Wednesday, November 2, 2011



Badass of the Week.
Yang Youde

"Personal interests are trivial, but failure to implement official policies is serious.
Outsiders must not enter/exit at will, or they will be responsible for any accident that happens to them.

Yang Youde is a 56 year-old farmer living outside Wuhan city in China's Hubei province who never really wanted anything more than to live in peace and not get reamed in the asshole when he finally got around to selling his small, quiet farm.  He signed a contract that would allow him to live in his home and work his land until 2019, and spent the long days out in the fields harvesting cotton and fruit and fishing in a nearby lake for food.  Life was good, even if it was probably a little boring from time to time.
At the beginning of this year, however, Youde quickly learned that living on a farm and not being utterly screwed over by greedy douchebags was apparently too much to ask.  I'm not incredibly well-versed in rural Chinese agrarian law (it's one of those educational fields that falls into the category of, "I'd rather rake a gonorrhea-infected toothbrush across my eye than read this shit"), but my understanding of the situation here is that some bigshot asshat developing firm came in and "requisitioned" Youde's farm out from under him, forcing him to break his contract and sell his land so that they could build apartment buildings for serial killers or giant evil factories that crushed orphans up and turns them into biological weapons of mass destruction.  The big shot pompous assholes of SuperMechaCorp Developers offered Youde the Chinese monetary equivalent of about $19,000 for his land, which amounts to roughly one-fifth of what the farm is actually worth.  When Youde brought this up in "negotiations", the developers told him that if he didn't agree to it they would send a couple dozen guys to beat the fuck out of him in the hopes that some massive head trauma would help him change his mind.  Youde told them to hump a lawnmower.

Anybody who's been late on a credit card payment can tell you that collection agents are relentless jackhammers of evil who sustain themselves by battering down your defenses until you crumple into a beat-to-shit heap on the floor of your apartment.  In Communist China, they're worse.  In terms of rearranging your asshole, these guys are more akin to Fat Tony and his crew of baseball bat-lugging kneecap-smashers than anything resembling an annoying telemarketer or a late-night repo driver.  When the big development bullies sicked these guys on poor Youde, they skipped out on the harassing phone calls and went straight to the face-to-face threats of physical violence portion of the negotiations.
But Youde wasn't your typical uneducated pushover farmer that these fucks could just steamroll in the name of industrialization and corporate greed and orpan-crushitoriums.  These guys were only going to take the farm over this guy's dead body.  So on February 26, 2010, when a team of thirty evictors, bulldozer drivers, and assorted goons showed up on Youde's land armed with clubs and ominous-looking Member's Only jackets, they ran into one fifty year-old man rolling this thing out of his storage shed and aiming it in their direction:

What you're looking at is a fucking MLRS made out of PVC pipe and a wheelbarrow.  Each of these tubes was loaded with a powerful rocket-like firework, primed and ready to launch, and as soon as those cudgel-toting suckers were in range he let loose a barrage of gunpowder bombs that lit up Hubei province like the Chinese New Year.  Shit was exploding everywhere, dudes were diving for cover, and Youde was (probably) cackling like a maniac.
Unfortunately, Youde's rocket salvo, while unequivocally badass, wasn't designed for fighting a sustained engagement against a horde of angry thugs, and reloading this rocket cart was a process that made a flintlock musket look like an assault rifle.  The evictors picked themselves up off the floor, rushed over, and kicked the shit out of Youde.  As the farmer was lying on the turf with a couple boot-marks in his face, they told him that they were going to go home, get their bulldozers, and flatten Youde's home into rubble, and that he better not be there when they got back.

So yes, it's sort of anti-climactic that Youde's rocket salvo didn't prevent the goons from delivering a beatdown on him, but this is all part of any great iconic 80s action movie.  The brave hero stands up to impossible odds and gets his ass kicked hard, but rather than give up, he just gets right back up and keeps fighting.  Yang Youde knew he needed to move fast to defend his home before these guys returned to finish the job, and he immediately got on the phone with his friends and family to figure out a plan of attack.
So Yang Youde built a cannon tower next to his house.  And when I say "cannon tower", I mean like the Warcraft II shit – a tall, homemade lookout tower equipped with a portable PVC rocket launcher capable of firing projectiles 300 feet through the air, an arsenal of super-explosive fireworks, a megaphone, and a couch where he could max and relax while watching for intruders.  When these guys came back, he was ready to shove a few hundred pounds of gunpowder down their esophagi.
Two weeks ago, on May 26, the evictors came back, and this time, they were ready for whatever Yang could throw at them.  Or so they thought.  That afternoon Youde looked out from his watchtower to see a line of a hundred men equipped with riot shields and clubs, supported by a tank platoon of bulldozers and construction equipment.

But once again Yang Youde again refused to back down.  He got on the bullhorn, ordering the evictors to stop, re-asserting his right to the land, and (hopefully) screaming something along the lines of, "git offa my propertay!"  When they didn't stop, he dropped the effing hammer.
From 300 yards out, Yang Youde fired a relentless, non-stop barrage of artillery.  The new-and-improved fireworks exploded with tremendous noise, smoke and colors, and his farm suddenly turned from a peaceful fishing hole to Omaha fucking Beach in the span of about ten seconds.

Unable to advance through this insanity, the evictors were held at bay for roughly an hour, when the police showed up and broke up the battle.  The evictors were sent crying back to their dirtbag bosses, and Yang was hauled down to the station for questioning.  Awesomely, the cops weren't able to charge Youde with any serious criminal offenses – he hadn't been shooting with the intention of harming the invaders, purposely firing well in front or behind the attackers, and even though indiscriminately turning your home into a one-man artillery battalion is considered a "public safety violation" by the People's Republic of China, the cops respected this guy's stones and let him off with a promise that he "won't do anything illegal" again.
He still owns the farm.

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As his 80th birthday approaches, a look at the life and legacy of the late Ray Charles.

"I just do what I do." That's what Ray Charles told Billboard in June 2002 when asked to assess his role in music history. Of course, Charles' self-effacing response belies a groundbreaking career and a legacy that endures today, as fans look toward celebrating what would have been the legendary artist's 80th birthday Sept. 23. Looking back at Charles' storied career, what comes to mind is the phrase "musical genius." In Charles' case, that's no hype.

Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity

In 1954, the artist's melding of gospel and blues yielded the pioneering hit "I've Got a Woman"-and forged an indelible imprint on R&B, rock and pop. His earthy, soulful voice graced a steady stream of classics after "Woman," including "Drown in My Own Tears," "What'd I Say," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Georgia on My Mind."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Hit The Road Jack" in São Paulo, Brazil on September 22, 1963.

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Then I'll Be Home" in Montreux, Switzerland on July 19, 1997.

Just as at home on the Hammond B-3 organ as he was on the piano, he also landed at the top of Billboard's R&B, pop, country and jazz charts-and even the dance chart, collaborating with childhood friend Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan on "I'll Be Good to You."

His final recording, 2004's "Genius Loves Company," made history when it won eight Grammy Awards, including album and record of the year for his pairing with Norah Jones on "Here We Go Again."

But what many may not know is that the inimitable Charles was also a genius when it came to the business side of music. In the early '60s he negotiated a rare feat after leaving Atlantic Records to sign with ABC-Paramount: ownership of his own master recordings. He also established his own labels. Tangerine (his favorite fruit) came first, which later evolved into CrossOver Records.

A songwriter who penned nearly 200 songs, Charles also operated his own publishing companies, Tangerine Music and Racer Music. For these entities, Charles and longtime manager Joe Adams designed and built the RPM International office and studios on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Ray Charles Memorial Library will open in the building this fall.

Charles also found time to manage the careers of other acts, including Billy Preston and '70s R&B group the Friends of Distinction. And way before it was de rigueur for artists to do, Charles set up what became a foundation to help needy children with hearing disabilities and later on support education.

He was an amazing human being," says Jones, 77, who became friends with Charles when both were scrappy teenagers in Seattle. "A true innovator who revolutionized music and the business of music," he adds. "Growing up, we only had the radio; no Michael Jackson, Diddy or Oprah. So it was hard to imagine today's entrepreneurial world. But that didn't stop us. We spent a lot of time talking and dreaming about things that brothers had never done before."

"He really was a genius," says singer Solomon Burke, a former Atlantic labelmate. "He did things the way he wanted."

Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga. As many learned through actor Jamie Foxx's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 2004 film "Ray," Charles became blind by age 7 and orphaned at 15 while growing up in northwest Florida.

In eight years at a state school for the blind, the young Charles learned how to read and write music. Leaving Florida in 1947, he headed for Seattle ("Choosing the farthest place he could find from Florida," Jones says), where he notched his first hit two years later as a member of the Maxin Trio, "Confession Blues."

Even then, Charles was an enterprising individual. "He had his own apartment, record player, two pairs of pimp shoes, and here I am still living at home," Jones recalls with a laugh. "His mother trained him not to be blind: no cane, no dogs, no cup. His scuffed-up shoes... that was his guide and driving force. He was the most independent dude I ever saw in my life. Ray would get blind only when pretty girls came around."

Signing with Atlantic Records in 1952, Charles as a West Coast jazz and blues man recorded such songs as "It Should've Been Me" and label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun's composition, "Mess Around."

Then he connected in 1954 with "I've Got a Woman," which set off a chain reaction of more hits capitalizing on his bold gospel/blues fusion. But Charles was just getting started. In 1958, he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, accompanied by a band that featured such jazz cats as saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Hank Crawford. Further bucking convention, he recorded "The Genius of Ray Charles," a 1959 release offering standards on one side (including "Come Rain or Come Shine") and big band numbers on the other, featuring members of Count Basie's orchestra and several arrangements by Jones.

Video below: Charles' 1966 Coke commercial, "So Tired."

Leaving Atlantic for ABC-Paramount, a fearless Charles recorded the seminal "Genius + Soul = Jazz" album in 1961. A year later, his earlier dabbling in country music grew serious with the release of the million-selling "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music."

Complemented by lush strings and a harmony-rich choir, he scored with covers of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and Ted Daffan's "Born to Lose"-and spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

For a black man to do this in 1962 was unheard of," says Tony Gumina, president of the Ray Charles Marketing Group, which handles the late artist's licensing affairs. "He was trying to sell records to people who didn't want to drink from the same water fountain as him. But this was one of his greatest creative and business moves: to not be categorized musically and cross over. Though he never worried about it, he was resigned to the fact that he might lose some core fans. But he thought he'd gain far more in the process."

Gumina was operating his own promotion company working with state lotteries when he met Charles in 1999. The two teamed up on a series of commercials for various state lotteries and also introduced a line of Ray Charles slot machines also accessible to the blind.

"Everything he did had a business acumen to it," says Gumina, who cites Charles' liaison with manager Adams as a pivotal turning point. Originally hired to be Charles' stage announcer, former radio DJ Adams segued into overseeing production of the singer's shows, lighting and wardrobe.

Together the pair designed and built Charles' L.A. business base, RPM International (Recording, Publishing and Management) studio. When he began recording there in 1965, the label rented the studio from him, so he made money on his recordings before they were even released.

To save money on travel expenses, Charles purchased an airplane to ferry his band around to gigs. A smaller plane was also acquired so that Charles could wing in to, say, New York to record a couple of songs before flying back out in time for a show.

"He understood the entertainment business enough to know that you may not be popular forever," Gumina says, "and you need to maximize your product. At the same time, he had as much fun as any rock star but without the sad money stories. There was a time to work and a time to play, and he knew the difference. He didn't have a bunch of homes or a large entourage. That's why he was able to save $50 million before he died."

Calling Charles an "incredibly smart man," Concord president John Burk says he learned a lot from the ailing singer while he was recording his final studio album, "Genius Loves Company."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "It Ain't Easy Being Green" in Trentnton, NJ on Nov. 7, 2002.

Going through "some sticky deal points, he was amazing," Burk recalls. "He had the whole agreement in his head. Without referencing any material, he knew all the terms we proposed and had the deal done for the album in two discussions."

Creatively, Burk says Charles was an artist dedicated to delivering "a true performance from the heart. Part of his creative legacy was his approach to singing. He opened the door to vocal improvisations, changing how people perceived you could sing a song. Many singers today are influenced by him and they don't even know it."

Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity


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