Wynton is The Greatest!

Posted in Cultural Matters, Music Reviews, You Tube Classics with tags , , on August 2, 2016 by playthell
DSC_0250
Maestro Marsalis at work

The Evidence on Video and Audio

The great composer, arranger, bandleader and trumpeter Gerald Wilson once told me emphatically during an interview: “Wynton Marsalis is the greatest trumpeter in the world!” And as a failed trumpeter who retained a passionate love for the instrument, as well as an acute appreciation for the formidable obstacles and treacherous pitfalls which confronted the aspiring artist that attempted to master it, I wholeheartedly agreed.

As a serious lover of complex instrumental music I had listened to many great trumpeters in Jazz and European concert music – the former a New World invention, a 20th century art that expressed the Afro-American love of freedom as well as the quintessential American ideals of Democracy, Personal Liberty and Innovation. The latter a great art music from the Old World of Europe that was already centuries old, and reflected the hierarchal and highly formalized character of the societies that produced it. And although both musical idioms employ the same instrument, and the music they make is based on the same system of melody and harmony – a European invention that produced sublime sounds by their great master composers – the two musical forms were profoundly different in instrumental technique, compositional structure and artistic philosophy.

In the classical music of Europe the instrumentalist is a vehicle for the ideas of the composer. And if they perform in symphony orchestras, operas or chorales they are also subjected to the dictates of tyrannical composers. Hence in European concert music the creativity of the instrumentalist is severely circumscribed. Everything from tempo, intonation and interpretation of the music is dictated the composer and enforced by the conductor with an iron fist.  Hence conformity to tradition and achieving excellence based upon well-established standards of performance is the objective to which the successful artists must aspire.

Conversely, the art of Jazz performance demands that the performer seek their own voice, follow their personal muse, and create something new under the sun.  Furthermore the music must swing to the clockwork rhythms of the unique machine age milieu in which it was born…the most modern civilization the world had ever seen.  Hence all Jazz is modern music.  That’s why visual artists from American Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollard and Wilheim de Kooning, to European masters of Modernism such as Pablo Picasso and Salvadore Dahli lionized their music.

The difficulty of mastering both musical idioms is self-evident in the fact that of all the great musicians that have lived in the world there are so few that have achieved virtuosity in both that we can count them on our fingers and toes. Flautist Hubert Laws, Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, pianists Chucho Valdez and Herbie Hancock, bassists Ron Carter, Carlos del Pino, Richard Davis and Ortiz Walton first among them. However Mr. Marsalis is the only musician on any instrument who has won the coveted Grammy for performances in both genres.  And he has achieved this impossible feat nine times!  Four were for “Best Classical Performance” and five for “Best Jazz Performance.”

For this presentation I have chosen one of the most difficult instrumental pieces from each genre where Wynton is featured as a soloist.  Added to this are two performances with Wynton as accompanist to a singer…a fine art unto itself.  For the instrumental Classical repertoire I have selected “The Carnival of Venice,” and for the Jazz performance I have chosen “Cherokee.” As to the difficulties posed by the first piece suffice it to say that when trumpeters auditioned for the great United States Marine Band, billed as “The Greatest Brass Band in the World” – under the direction of its founder and premiere composer Maestro John Phillip Sousa – who wrote such enduring works as El Capitan, Semper Fidelis, Anchors Away! And the immortal Stars and Stripes Forever – “The Carnival of Venice “ was the piece that they were required to play.

This is because Arbans’ Carnival presents the trumpeter with a series of obstacles that requires mastery of all the technical problems posed by trumpet performance: Legato and staccato phrasing; triple tonguing, circular breathing, fingering the keys, exquisite timing, embouchure and intonation. Cleary Wynton masters them all…and with ease!  This is a heroic achievement, because a trumpet after all is just some twisted brass pipes with a hard metal mouthpiece and only three keys!  Yet it is capable of playing all the notes in the musical lexicon.

This amazing feat is achieved by manipulating sound from the way one blows into the instrument, which is to say mastering embouchure.  It is such a marvelous feat the only reason that great athletes such as Michael Jordon and Russell Wilson attract more fans that Wynton is because more people understand the greatness of what they do. Everybody has had some experience playing sports – if only because physical education is a required component of every school curriculum…and sadly instrumental music is not.  However to grasp the brilliance of Wynton’s performance on Carnival, one need only read the comments of trumpet players from all over the world under the video and note their astonishment – one even said that “suicide” would be easier and a lot less painful that the epic failure one would experience trying to duplicate this performance!”

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 Cherokee, the Jazz selection, was the piece that the hep cats at Minton’s Playhouse threw on Charlie “Yardbird” Parker to prove his mettle when he showed up at Minton’s Playhouse from Kansas City “looking country” totin his alto-sax in a cardboard case.  But when he took out his axe and begin to “cut heads” with his complex, erudite and original musical statements, Bird astonished everybody who witnessed it.  Dizzy Gillespie, a key figure in the aggregation of musical rebels who congregated in Minton’s and experimented with new ideas, said when he heard Bird he thought: “There it is, this is the sound we have been searching for.”  He said that they had bits and pieces of the music that would become world famous as Be-bop, and Bird filled in the gaps and brought the whole thing together.

From that musical communion came a genre of Jazz that would change the way musicians heard and played music all over the world. The artistic challenges Bop presented intrigued musicians from the great to near great to apprentices.  If I had to sum up Bird’s achievement I would say that he did for the world of music what Einstein did for theoretical physics: change the relationship between time and space forever.

The great writer Ralph Ellison, a well-schooled trumpet player competent in both the classical repertoire – he was a music major at Tuskegee, where he studied with the outstanding Afro-American composer in the classical European style but with an Afro-American voice. William Dawson – and was also grounded in the hard swinging blues style of the “Stomp” that was popular among the “Territorial Bands” that played in his native Oklahoma City – bird hailed from nearby Kansas City.

Ellison, was so astonished and overwhelmed by what he head in Minton’s that he wrote “They were playing be-bops…I mean re-bopped be-bops.” The drummers had abandoned the steady bass drum pulse that was so essential to the dancers who got down to the Stomp, that Ellison was horrified by the seemingly free form complexity of their rhythms and described them as “frozen faced introverts dedicated to chaos!”

The experience of hearing this new music called “Be-Bop” invented in Harlem’s Minton’s Playhouse by players like trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, bassist Oscar Pettiford, drummer Kenny “Klook” Clarke and others that he gave up playing the trumpet and became a writer -.one of the greats.  So music’s lost was literature’s gain.

When listening to Cherokee, remember that essential to the genius of Jazz is not only the requirement of virtuosity on the part of each instrumentalist…but one must be able to compose complex music while swinging the blues over chord changes  at the SPEED OF THOUGHT!!!  Hence the speed at which Wynton is playing adds to the magic of it all!  So Kick back and check out the marvelous vibes from the horn of Maestro Marsalis…THE GREATEST TRUMPETER IN THE WORLD!!!

Chillin Back Stage
Wynton in Berkley After a triumphant concert at U-Cal Berkeley
Click to see: THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE

Click to see: CHEROKEE
https://youtu.be/3blL4v-cY18
Boroque Duets: Wynton and Kathleen Battle

Watch Wynton Accompany Jazz Great Sarah Vaughn

Watch Wynton Warm up before a Concert

The concert featured legendary pianist Ahmad Jamal with the JALC Orchestra

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
August 1, 2016
***Cover Photo by Frank Stewart
U-Cal Berkeley Photo by: Playthell Benjamin

On Blacks in the White House

Posted in Cultural Matters, You Tube Classics with tags on July 25, 2016 by playthell

barack-and-michelle-obama-fashion

President Obama and the First Lady

A Must See Documentay by Professor H.L. Gates

Serious students of history have a different, and deeper, understanding of the present. Indeed, as the great Afro-American historian Benjamin Quarles – a long time professor of history at Morgan State University and author of “The Negro in the American Revolution,” warned: “He who would understand the complexities of the present need the added dimension of historical perspective.” The video below supplies that mush need historical perspective what the election of Barack Obama as President of the USA tells us about how far we have advanced in America.

This is a much needed perspective because there are far too many black people, especially the so-called “radicals,” who evaluate everything in terms of political victories i.e. the achievement of specific policy goals. Yet the election of Barack Obama has a significance that goes beyond politics and speaks to a pscho-cultural revolution in race relations that has opened up possibilities that were unimaginable when I went off the college at Florida A&M University in the fall of 1959.

The student sit-ins began that spring of 1960, and a brash young boxer named Cassius Marcellous Clay danced himself to a Gold Medal in Rome a few months later. He would go on the become a powerful symbol of the revolt of my generation. We set out to change race relations in ths country by destroying the de jure (legal) racial caste system in which the subordination of black people and white supremacy was the law!

There was no shame in those crackers game. Well we did destroy it! And while we have not solved all of the problems confronting America, and others gave arisen over the last half century:We have come a long way baby! I know first hand of which I speak because I WITNESSED IT!!! I watched these events unfold as an activist; a soldier in America’s nuclear strike force; a professor of history; an award winning journalist; music and theater critic; broadcaster; bandleader and boxing promoter. I saw it from ALL SIDES!

This film below, produced by “The Root” and narrated by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Professor of the Humanities at Harvard, is a brilliant, succintly rendered, history of Afro-Americans in the White House. This is a GREAT CONTRIBUTION to the full understanding of our history in this Republic, and Professor Gates – a cultural treasure – presents a learned and moving narrative accompanied by a splendid array of photographs and paintings.

http://theroottv.theroot.com/embed/player/container/1366/667/?layout=&content_type=content_item&playlist_cid=&media_type=video&content=RNYV4J3G2YCX7N72&read_more=1&widget_type_cid=svp&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F

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A You Tube Classic
Selected and posted by: 
Playthell G. Benjamin

Paul Ryan is a Shameless Charlatan!

Posted in On the 2016 Presidential Election, Playthell on politics with tags , on July 10, 2016 by playthell
Paul Ryan - charlatan
Paul Ryan: Bunko Artist

On Playing Politics with National Security

It is nearly impossible to find a principled Republican these days.  In fact, it is becoming something of an oxymoron.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way they routinely deal with the dangerous enigma that is Donald Trump – talking out of both sides of their mouth in an attempt to endorse him as their presidential candidate while disassociating themselves from his offensive and often anti-Republican ideas – and now their response to the FBI investigation into the E-mail accounts of Hillary Clinton.  After making much ado about nothing when Bill Clinton and Attorney Lynch had an unscheduled meeting on the tarmac of an airport where both of their planes were parked, the Republicans in Congress are now refusing to accept the FBI report and the recommendations of the FBI Director.

No one personifies this Republican duplicity more than Paul Ryan, the current Speaker of the House, a sleazy apparently amoral guy who will compromise the integrity of his office for political advantage.  This is not the first occasion that I have pointed out these flaws in Speaker Ryan’s character.  During his run for Vice-President with Mitt Romney topping the ticket I wrote four essays on Ryan.

In one essay titled “Is Ryan a Bullshit Artist” I pointed out “Ryan is trying his best to bury his intellectual debt to the atheistic Russian Social Darwinist philosopher Ayn Rand.” But “MSNBC host Laurence O’Donnell aired a video tape…recorded in 2008, where Ryan tells us that Rand is the source of his entire political philosophy; he says that she inspired him to enter politics to help realize her vision of society.  And he required all of his congressional staff to read and discuss Rand’s books “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” 

“Then, with a devilish Grin,” I reminded the reader “O’ Donnell produced some rare footage of Ms. Ryan in an interview with Johnny Carson where she scoffs at the idea of God, said the family was not a necessary institution, and said the Vietnam war was and said he Vietnam war was an absurd American imperialism.  She is also on Record calling Ronald Reagan a moron!”  All of these positions of Ms. Rand contradict core Republican beliefs. Yet these blatant contradictions had no discernable effect on Mr. Ryan as he went merrily about his way like a drunken man running down the street and stumbles across the naked truth but gets up runs on as if nothing had happened.

When subjected to rigorous inquiries about his cold-blooded economic proposals Ryan said that his ideas were based on “traditional Catholic teachings” on social policy.  However it quickly became apparent that this duplicitous scam artist would find no sanctuary in the Catholic Church.  For as I reminded the reader “Catholic theologians and the Council of Bishops rebuked him for elevating the teachings of Ayn Rand on the ideal society over the teachings of Jesus Christ…If  Mitt is Mr. Chameleon  Ryan is trying his best to become “The Invisible Man.”

This is the tactic Ryan is presently employing in the Presidential race, where he is trying to support the Republican presidential race without mentioning their deeply flawed candidate’s name.  Hence he has adopted a strategy of tearing down Hillary Clinton without risking his political credibility by building up Donald Trump.  He has very much been the Invisible Man when it comes to singing the praises of Trump.

Indeed it is only when viewed from this perspective that one can understand the contrast between his extreme caution in supporting Trump with his reckless demand that Hillary Clinton be denied access to the classified National Security briefings that are given to presidential nominees…despite the fact that from all appearances she might well be the next president of the USA!

Yet Ryan has no objection to this Top Secret intelligence be given to Donald Trump – an undisciplined, unprincipled, megalomaniac and compulsive liar with the temperament of a schoolyard bully.  A joker whom Ryan finds an embarrassment and supports with the attitude of Hollywood stunt man who must hold his breath and role in horseshit because the script calls for it.

Paul Ryan would deny Inteligence Reports to Hillary

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

And give them to this guy?

This is an act of shameless political opportunism that would compromise the national security of this country if Ryan’s request were granted.  But since such an act is the prerogative of the executive branch, which means that President Obama would have to sign off on it.  Nobody knows better than Congressman Ryan that there is no chance of this happening, so it is an act of transparent and shameless duplicity designed to gain a partisan political advantage in the presidential elections.

This is clearly the act of a charlatan who is willing to play Russian Roulette with the fate of the nation in order to win an election.  It is a good thing that the America electorate was wise enough not to put this flawed man just a heartbeat away from the presidency.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
July 7, 2016

What Jesse Williams Should Have Said

Posted in Cultural Matters, On the 2016 Presidential Election with tags , on July 1, 2016 by playthell

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26: Honoree Jesse Williams accepts the Humanitarian Award onstage during the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Jesse Williams: June 2016

On Recieving BET’s Humanitarian Award

To the Black entertainment Network, the audience, and my wonderful parents sitting out there; thanks for inviting me, thanks for listening to me….and thanks for raising me right mom and pop; for equipping me to overcome life’s adversities and make a contribution to our community. Like it or not, those of us who have managed to achieve some measure of fame and fortune are duty bound by an ancestral imperative to use our platforms to advance the struggle for full justice on behalf of our brothers and sisters who still face racial discrimination as an everyday fact of life.

We must raise our voices in a swelling chorus and pledge our money to this herculean struggle for justice.  For that is how we have come thus far along the way – as the poet and Reniassance Man James Weldon Johnson wrote in the immortal anthem: Lift Every Voice and Sing, composed by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in 1901, just 31 years after the abolition of 250 years of chattel slavery here in the “land of the free.”

Yet unless we fully understand the complex problems confronting us, we could end up like “Jack the Bear,” whom Duke Ellington – that indefatigable painter of Afro-American life in song – immortalized.  We’ll be making tracks but getting nowhere!  Some of our problems are obvious, like fatal encounters with the police.

Yet as horrible as it is we can envision a solution to this problem: Mandate that all police everywhere video tape every encounter with a citizen and pass a federal law requiring the states to hire Special Prosecutors to try every case involving the police use of firearms… or fatalities by any means. These measures will pretty much put an end to this problem.  But even so, alas the major danger to our lives from random gunfire remains a nihilistic, angry, uneducated young black male. The statistics are indisputable cause numbers don’t lie.

However as the prescient Afro-American sociologist and Harvard Professor William J. Wilson demonstrates in seminal texts like “The Truly Disadvantaged,” “When Work Disappears” and “The Declining Significance of Race,” we are facing devastating problems that limit our chances in life and the solutions are elusive. For these problems are deeply rooted in American history and exacerbated by the realities of a predatory economic system where Darwinian laws of the jungle prevail.  As Senator Bernie Sanders has adroitly pointed out: The big dogs are taking all the bones in a cruel environment that’s red of truth and claw. It’s a for real jungle out there!

Hence while continuing to vigorously fight the lingering vestiges of the American racial caste system we must not be so blind that we fail to see the wider struggle between economic classes.  If the US economy continues in the direction  it is headed, with runaway cyber-technology wiping out millions of jobs and no plan for the survival of workers who are rendered obsolete, it won’t matter what your race or ethnicity: we are all be in the same sinking boat!  It is this economic disaster that fuels social pathologies from widespread out of wed-lock births, drug and alcohol addiction, spiraling homicides, mass slaughters, etc.  And it is devastating the working classes of all racial and ethnic groups.

This is why silly talk about not voting, or there is no difference between the candidates, represents a dangerous intellectual laziness…or worse an impulse to cut off your nose to spite your face.   Either choice is self-destructive folly.  If I had unlimited time on this podium I could obviously say much more on these critical issues….and much more certainly needs to be said.  But as I am laboring under the tyranny of the clock I shall proceed directly to the marching orders.

The first and immediate plan of action is to defeat Donald the Clown, a vain megalomaniac and intellectual light-weight who would set our country back and endanger the entire world.  So register to vote! Get your friends and family to register to vote, and badger them to badger their friends and family to register and vote.  To put the argument in a nutshell, I shall leave you with quotes by two philosophers: One an ancient Greek, the other a twentieth century African.

“Unless you are a God or a beast your life will be ruled by politics” warned Aristotle.  “Seek ye first the political Kingdom and all else shall be added there unto,” spoke Kwame Nkrumah, independence leader and President of Ghana, the first modern African nation.  Impassioned rhetoric is fine, it’s inspirational, it makes us feel good, but if we not act its just a pity party!

For as our great ancestor Frederick Douglass warned: Where there is no struggle there is no progress….power concedes nothing without demand…it never has and it never will.  We may not always get what we pay for in this life…but we shall sure as hell pay for all that we get!  I thank you for this honor.

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A Note of Clarification on My Purpose

Jesse Williams was brought to my attention by the persistent and vociferous praise for his acceptance speech upon receiving the “Humanitarian Award” presented by Black Entertainment Television. So I looked the speech up online and watched it for myself.  I found Mr. William’s to be eloquent, impassioned and poetic; the kind of verbal virtuosity that excites the emotions and fires up a crowd.  But this is what one would expect from an accomplished actor giving a great performance.   Alas, I had hoped for something different…something more.

If Mr. Williams had been allotted twice the amount of time this would have been a great closing commentary. Appeals to the emotions can be powerful adjuncts to a substantive speech, a means of inspiring people to action after a precise analysis of the problem, and clear marching orders to correct it.   Only then are powerful rhetorical exercises truly useful in waging real struggle.

I know that some will complain that I am judging the Brother too harshly, and I answer their complaints by simply pointing out that had Mr. Williams been presented this award as an actor I would have judged him as an actor and simply applauded his performance. For he certainly did what actors do and did it well.  However Mr. Williams was presented an award for his activism with “Black Lives Matter.”   It was announced that the award was given for “His continued effort and steadfast commitment

Hence his speech has to be judged by a different standard.  The question before any activist who is provided such a powerful platform, a chance to speak to millions, in these turbulent and dangerous times, is how can I make the best use of the opportunity to advance the struggle?  If that is the objective then it will determine the form and content of the speech.  The role of a movement orator is always the same: To move the masses to action with the magic power of the spoken word; what our Swahili speaking brothers call “Nommo.”

But action without a correct analysis and a plan is an invitation to chaos and defeat.  Hence as an able actor adept at tugging our heart strings and jerking our tears Mr. Williams gave a bravura performance.  But as a charismatic revivalist giving direction to a movement he was a bust.  Fortunately, all is not lost, for there is a valuable lesson to be learned here.

We will forget at our peril that actors, be they Bernie Sanders surrogates like Susan Saranden, or Black Lives Matter’s spokesman Jessie Williams, spend their working lives a vehicles for the thoughts of others; those who write the script.  Hence all Mr. William’s or Ms. Sarandon need is a good script to give a great speech that can move the masses to positive, constructive, action…not simply emotional catharsis and continued confusion.

The great Afro-American intellectual historian, cultural critic and political theorist Harold Cruse argued in his masterpiece “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual” that the problem with lack actors is that do not turn to black writers for their scripts. It is with that objective that I suggest “Here is What Jesse Williams Should Have Said.”

(Click on Link and wait for video to appear to watch the Speech)
http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/06/27/actor_and_activist_jesse_williams_gave_a_fiery_speech_at_the_bet_awards.html

 

Reflections on American Exceptionalism!

Posted in Cultural Matters, The 2016 Presidential Race, You Tube Classics on June 30, 2016 by playthell
James-Reese-Europe
James Reece Europe and the Harlem Hell Fighters Band

Setting the Record Straight

In the coming months we will hear endless praise for “American Exceptionalism,” and while the Republicans are sick with this, some consider commitment to this ideology a litmus test for one’s fitness to become President, large numbers of Democrats are also seduced by this self-serving fiction.  Alas, since “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” as George Bernard Shaw observed, we must look at those who boisterously wrap themselves in the American flag with a jaundiced eye. The ground breaking Afro-American historian Dr. Benjamin Quarles, author of “The Negro in the American Revolution” advised us that “he who would understand the present realities need the added dimension of historical perspective.”

This is especially true when evaluating the doctrine of “American Exceptionalism,” which argues that America is exceptional among the nations of the world in promoting freedom, equality and justice “for all” people. This point of view is especially promoted by Republicans and ding bat White Nationalists like the supporters of Donald Trump, but it is shared to some extent by virtually all white Americans, and some black Americans as well as misguided immigrants who know little of America.

However it is a fiction. The actual history of the US reveals it to be the most racist nation earth! Both Adolph Hitler and the White South Africans got their racist ideology from white American eugenicists – especially Madison Grant’s tome “The Passing of the Great Race” – which Hitler called “My Bible” in a recently discovered letter in Grant’s papers.  Furthermore, the Nazi’s based their racist laws on America’s  anti-black laws.

Madison Grant
Madison GrantHitler’s Bible!

Although Afro-Americans have fought in every war since the Revolutionary war against Britain – which Professor Quarles details in his book, their courage and manhood was still being denigrated at the outbreak of World War I.  However when the all black 369th Regiment from New York, the famous “Harlem Hell Fighters,” was assigned to the French Army they became the most highly decorated of ALL American military units in the First World War.  Yet upon returning home their racist American government refused to recognize their valor, and had even tried to prevent the French government from decorating them!  That was certainly EXECPTIONAL among the nations of the world.

Real American Heroes!

Harlem Hell fighters 69th Infrantry

The 369th Regiment aka “Harlem Hell Fighters

Afro-American music, and the dances it inspired, changed the popular culture of Europe. One European philosopher remarked that had it not been for the popularity of Afro-American music they would have been left to listen to European classical music, and in the spiritual angst that engulfed the European intelligentsia trudging among the ruins of a civilization gone mad in the aftermath of World War I “we would have all committed suicide.”   The Afro-American Renaissance Man, James Weldon Johnson, may well have been right when he called the Harlem Hell fighters band “The greatest military band ever assembled!”

Yet true or not, one thing is certain, the Harlem Hell Fighter’s Band won the hearts and minds of Europeans through the power of music in a way that military power could not.  And I cannot think of a more powerful example of positive American Exceptionalism. For a further discussion of this question see my critical essay on Woody Allen’s thoughtful and artistic film about the period, “Midnight in Paris: A Flawed Masterpiece,” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/…/midnight-in-paris-a-fl…/  This is a multi-media presentation with text, photographs and video of the Hell Fighter band performing in Paris.

As one who taught history in a variety of situations from church basements and adult ED classes, to university seminars, I have learned how to plan an effective lesson.  Fortunately I am lucky enough to be living in interesting times, a period of tumultuous change, and the Gods of the pedagogues have provided me with the internet, a marvelous medium in cyberspace that allows me to publish my Commentaries on these events to a world-wide audience.

Furthermore, on the Internet I am able to publish my views without the censorious mediation of editors who are owned by corporate media organizations that determine what we shall see, hear and read.  Added to these blessings are the magnificent video files on You Tube; which provide compelling evidence to buttress my often controversial arguments.  The videos cited here are prime examples, because they support my arguments in the essays superbly.

To view History Channel film on “Harlem Hell Fighters” click on link below.”)
http://www.history.com/…/wor…/videos/the-harlem-hellfighters

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 30, 2016

 

Heeeeare’s Donnie!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On the 2016 Presidential Election with tags , , on June 25, 2016 by playthell

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, at his Turnberry golf course, in Turnberry, Scotland, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

A Chump on the Stump

 Dumb Dangerous Donnie Cuts the Fool in Scotland

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, loves to talk about all the great lessons he learned from his daddy, but apparently old Fred Trump never told his son it is far better to be thought a fool than open your big moth and remove all doubt!   From the moment Trump’s helicopter landed at his golf resort and was met by reporters he immediately let the world know that he is clueless about world affairs.

Trump walked up to the microphone and announced that he supported the people of Scotland’s decision to “take your country back” by voting to leave the European Union.  His remarks elicited snickers of derisive laughter from the press on the scene as well as the commentators on the set of WNBC’s Morning Joe.  Their laughter was provoked by the fact that Trump evidently did not know that two thirds of the Scots had actually voted against the decision to take Britain out of the EU!  It was par for the course with Dumb Donnie.

Never able to pass up a chance to mouth off whether or not he has any idea what he is talking about, this proved to be just the beginning of a series of harebrained comments. Unlike all other major party candidates for the American presidency instead of visiting with officials of the country in an attempt to develop personal relationships, Trump concentrated on promoting his two golf courses in Britain.   Hence when he was asked what he thought about the fact that the Pound was being devalued by Britain’s exit from the EU, Trump replied that he thought it would be good for his business because the weak pound would make the United Kingdom an attractive vacation choice for American tourists.

Donnie showed not the slightest glimmer of regret for the trials of the Scottish people; instead he revealed his true colors as a New York real estate hustler – a gang of economic predators whose values rank several notches below the ethics of Barbary pirates – and began presenting a sales pitch for the luxury apartments and restaurant located on “the best par three in the world.”  He then described the state of the art sprinkler system he had installed and raphsodized about the beauty of the ocean waves crashing against the rocks.  Trump was shameless in pitching his properties and got so caught up in his sales presentation that for a moment he appeared to forget where he was; pointing to the lighthouse that contained some especially plush suites and declared: “This lighthouse is very important to Florida.”

The Donald resembled the bumbling cartoon character “Mr. Magoo,” with that goofey cap pulled down on his head, and he sounded as silly as he looked.  When asked if he thought the breakup of the EU was a good thing, he responded with a rambling anecdote about some German friends that really loved their country but was considering immigrating because of all the undesirable aliens being allowed to settle there.  Trumps answers were so off the wall that one of the reporters asked if he consulted with any foreign policy experts.  To wit Dumb Donnie said yes but they were just advisors and offered different opinions.  He went on to say that he saw no reason to meet further with foreign olicy experts, especially any who have been instrumental in formulating foreign policy in the last five years. Hence it came as no surprise that when Trump was asked to point out the members of the Scottish government in attendance he couldn’t.

Trump’s performance was so far beneath what seasoned political reporters expect from a potential president of the USA, more than one of them described it as “surreal.”  Mike Barnacle, one of the commentators witnessing this fiasco on Morning Joe, felt compelled to remark “We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that in great historical moment for Great Britain Trump choose to talk about real estate zoning laws.”  He was a complete embarrassment to educated Americans, and the idea that this clueless clown could be our next president seemed at once ludicrous….and terrifying.

The extent of his cluelessness was nowhere more convincing than when he began to explain how the vote to quit the EU was sparked by the fact that the Brits and Scots hate President Obama, and they did it just because he was against it. Yet the fact is that President Obama is widely admired in Britain and Dumb Donnie is both feared and despised.

Evidence of the contempt in which the Scots hold him could be seen in everything from newspaper editorials  – which he does not read, nor appear to have anyone reading them for him – to the Mexican Flags they were flying near his properties; to the box of golf balls with Swastikas on them presented to him by a Scottish citizen; to Scots waving a large banner reading “Dump Trump!”

The Scots were Clear in their Sentiments!
Donald Trump in Scotland Dump Trump
They want no part of “The Donald”

Donald Trump - Greatest Liar

There was nothing that Dumb Donnie said which suggested he has any idea how the European Union came into existence, what its mission is, nor its accomplishments.  Verbose airhead that he is Donnie just prattled on ad nauseum with no  hint that he was talking like a fool, to the shock and amusement of the onlookers.   Just as when he said on an earlier occasion when asked who was advising him about ISIS: “I mostly consult myself because I have a good brain.”

A pompous megalomaniac and shameless charlatan, Trump spouts nonsense as if it were divine wisdom. Watching his act conjures up memories of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini – two other charismatic demagogues who excited the passions of insecure and untutored mobs in search of a savior, and soulless amoral elites that knew better but thought they could use them as point men in their quest for power.***  History tells us how that turned out, and prudence dictates that we heed the warning of the late Harvard Philosopher George Santayana: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    ***************          

                To see Trump’s Speech and News Conference  double click on Link        

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****For a thorough discussion of the Similarities between Hitler, Mussolini and Trump my multi-media presentation on this question see: “Is Donald Trump a Uniquely American Fascist?”

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 24, 2016

Bravo Samori! Good Show My Boy

Posted in Photo-Essays, Samori Graduates from SUNY with tags , on June 21, 2016 by playthell

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 141 - Edit

Chillin by the Fountain at Lincoln Center

A Joyous Baccalaureate at The Lincoln Center

There were many special things about the graduation ceremony for SUNY’s Empire State College class of 2016, but it was extra special for my son Playthell Samori Benjamin. Like many other students he was completing his degree as an older student who had to work while finishing his studies, and like all of these persistent students he deserves hearty applause for his tenacity.  Beyond these things that he has in common with his classmates however, Samori has a special relationship with this part of Manhattan and the Lincoln Center which is unique.

A Native New Yorker and lifetime resident of Manhattan Samori went to elementary school about twenty blocks away; he went to Junior High school – the unique “Museum Science School” – about ten blocks away, where he had a staff pass at the world renowned Museum of Natural History and he graduated from the Beacon High School which was even closer to the Lincoln Center where he was now graduating from college.  Furthermore, upon his first graduation from elementary school I took him and his twin sister Makeda to a concert in this very hall.

The great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra was performing.  Since Wynton was a good friend of mine and I was a passionate supporter of the Jazz at Lincoln Center project in my newspaper columns and feature stories as well as my weekly radio show, I had the run of the place and took Samori up into the sound and lighting booth because he was curious about how it all worked.  The lighting technician was very gracious to him and allowed Samori to operate the lighting board; he then pressed the wrong button and plunged the entire auditorium into darkness while Wynton was soloing.

It was a hairy moment but quickly corrected by the technician.  Afterward we had a big laugh about it hanging out with Wynton.  I lost the photographs of Samori and Wynton from that night, which is why I am determined to preserve the images from this special night.  Fortunately I dis preserve a photograph we took at home just before departing for the Lincoln Center.

Samori’s First Graduation Night
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Just before leaving for the Lincoln Center

 Hence the graduation ceremony at Lincoln Center was something like coming home to a very familiar place, the return to scenes in which he had lived out the various stages of his development – the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  It was this reality that made this graduation, already a high point in his life, extra special for Samori as he donned his cap and gown and marched down the ailse to receive his sheepskin.

There had been many important stops along the way:  Norfolk State University; Sports Editor and broadcaster at WBAI FM; maintaining a website featuring his interviews with top athletes and articles on various aspects of sport; researching and writing a soon to be published book on baseball.  And finally back to the Upper West side and Lincoln Center to receive his Bachelor of Science Degree.  BRAVO SON! BRAVO!! And big ups to the class of 2016: THE WORLD IS YOURS AS MUCH AS ANYONE’S!

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At Samori's Graduation -2016-06-16 137- Edit

A Contemplative Moment Reflecting on the Gravitas of the Event
As the Students Marched In

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We Witnessed a the “Gorgeous human Mosaic” that People New York City

At Samori's Graduation First Edit 2016-06-16 012

All Races, Ethnicities, and Genders were Representin!

At Samori's Graduation Edit IV 2016-06-16 024

Some Calmly Pondered their Programs
While Others Stood Awaiting the Call

At Samori's Graduation Edit V 2016-06-16 123

To Proudly March Down the Asile

At Samori's Graduation Edit V 2016-06-16 037

Of the Grand Auditorium in Geffin Hall
After Much Pomp and Curcumstance

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The Newly Degreed Students Marched out Triumphantly

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TheDeans and Professors bade them a Fond Farewell 

  At Samori's Graduation Dean Edit - 2016-06-16 007

As they Walked into the arms of Friends, Family and Loved Ones

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Samori with hsi Mother June and Twin Makeda
Samori and Aunt Adjuwa

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 092

She watched him grow up
Samori and Makeda

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 111 EDIT II

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At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 081

The Twins and a Good Friend

At Samori's Graduation Edit - 2016-06-16 127

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At Samori's Graduation - Edit wlth parents 2016-06-16 135

Chillin with Mom and Dad

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Samori and Mom Joyously preserving Memories of Magic Moments

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Playthell G Benjamin and Playthell S. Benjamin
The food and drinks were delicious and plentiful

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 057

A Token of Appreciation for the Graduates

At Samori's Graduation Edit- VIII 2016-06-16 069

The Student’s faces reflected Determination
And Hope

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And Joi de Vivre!

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Plus Lots of Love, Optimism and Good Wishes !

At Samori's Graduation Edit- IX 2016-06-16 129

And the Shutter Bugs were Documenting it all for Posterity!

At Samori's Graduation

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Text and Photos by: Playthell G. Benjamin – excepting those in which he appears.
June 19m 2006
New York City