baggage Claim” to the high-gloss historic drama of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and the evocatively gritty pot comedy “Newlyweeds.” The diversity of these films isn’t reflected just in their stories and characters, but in the wide range of skin tones they represent, from the deepest ebonies to the creamiest caramels.

The fact that audiences are seeing such a varied, nuanced spectrum of black faces isn’t just a matter of poetics, but politics — and the advent of digital filmmaking. For the first hundred years of cinema, when images were captured on celluloid and processed photochemically, disregard for black skin and its subtle shadings was inscribed in the technology itself, from how film-stock emulsions and light meters were calibrated, to the models used as standards for adjusting color and tone.

That embedded racism extended into the aesthetics of the medium itself, which from its very beginnings was predicated on the denigration and erasure of the black body. As far back as “The Birth of a Nation” — in which white actors wearing blackface depicted Reconstruction-era blacks as wild-eyed rapists and corrupt politicians — the technology and grammar of cinema and photography have been centered on the unspoken assumption that their rightful subjects would be white.

The result was that, if black people were visible at all, their images would often be painfully caricatured (see Hattie McDaniel in “Gone With the Wind”) or otherwise distorted, either ashy and washed-out or featureless points of contrast within the frame. As “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen said in Toronto after the film’s premiere there, “I remember growing up and seeing Sidney Poitier sweating next to Rod Steiger in ‘In the Heat of the Night,’ and obviously [that was because] it’s very hot in the South. But also he was sweating because he had tons of light thrown on him, because the film stock wasn’t sensitive enough for black skin.”

Montré Aza Missouri, an assistant professor in film at Howard University, recalls being told by one of her instructors in London that “if you found yourself in the ‘unfortunate situation’ of shooting on the ‘Dark Continent,’ and if you’re shooting dark-skinned people, then you should rub Vaseline on their skin in order to reflect light. It was never an issue of questioning the technology.” In her classes at Howard, Missouri says, “I talk to my students about the idea that the tools used to make film, the science of it, are not racially neutral.”

Missouri reminds her students that the sensors used in light meters have been calibrated for white skin; rather than resorting to the offensive Vaseline solution, they need to manage the built-in bias of their instruments, in this case opening their cameras’ apertures one or two stops to allow more light through the lens. Filmmakers working with celluloid also need to take into account that most American film stocks weren’t manufactured with a sensitive enough dynamic range to capture a variety of dark skin tones. Even the female models whose images are used as reference points for color balance and tonal density during film processing — commonly called “China Girls” — were, until the mid-1990s, historically white.

In the face of such technological chauvinism, filmmakers have been forced to come up with workarounds, including those lights thrown on Poitier and a variety of gels, scrims and filters. But today, such workarounds have been rendered virtually obsolete by the advent of digital cinematography, which allows filmmakers much more flexibility both in capturing images and manipulating them during post-production.

Cinematographer Anastas Michos recalls filming “Freedomland” with Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson, whose dramatically different complexions presented a challenge when they were in the same shot. “You had Julianne Moore, who has minus pigment in her skin, and Sam, who’s a dark-skinned guy. It was a photographic challenge to bring out the undertones in both of them.”

Michos solved the problem during a phase of post-production called the digital intermediate, during which the film print is digitized, then manipulated and fine-tuned. “You’re now able to isolate specific skin tones in terms of both brightness and color,” says Michos, who also shot “Baggage Claim,” “Jumping the Broom” and “Black Nativity,” due out later this year. “It gives you a little bit more flexibility in terms of how you paint the frame.”

Daniel Patterson, who shot “Newlyweeds” on a digital Red One camera, agrees, noting that on a recent shoot for Spike Lee’s “Da Blood of Jesus,” he was able to photograph black actors of dramatically different skin tones in a nighttime interior scene using just everyday house lamps, thanks to a sophisticated digital camera. “I just changed the wattage of the bulb, used a dimmer, and I didn’t have to use any film lights. That kind of blew me away,” Patterson says. “The camera was able to hold both of them during the scene without any issues.”

The multicultural realities films increasingly reflect go hand in hand with the advent of technology that’s finally able to capture them with accuracy and sensitivity. And on the forefront of this new vanguard is cinematographer and Howard University graduate Bradford Young , the latest in a long line of Howard alums — including Ernest Dickerson, Arthur Jafa and Malik Sayeed — who throughout the 1990s deployed the means of production to bring new forms of lyricism, stylization and depth to filmed images of African Americans….

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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life


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