Amoeblog

"It's the MOST... Blackhistorymonthy tiiime of the yeeear...!"

Posted by Job O Brother, January 31, 2010 10:45am | Post a Comment

I know what you’re thinking: How can it be that it’s Black History Month again, already? It seems to come up faster with each passing year. No sooner do I finish cleaning up all the gift wrap and decorations from 2009’s BHM festivities when – BAM! – time to break ‘em out again for 2010.

But I am excited! I love draping my house in the traditional BHM crushed-velvet flour sacks, heated bear skins, and twinkling, sapphire, mailboxes. We gather together around the hot oil printing press and sing BHM carols, get tipsy on Pancake-Sausage Nog, and remind each other, with love in our hearts, not to forget to turn off the air conditioner before leaving the house. Oh, joy! Oh sweet, unmitigated joy!

Of all these rituals, my favorite is the singing of the carols. I thought I’d share some of them with you, and invite you to sing along with me! Just click on a song below and belt one out. If you’re at work, or reading this on your iPhone while standing in the check-out line at Trader Joe’s, or simultaneously looking at Internet porn (way to multi-task!) – no matter! Sing all the louder! Let everyone know: You’re Black and You’re Proud!







































Oh, but then! After a day of opening presents, kissing ‘neath the severed toe, and feasting on the traditional BHM rice cakes drenched in cherry gravy, we cuddle together in front of our private movie theatre (or, if you’re not filthy, filthy rich like me, your – hee, hee!television) and watch the films that have come to be associated with BHM. We watch them every year, but somehow they never get old, do they? Even when, say, TBS reloops The Wiz the entire day, who doesn’t get seduced into watching the second-half a few times?
















Yes, my love, this is a special time of year, when we meditate on the profound impact that Black Earthlings have had on every facet of culture. But you know what? It’s not just this month. Oh no, child. If we’re to appreciate things in terms of who helped to better and influence them, then every month becomes Black History Month, particularly in the United States of America, where our history is inextricably linked with that of the Black Community. Actually no – not linked – rather, it is one history. One complete story. And regardless of what your ethnic background is, in terms of government, community, neighborhood, and family, we are all a part of the Black Community, that is, the American Community.

Now settle down and finish brushing your BHM teeth and go to bed.

Black Cinema Part I -- Race Movies - The Silent Era

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 31, 2010 10:11am | Post a Comment
This is the first installment in a three part history of early Black Cinema.
To read Part II, covering the Hollywood Studio years of the 1930s and '40s, click here
To read Part III, covering the TV Age of the 1950s and '60s, click here



The Lincoln Motion Picture Company

In most American silent films, minorities were generally played by white actors in make-up. When actual minorities were cast, roles were generally limited. Latinos in silent films usually played greasers and bandits; Asian-Americans played waiters, tongs and laundrymen; and blacks usually played bellboys, stable hands, maids or simple buffoons. Early film depictions of black characters were highly offensive, including those in the films Nigger in the Woodpile, Rastus, Sambo and The Wooing and Wedding of a Coon. Not surprisingly, both Asian-Americans and blacks responded by launching their own alternative cinemas. But whilst Asian-American Silent Cinema quickly faltered, black cinema (blessed with a much larger audience) flourished and soon many so-called race movies were being made by both black and white filmmakers for black filmgoers.

  

The first film company devoted to the production of race movies was the Chicago-based Ebony Film Company, which began operation in 1915. The first black-owned film company was The Lincoln Motion Picture Company, founded by the famous Missourian actor Noble Johnson in 1916. However, the biggest name in race movies was and remains Oscar Micheaux, an Illinois-born director who started The Micheaux Book & Film Company in 1919 and went on to direct at least forty films with predominantly black casts for black audiences. Also in 1919, seeing how lucrative the growing race movie market was, Jacksonville, Florida’s Norman Film Manufacturing Company switched tracks and began making race films, starting with an all black remake of one of their earlier films.

Continue reading...

Sam Cooke - Sittin In the Sun

Posted by Miss Ess, January 31, 2010 09:59am | Post a Comment
I don't know if you caught the American Masters show on PBS the other night about Sam Cooke, but it was great.


Sam Cooke is, of course, an American Master, but he was also a man of the people. He charmed everyone he met, was a brilliant song writer and the first African American to own his own record label. He started his career in gospel and realized that if he wanted to advance himself and take better care of his family (see footage below), he needed to move out into the world of pop. With his careful cover choices and his well-honed genius for writing about topics that appealed to a mass audience, he became one of the first black entertainers to crossover and garner a huge number of white fans.

Playing segregated halls (eventually refusing to) and enduring despicable treatment in the South throughout the late 50s and early 60s, Cooke realized he was in a position as a popular artist to say something about what was going on in America. He covered Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" regularly, but also was inspired to write his own anthem for the movement, "A Change Is Gonna Come," to this day one of the most affecting songs ever to grace the airwaves.

Cooke was, beyond everything else, a self-made man, one who bowed to no one and who crossed boundaries no one thought possible at the time. He gained the respect of the people with his integrity, enthusiasm and smarts. Like many talented artists, his life was cut short early and tragically, at a hotel in Los Angeles in December 1964 when he was shot to death at the age of 33.

To me, Cooke's at his best when he's the most honest and least polished. Here's "Bring It On Home To Me," with his ex-bandmate Lou Rawls on backing vocals:



And here he is on American Bandstand in '64 with Dick Clark with "(Ain't That) Good News" and an interview:

Calfornia Fool's Gold -- Exploring Canterbury Knolls

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 1, 2009 06:13pm | Post a Comment

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Canterbury Knolls



Canterbury Knolls
is a South LA neighborhood bordered by Manchester Square, Morningside Circle and Vermont Knolls to the south, Hyde Park to the west, Chesterfield Square to the north, Vermont Square to the northeast, and Vermont-Slauson to the east.



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of South Los Angeles

For the estimated two dozen or so semi-regular readers of this blog, the way this works is clear. People vote for a Los Angeles neighborhoodor an LA County community (vote here). To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

Then I go there -- often with my trusty sidekick, Shimbles. Then I attempt to explore the connections the area has to movies and music to keep it Amoeblog-relevant. And so, faced with more than two votes for Canterbury Knolls, Shimbles and I set out at the crack of noon to see what we could see in the fabled neighborhood. Preliminary internet research had proved mostly fruitless. Aside from a flame war between some internet gangstas on a 50 Cent message board and some girl’s Livejournal, I could find few firsthand acknowledgements of the neighborhood.

Artistic Welding, one of several iron works in the neighborhood

The way neighborhood names work in LA is this: the more ghetto the neighborhood, the more quaintly English sounding its name. Therefore, I had some notion of what to expect of Canterbury Knolls. Not surprisingly, when we arrived, there were neither knolls nor Kentish people to be seen. (The name "Canterbury" is derived from the Olde Englishe Cantwareburh, meaning "Kent people's stronghold.") In fact, when the Eighth District Empowerment Congress officially nicknamed every neighborhood in the area in 2002, no one in Canterbury Knolls seemed to get the news… or be consulted for the Naming Neighborhoods Project. Further research yielded two claims that the area is more commonly referred to simply as “da hood.” The LA Times even wrote an article, "Asphalt Jungle or Green Meadows?," which addresses the incongruity of the South LA's new neighborhood names and people's ignorance of Canterbury Knolls specifically.

 
Amazing art on a van belonging to Eric's Blog fan, Jesus Cruz!

I couldn’t find any musicians associated with the neighborhood, nor any actors. Although the neighborhood shares initials with Citizen Kane, the only film I could find that was shot in the neighborhood the brutal, senseless beating of Reginald Denny at the hands of Damian Williams, Henry Watson, Antoine Miller, Gary Williams, Anthony Brown and Lance Parker during the LA Riots of ’92, filmed at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. There’s not much along that patch of Florence aside from Gabe Motors, which was packed with restored and waiting-to-be-restored vochos. I’m sure that there are aspiring and possibly practicing musicians, actors or filmmakers in the neighborhood, so if you live in Canterbury Knolls and have a connection to the entertainment business, make yourself heard.


The decidedly deco Green Dog & Cat Hospital, built in 1934

As I mentioned earlier, there are no Kentish people in CK. In fact, nearly everyone we encountered  was black, Latino or Korean. Shimbles and I were the only "people-not-of-color" (to employ the politically correct Anglo-exclusion). Perhaps this is why a kindly old woman asked me if we were brothers as she bade me “good afternoon” and handed me a copy of Watchtower. In fact, Shimbles and I were continually greeted with almost pleasant but almost wearying regularity, making Canterbury Knolls the friendliest neighborhood blogging experience I’ve had to date (in stark contrast to the scowling yoga-pants-horde we encountered in Laurel Canyon the day before).


The gargantuan Slauson Super Mall

Physically, most of Canterbury Knolls is -- like most of South LA -- comprised of small, single story homes, box apartments and tiny stores arranged in grids. There are many churches, auto shops, small markets, discount stores, party suppliers, laundromats and carpet houses. There's a conspicuous absence of chains, for the most part, but they do have an Autozone and a 76. There are few restaurants, just a sprinkling of Burger, Chinese, Mexican and Salvadoran joints.

The northern portion of the neighborhood, along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, is much more industrialized and mostly comprised of large, aging warehouses. Many of the businesses around Slauson, which forms the northern edge of the neighborhood, are furniture manufacturers. In fact, it was either in or near Canterbury Knolls that I procured one of my couches.

The largest of the warehouses is the awesome, sprawling Slauson Super Mall – an enormous, 177,129 square foot swap meet where one can get their nails done, get one’s shine on, buy rainbow-colored everything, eat pupusas and Icees, and pick up a memorial tee of a recently passed black celebrity. Last time I came here I saw one for 60 Minutes' Ed Bradley. Not surprisingly, Michael Jackson is the favored subject for airbrush artists of the moment. It was shown in the video for Tupac's "To Live and Die in LA."

Inside the Super Mall -- my photography doesn't begin to reflect the scope of this place




Well, that's about all I could figure out about Canterbury Knolls. If you have any corrections or additions, by all means let me know. Thanks.



*****


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"It's the MOST... jazziest tiiime of the yeeear...!"

Posted by Job O Brother, August 24, 2009 01:03pm | Post a Comment

I know it’s probably plastered all over your calendar already, but just in case you didn’t know, this is Jazz Week at Amoeba Music Hollywood. This means that, in addition to our normal, totally tubular jazz selection, we’ve squeezed in some additional, choice inventory, plus we’re hosting jazz-spinning DJ’s and such. I think I saw a colorful banner with the word “JAZZ” in bold letters somewhere, too. I mean, people – come with your party hats on!

The back room of Amoeba Music Hollywood is what we call the “jazz room”, though it hosts many other genres of music*, one of which is the Soundtrack section, where I’m most oft found. Some well-meaning employees once tried to get people to nickname the room “jazzical” for the large section of classical music that frames the opposite side from jazz, but it never stuck, partially because people were so accustomed to saying “jazz room” and partially, I’m assuming, because saying “jazzical” makes you feel like an effeminate fat kid, which isn’t a fresh sort of feeling at all.

“Can I have some more toffee and McMuffins? They’re jazzical!”

Within the soundtrack section are some great jazz albums, which will be the focus of this blog entry. So for those of you hoping for a 500 word exposé on actress Edie McClurg, I’m sorry but this isn’t the blog for you.

The first jazzy soundtrack that comes to my mind is the score, composed by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, for the Otto Preminger film, Anatomy of a Murder.


This work is significant, not only because it’s the first Hollywood film-score composed by African-Americans in which the music’s presence isn’t “justified” by the appearance of band-leaders or a combo on the sidelines, but because it’s the first and only music that Duke Ellington composed while living in Antarctica. (Ellington and Strayhorn had moved to the polar continent in an effort to cultivate a stronger following there, after accounting records showed very poor sales among penguins, fur seals, and krill.)


"All jazz sounds the same to me."  The Northern krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica)

Probably my favorite jazz soundtrack is Miles Davis’ music for the Louis Malle film, Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud [English translation: Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit].


I love to play this album when I’m taking a hot bubble bath. I light candles, sip a glass of wine – really treat myself to some luxury. Maybe I’ll exfoliate my skin with some lavender oil and salt crystals, or sometimes I’ll place slices of cool cucumber over my eyes and let them soak, soak, soak the stress away. Occasionally I’ll get hungry during these baths and I’ll make a delicious cucumber salad with salt and lavender oil dressing. Sometimes I won’t even take a bath – I’ll just live in squalor and filth, huddled in a corner, chomping on cucumbers and sobbing. Sometimes the dog across the street tells me the name of the Devil and it means I have to kill my grandma again. Miles Davis was a genius!

Another fantastic album is Sonny Rollins’ music for the movie Alfie (the 1966 British version starring Michael Caine, not the 2004 Hollywood re-make featuring Marjan Neshat).


Hoo boy, I love me some Sonny Rollins!

A notable mention is the soundtrack to the David Cronenberg film Naked Lunch, an adaptation of the novel by William S. Burroughs. While composer Howard Shore’s work isn’t a jazz score, per se, it does feature some intoxicating horn blowing by free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman. It’s spooky stuff – perfect for opium dens, rotted whorehouses, or when you’re hosting your next Wiccan blood-letting.


I’d be remiss not to mention Antonio Carlos Jobim’s masterpiece of bossa nova as realized for the film Orfeu Negro (we call it Black Orpheus). Listening to this album is a transportive experience and will flood your mind with rich and hallucinogenic imagery, even if you’ve never seen the film itself. We play it in the jazz room at least once a month. I think it’s law?


There’s other noteworthy recordings on this theme, such as Gato Barbieri’s score for Last Tango in Paris, Herbie Hancock’s score for Blow-Up, or David Amram’s jazz-influenced music for The Manchurian Candidate, plus more besides. I could go on but, fact is, I have to wrap this blog up for now, as I’m practically starving, and I’ve got some cucumber pie cooling in the windowsill. Topped with a little whipped cucumber or a slice of hot, melted cucumber? Yummy yummy yum!

So stop by Amoeba Music Hollywood this week and make a point to embellish your jazz selection at home. Owning Kind of Blue is a good thing, but don’t you think it’s time to delve a little deeper? If you come find me in the soundtrack section, I’ll be happy to help. I’ll be the guy with cucumber skins caked in the corners of his mouth.

Oh, and I’ll be wearing pants.

Happy Jazz Week! ...Oh, and since you've been so well-behaved, here you go:













*To be exact: Blues, New Orleans, Gospel, Contemporary Christian, Pop Vocals, Soundtracks, Lounge, Kids’ LP’s (but not the CD’s – those are upstairs), Experimental, Classical, New Age, Stand-up Comedy, Avant-garde, Opera, Early Music, plus DVD’s for the above genres (excepting Stand-up Comedy, which is upstairs, also) in addition to DVD Audio, SACD, reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, 8-tracks, mini-discs, and partridges in a pear tree. Did I get everything?
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