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Monday Morning Bloggerback
From Richard Pryor to Iowa's Midgets:
Best of the Past Week's Bloggings
(Carefully Chosen from 765 Trillion Entries)

The Orabs. Voted the stupidest team name in Iowa. They are named for their school colors which are orange and black. But what do you expect from a town whose city motto is "A Really Nice Place"?
—from Carolyn’s Rumors of Glory, a sixth-grade teacher’s blog in Iowa.


For all the self-styled humorists and elegists of American culture out there, it’s not so  simple to find good original blogging about the great and inexcusably dead Richard Pryor. Maybe it’s because blogging still gives the appearance of being overwhelmingly and unfortunately a white fixation, like hiking and voting Republican (which is what makes a site like NEGROPhile so easy to love). Maybe it’s because whites who remember Richard Pryor never seem to be able to see past his white powders and the self-immolation of his pre-historic days. Maybe it’s because whites prove Pryor right every day. In to the rescue comes Will, who wears his blogging on his sleeve and does it well enough for a Pryor obit: This from In My Write Mind:

It wasn’t easy being him. Most times it wasn’t even fun. But to borrow from an old Salt N Pepa album title, it was definitely very necessary. And after so many years of simultaneously entertaining and battling demons, of taking falls while standing up, of crossing over but never selling out, breaking ground while paving the way — after all of that and more — on Saturday, Richard Pryor finally succumbed to it all. Today, after too many words to count, too many verbs to describe his life, he completed his life sentence. One that was compound, to say the least. […] Richard Pryor, out of Peoria , Illinois , and out of an era where simply being black was politically incorrect, constantly reinvented himself, constantly drew attention to what he said and did. He constantly convicted himself through his actions. Whether it was making fun of himself, black people or America in general, his brilliance was in the storytelling. In the telling of his story. And what a story it was. Read the rest at In My Write Mind…

Since we don’t exactly subscribe to Spike Lee’s conviction that Norman Jewison couldn’t have directed “Malcolm X,” we found novelist and screenwriter Roger Simon’s personal take equally worthy. (Simon brought us “Bustin’ Loose” in 1981 and, more recently, “Scenes from a Mall”):

Some time in 1979, shortly after I had done The Big Fix for Universal, the studio called to ask if I would like to write a movie for Richard Pryor. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Pryor was at the top of his game then, acknowledged by many to be possibly the greatest standup comic of all time. […] When I actually started to work with Richard, I would drive afternoons out to that Northridge place - a sprawling Spanish estate with its own boxing ring and Shetland pony that wandered wild around the grounds - where I would be greeted by his housekeeper. "Would you like some quiche?" she would say, ushering me into the kitchen. "Mr. Pryor's asleep." It didn't take me long to figure out that was a euphemism for "wired to the ceiling" on coke. After a while, sometimes hours, I would be ushered up to his office and we would talk about the script. […] After a few weeks of these meetings, Richard, perhaps because I wasn't judgmental, began to trust me. Despite intermittent bravura, part of him was embarrassed by his drug habits, by the daily visits of his dealer, known as "The Rev," in a brand new Rolls I assumed had essentially been paid for by Pryor. In actuality, Richard was one of the sweetest people I have ever met, always empathic and extremely generous. I once sat in his office as he gave hundreds of thousands to a hospital in South Central Los Angeles on the strength of a phone call, as long as they promised not to mention his name.  Read the full post at roger l. simon…

We try to stay away from the megabloggers: they’re linked, overlinked, sausage-linked and tetra-linked enough that they don’t need more attention from our weekly readership of six and a half. But  p.m. carpenter, an almost-megablogger, addressed the Democrats’ inability to present an alternative to “the swelling catastrophe that George W. Bush has dropped on the Middle East” (and virtually every other drop zone in every time zone). Instead of developing fresh, compelling ideas, Democrats lap up to strategists:

But what do honest Dems hear from the “strategists”? More spineless advice grounded in political cleverness, which advice got Congressional Democrats in trouble to begin with, and which advice is now sure to backfire again.What Democratic strategists seem incapable of appreciating is that the American public is weary of slick, political cleverness. It’s had five torturous years of it, and it’s brought us to the brink of ruin. Voters are desperately seeking honest alternatives. It’s the job of the alternative party to proffer those alternatives. And advocating the other party’s dishonest party line out of clever political safety is as gutless and counterproductive as what marginalized the Democratic Party in the first place. Read the full post at p.m. carpenter…

The Bush-Pentagon vast disinformation campaign in Iraq is finally generating the reaction it ought to have generated back when, in the earliest days of the war, the Pentagon was spilling Jessica Lynch-like lies as liberally as it was spilling other people’s blood. No one should be surprised about the vast right-wing confabulations that take their source in the White House’s messianic conviction that its splendid little junta, rather than Christ, should represent the Middle East’s second coming. But the sense of outrage is limited. It doesn’t extend to the vast disinformation campaign going on in the United States. And it does nothing to discourage still-more dangerous fantasies on the part of the administration’s foot soldiers. The Discerning Texan, for instance, thinks more censorship and more “information management” is the salvation. This is what we’ve come to:

[…] we have mismanaged the information aspect of this war. One need only look back to FDR's management of World War II to note glaring differences. In today's "PC" society, politicians -- even those whose hearts are in the right place like the President's -- waste our money and endanger our national security by applying political correctness to airport security, CIA-induced leaks to the media endangering our National Security, and otherwise looking the other way as millions of illegals pour across our borders. But by far the most overlooked aspect of this war has been the fact that many times in American history, the Executive branch has in times of war legitimately censored what could and could not be reported by our news media, or censured those in Congress who were seen as aiding and abetting our enemies by fanning the flames of controversy that greatly endangers our war effort and puts the lives of America's finest (and the rest of us too) in greater peril. Read the full post at The Discerning Texan…

Don’t despair. From the ironclad and ironically titled Ten Downing Street Blog, we have “The Iron Fist of Jesus,” a long post on the other disinformation campaign going on in the United States, the one about the pretenders to the Trinity's thrones (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld). Note the nifty twist on Islamo-fascism (conservatives' current equivalent of Reds) and the clever Steinbeck reference:

God Bless America? Surely You Jest. […]As the US government continues to rape the Middle East, Christo-Fascists slap "God Bless America" bumper stickers on their gas-guzzling SUV's actually believing that the Father, the Son, and/or the Holy Spirit would bless a nation governed by murderers, thieves and thugs. Yes, I can visualize a Christian God sitting on his throne in the kingdom of heaven gazing down upon humankind. As he surveys humanity, he "wisely and judiciously" decides to answer Jane Morgan's prayer for a 2005 Hummer to replace her two year old Navigator. After all, he can't have Jane driving a "jalopy" to worship him on Sundays, now can he? Spying eight year old Mahmoud, a Palestinian in Gaza, God decides to let him die of malnutrition because he is not a Christian, and in fact is an "evil" Muslim who could become "terrorist" someday. Jerry Falwell, who does not appear to be struggling with malnutrition, would be most pleased with his Maker. Not the Jesus I "Knew" When I was Younger. Read the full, and very long, and occasionally jalopenia-powdered, post at Ten Downing Street… 

One type of religious infamy deserves another. We discovered this curiously interesting blog from the heart of Teheran. It dubs itself “Teheran’s morning newspaper, published online,” and may not be a blog at all. The piece is about Mohammed Khatami, Iran’s ex-president and one of those rarest of combinations: an intellectual cleric with a philosophical bend. In 2001, and in answer to Samuel Huntington’s mongering in favor of a “clash of civilizations,” Khatami proposed that the United Nations declare 2001 the Year of Dialogue of Civilizations. The UN took him up on it, but 2001 became, ironically, the Year of 9/11, shunting aside any hope of dialogue as the Clashers and the Bashers won it big over the dialoguers. Khatami is still at it though, pressing for more dialogue as the UN heads toward a conference on the subject in 2006. An excerpt from the post, which is written without a hint of pro-Iranian Mullahism:

While Khatami’s idea was heralded across the board and in all circles, it never succeeded in preventing the intense clash of ideas inside Iran itself. With his departure earlier this year and the coming to power of a hardline president in Iran , Iranian society polarized again and deeply. Khatami and his idea, like those of other artists such as Iranian filmmakers whose works received scanty attention in Iran , became headlines internationally, winning support from many intellectual, academic, cultural and even political circles. It was a catchy idea, especially coming from a country that had been viewed differently. It is ironic and distressing that while Khatami continues to call for a dialogue among civilizations and leaders, his successor in Iran just recently called for the elimination of Israel, a comment that was immediately and strongly condemned by the international community, while also perhaps revealing Iran’s veiled intentions in its pursuit of nuclear energy. Read the full post…

In our blogging travels abroad, encounters with the almost remarkable are always the welcoming, greenhouse-gasless   fuel that keeps us going. Chippla Vandu doesn’t say where he’s from; his profile describes his location as “the world,” though his posts on Chippa’s Weblog are Nigeria-focused enough, and unobsessed enough with things American, to give us a sense of his whereabouts. His recent post on tribalism may be entitled “Primitive Nigerian Politics,” but just as human beings’ DNA is 98 percent similar to that of chimps and 60 percent similar to that of fruit flies, Nigerian politics seem 98 percent similar to politics in America. Chippla refers to Nigeria’s North and South. Substitute the alleged division of America's Red and Blue states, and you’ll get a sense of what we mean:

Territorial human behavior is deeply rooted in culture and history. Nationalism or regionalism helps in reinforcing it. For instance in present day Nigeria where no true form of national identity exists, people turn to 'their roots' to find solace and some form of comforting identity. Depending on how far one chooses to trace his/her roots, regionalism could be reflected in one's village, one's ethnic group or one's state (province). One of the greatest fallacies that modern Nigerian society has been forced to believe in is that the country is 'strongly' divided along an established fault line – a North and a South. This fallacy may have been easier to promulgate given that the Heaven-made Rivers Niger and Benue actually split the country into a conspicuous North and South. But the man-made definitions of North and South differ from those created by the rivers. Read the rest…

But even those who don’t want to focus on America can’t help it. We noticed another post of Chippla’s, one entitled “Do You Hate America?” An excerpt:

What is it you hate about America ? Her behemoth industries and the way they dominate the world of global capitalism? Her cultural exports which are gradually becoming a part of your everyday life and those of your kids– movies, music, food, clothes? Her arrogant neo-con politicians who feel the rest of the world really doesn't matter? Her dumb citizens who know next to nothing about the rest of the world? Her greedy preachers who amass a fortune while telling others about the coming of the kingdom of God ? Her ruling political class which talks about human rights yet treats non-American citizens caught in a War on Terror as subhumans? Her ultra-rich, movie stars and sport stars that you would want to just get away from but who keep popping up each time you put on the television set? Her industrial lobby which seems so bent on increasing its profit base that it distorts reality and shamefully ignores the menace of global climate change? Read the rest, and keep an eye on the comments that follow his post…

That completes the week’s bath in the Serious and the Damning, leaving us free to indulge in the most pleasant discovery of the last seven days: Rumors of Glory, where “the difficult and delightful subtleties of life” come to life in the words of a sixth-grade teacher (Carolyn by name), “an extreme thinker and feeler with an eye for the ironic.” In “Pride of the Dutchmen and Other Names to Ponder,” she takes on those mascots and nicknames that invariably attach to every team in America, usually without purpose, offense or originality, but occasionally with a subtle dose of all three and more. Rumors of Glory runs down a few:

The Shadle Park Highlanders . My high school played them when I was a kid. It's an okay name for a team, but their band marched in kilts. I have heard that real men don't wear underwear under their kilts, but I never had occasion to blunder into one of their locker rooms so I can't substantiate it.

The Midgets: Way to give your kids a complex from the get-go. I can't remember what town the Midgets represent. Maybe they have all grown up in the shadows of the Dutchmen, then I'd understand. And again, I have never even been near one of their locker rooms (and I way learned my lesson with that whole Dutch-boy incident), so I cannot comment on what the term midget might suggest.

The Golden Gophers. I mean no disrespect to the University of Minnesota . But I don't think it really strikes fear into the hearts of the opponents when they are facing off with-- I gotta say it-- rodents. And herbivores, to boot. But I suppose it's better to be an herbivore team than named for a plant.

The Vandals. I grew up near the University of Idaho , but I could never figure out why their mascot, the vandal, looked like a Viking. When I was in college (in MN) I had a question on a European history test: What marauding tribe's name is now synonymous with wanton destruction? Suddenly it all came together for me: the Vandals were a tribe like the Vikings-- that would be why the mascot guy looked like he did. I was the only one in the class to get the question right. The full post is a must-laugh…

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