Category Archives: Politics

Pendergrass at Live Aid: Tragedy, Revival and Philly

News of the death of Teddy Pendergrass found many of us posting videos of the singer at his prime, teasing live crowds with “Love TKO” and “Close the Door” as he sauntered the stage in his revealing custom white tank-top in ’79 and ’80.

This clip of singing-songwriter duo Ashford & Simpson bringing Pendergrass to the stage at the 1985 Live Aid concert for Ethiopian famine relief at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium brought chills back then and still does. Three years earlier, the brakes failed on the Rolls Royce that Pendergrass was driving through Philly’s northwest Germantown district, leading to an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. So in visual contrast to his heyday, Pendergrass comes on at Live Aid in a motorized wheelchair, the body he used to evoke such sensualized instincts in his audience now almost a heartbreaking redundancy.

Ashford & Simpson–who met at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church in the mid-’60s–had made their songwriting careers specializing in both ecstatic love songs and grandiose, gospel-tinged tunes like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The duo wrote the last as Diana Ross’s first solo single in 1969 as a strikingly plaintive plea for fellowship in contrast to, for example, the Temptations’ more confrontational “Ball of Confusion” during that year of Nixon, Manson, My Lai and Altamont. Sixteen years later, “Reach Out and Touch” seemed fitting again as cracks of compassion like Live Aid started showing through the Reagan/Thatcher/Gecko era of greed-is-good.

A&S reintroduce Pendergrass to his city in near church-meeting style, from Nick’s heartfelt build-up intro to the duo’s welcoming of the singer with upraised arms. By the time of his accident, Pendergrass had left Gamble & Huff’s CBS-subsidized Philadelphia International Records label–which had just been taken over by EMI–to record with Asylum. A bit of stretch, but maybe we can see this clip as A&S redelivering Pendergrass back to the City of Bro Love and the world.

Another reading: Pendergrass re-emerged in ’85 in this context of an elongated, natural-and-man-made crisis in continental Africa. News of his demise in ’10 came in against the heartbreaking background of an instant though similarly devastating natural crisis for the African-descended people of Haiti–another time for the world to reach out.


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The Souter Puzzle

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Maddow’s report on Justice David Souter’s retirement reflected a bunch of deliciously enigmatic points: among them his (surprisingly to many) mostly liberal record as a Bush 41 nominee, his Hamphirean reclusiveness, his lack of real health reason for retiring at such an early age, etc.

Overall, Souter’s appeared to have helped out, keeping Roe v. Wade largely intact and voting on the correct side of Bush v. Gore. Charmingly, according to Jeff Toobin’s book The Nine, the fountain-pen using eternal bachelor’s a serious recluse: no email, mobile phone, TV or answering machine.

MSNBC somehow amplifies the moment’s mystery with the 4-vid/7-photo footage-loop that they assembled for Maddow’s report, making for a portrait that’s as non-descript as this guy’s personality. In contrast to Scalia’s chest-out impertinence or Thomas’s steely grace, Souter’s shown as comprising a cordial nod, a charming grin, a murmur, a focused glance, a short reply, a slight smirk…and that’s it. Seemingly a bit more to figure out in both his legacy and retirement than in what overall impact it’ll all have in the Obama era.

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The Art of News: NDTV Sweat the Pakistani FM

The horrific Mumbai attacks have made clear to me how potent a news org NDTV is. CNN started carrying the channel’s coverage right away, and they do basically seem like India’s Anglophonic version of Turner’s behemoth. But their crews seemed to swarm the scene with an uncommon ferocity, and their correspondents held themselves with great poise.
It seems like their live feed will be compelling viewing for a long while to come (wild commercials, too). Below, anchor Pranam Mukerjee and reporter Vikram Chandra grill Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

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Filed under International, Media, Politics

Great Bloggingheads diavlogs

As I’ve noted previously on this blog, these folks keep delivering some highly incisive stuff. Among others, check out:

John McWhorter
Glenn Loury

Author and Manhattan Institute scholar McWhorter and
Brown econ prof Loury throw a lot of things around, mostly about race ‘n’ politix, including how r
acism plays less of a role than race, ie white people are less scared of a black prez per se than an unfamiliar black prez surrounded by Farrakhans.

Raj Patel & Megan McArdle
Stuffed and Starved author Patel and Atlantic writer and econ blogger McArdle talk food ‘n’ politics, tackling topics like the World Bank and democracy, the downsides of food aid, and obesity. The occasional familial distractions that Patel experiences during the vlog show the cute idiosyncracies that B-heads makes possible.

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Filed under Culture, International, Politics, Race

Your dollar, it is worthless here

Verbatim from an email from my non-blogging buddy PHL:

Iran leader dismisses US currency

The dollar has weakened considerably against the euro and other
currencies in the past 12 months.

Its decline has affected the revenues of Opec members because most of
them price and sell their oil exports in the US currency.

Mr Ahmadinejad said that all Opec countries had showed interest in
converting their cash reserves into other currencies.

“They [the US] get our oil and give us a worthless piece of paper,” he
told reporters.

Look at the pic of Ahmadinejad and Chavez – what is that, the penguin
and the riddler? Fill your tank and charge your cell now. Yeah, that
will keep you safe.

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Turned off by the work ethic and productive American Dream values of their parents, hippies instead opted for a cowardly, irresponsible lifestyle of random sex, life-destroying drugs and mostly soulless rock music that flourished in San Francisco.

Ted Nugent, Wall St. Journal, 7/4/07

That Nadine, what a teenage queen
She lookin’ so clean, especi’lly down in between What I like
She come to town; she be foolin’ around
a puttin’ me down as a rock-and-roll clown
It’s all right
Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
Wang dang, what a sweet poontang
a shakin’ my thang as a rang-a-dang-dang in the bell
She’s so sweet when she yanks on my meat
Down on the street you know she can’t be beat
What the hell
Wang Dang Sweet Poontang

Ted Nugent, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”, 1977 

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Filed under Culture, Music, Politics, Society

“Coultervatism” redux

Salon’s highly eloquent exec ed Gary Kamiya spells it out eloquently in a wide-ranging piece that made me smack my forehead and subscribe to the Salon feed.

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