Humpty Escapes the Tea Party Before the Martian Invasion

Now that rapper-singer-activist Michael Steele has been relieved of his quixotic effort to make the Republican Party multicultural and funky, he can return to his regular day job as Humpty Hump in Oakland’s quintessentially nineties hip-hop combo Digital Underground. Still not convinced that Steele and Humpty Hump are the same person, despite the fact that they’ve never been seen in person at the same time? Try listening again to his signature classic “Humpty Dance,” which lays out the platform with some sexy dirty politics Meghan McCain could only dream of:

I look funny
but yo I’m makin’ money see
so yo world I hope you’re ready for me.

But the “Humpty Dance” is also about inclusiveness, not just acquisitiveness. Although Steele/ Humpty may not have been a stellar fund-raiser, he understood clearly that the party of Lincoln could only survive by expanding its constituency beyond whites and even blacks:

Puerto Ricans, do the Humpty Hump, just keep on doin’ the hump
Samoans, do the Humpty Hump, do the Humpty Hump
Let’s get stoopid

In 2012, neither party will be able to escape the demographic reality that the country of the future will look more like Oakland than Fairfax County. And that means that, regardless of ideology or economic philosophy, we’ll all soon be doing the Humpty Dance. Personally, I’m looking forward to finding out how Mitt Romney will deliver lines like “I’m spunky, I like my oatmeal lumpy.”

At this point, however, Steele/ Humpty is probably relieved to be dancing with himself. That’s because the Tea Party Movement seems to be backfiring in its efforts to reintroduce archly ironic social satire into political theater. After years of halfhearted efforts to educate the masses, this remains the same country that once believed a 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was reporting a real Martian takeover, or that Rob Reiner’s 1984 spoof This is Spinal Tap was an earnest documentary about an obscure metal band.

That tradition of extreme gullibility continued this week. Pundits across the political spectrum, and even CNN, actually took literally arch-ironist Michele Bachmann’s SNL-style spoof of a “rebuttal” to the State of the Union Address. Ignoring even her most heavy-handed satiric elements–the red and blue chart, the vacant gaze, the claim that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly” until slavery was gone–some even reported that Bachmann had spoken to the wrong camera by mistake.

But Bachmann’s strategy was clearer to anyone who has obtained an overpriced education in art history or critical theory. In homage to Velazquez’s iconic painting Las Meninas, she was slyly commenting on the skewed self-awareness of the viewer and the viewed in televised political speeches. As Foucault described the role of the artist in Velazquez’s masterpiece, “for the spectator at present observing him he is to the right of his canvas, while the latter, the canvas, takes up the whole of the extreme left.” Same goes for Bachmann’s speech directed away from the spectator, except that nobody is to the right of Michele Bachmann.

Digital Underground, “Humpty Dance”

“War of the Worlds” Radio Documentary, Part 1

About Roger Moore

rocklobster3.JPGRoger Moore is a writer and musical obsessive who plays percussion instruments from around the world with an equal lack of dexterity. An environmental lawyer in his unplugged moments, he has written on subjects ranging from sustainable development practices to human rights and voting rights, as well as many music reviews. A native Chicagoan, Roger lives in Oakland, California with his wife Paula, who shares his Paul Weller fixation, and two young children, Amelia and Matthew, who enjoy dancing in circles to his Serge Gainsbourg records and falling asleep to his John Coltrane records.

Roger Moore’s Musical Timeline

1966. Dropped upside down on patio after oldest sister listened to “She Loves You” on the Beatles’ Saturday cartoon show. Ears have rung with the words “yeah, yeah, yeah” ever since.

1973. Memorized all 932 verses to Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

1975. Unsuccessfully lobbied to have “Louie Louie” named the official song of his grade school class. The teacher altered the lyrics of the winner, the Carpenters’ “I Won’t Last a Day Without You,” so that they referred to Jesus.

1977. After a trip to New Orleans, frequently broke drumheads attempting to mimic the style of the Meters’ Zigaboo Modeliste.

1979. In order to see Muddy Waters perform in Chicago, borrowed the birth certificate of a 27 year-old truck driver named Rocco.

1982. Published first music review, a glowing account of the Jam’s three-encore performance for the Chicago Reader. Reading the original, unedited piece would have taken longer than the concert itself.

1982. Spat on just before seeing the Who on the first of their 23 farewell tours, after giving applause to the previous band, the Clash.

1984. Mom: “This sounds perky. What’s it called?” Roger: “ It’s ‘That’s When I Reach for My Revolver’ by Mission of Burma.”

1985. Wrote first review of an African recording, King Sunny Ade’s Synchro System. A reader induced to buy the album by this review wrote a letter to the editor, noting that “anyone wishing a copy of this record, played only once” should contact him.

1985. At a Replacements show in Boston, helped redirect a bewildered Bob Stinson to the stage, which Bob had temporarily confused with the ladies’ bathroom.

1986. Walked forty blocks through a near-hurricane wearing a garbage bag because the Feelies were playing a show at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club.

1987. Foolishly asked Alex Chilton why he had just performed “Volare.” Answer: “Because I can.”

1988. Moved to Northern California and, at a large outdoor reggae festival, discovered what Bob Marley songs sound like when sung by naked hippies.

1991. Attempted to explain to Flavor-Flav of Public Enemy that the clock hanging from his neck was at least two hours fast.

1992. Under the pseudonym Dr. Smudge, produced and performed for the Underwear of the Gods anthology, recorded live at the North Oakland Rest Home for the Bewildered. Local earplug sales skyrocketed.

1993. Attended first-ever fashion show in Chicago because Liz Phair was the opening act. Declined the complimentary bottles of cologne and moisturizer.

1997. Almost missed appointment with eventual wedding band because Sleater-Kinney performed earlier at Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street. Recovered hearing days later.

1997. After sharing a romantic evening with Paula listening to Caetano Veloso at San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium, purchased a Portuguese phrasebook that remains unread.

1998. Learned why you do not yell “Free Bird” at Whiskeytown's Ryan Adams in a crowded theater.

1999. During an intense bout of flu, made guttural noises bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Throat Singers of Tuva.

2000. Compiled a retrospective of music in the nineties as a fellow at the Coolwater Center for Strategic Studies and Barbecue Hut.

2001. Listened as Kahil El’Zabar, in the middle of a harrowing and funny duet show with Billy Bang, lowered his voice and spoke of the need to think of the children, whom he was concerned might grow up “unhip.”

2002. During a performance of Wilco’s “Ashes of American Flags,” barely dodged ashes of Jeff Tweedy’s cigarette.

2002. Arrived at the Alta Bates maternity ward in Berkeley with a world trance anthology specially designed to soothe Paula during Amelia’s birth, filled with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, and assorted other Khans. The project proved to be irrelevant to the actual process of labor.

2003. Emceed a memorable memorial concert for our friend Matthew Sperry at San Francisco’s Victoria Theater featuring a lineup of his former collaborators, including improvised music all-stars Orchesperry, Pauline Oliveros, Red Hot Tchotchkes, the cast of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Tom Waits.

2003. Failed to persuade Ted Leo to seek the Democratic nomination for President.

2005. Prevented two-year old daughter Amelia from diving off the balcony during a performance of Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle Orchestra at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.

2006. On a family camping trip in the Sierra Nevadas, experienced the advanced stage of psychosis that comes from listening to the thirtieth rendition of Raffi’s “Bananaphone” on the same road trip.

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