08 December 2008

bring 'em out, bring 'em out: get it together, baby


along with las vegas card dealer and bartender (check!), one of my dream occupations is stand-up comic. some people think i'm funny (i've been told i have a very odd sense of humor, whatever that means), but i'm afraid my humor is situational and that my whole routine would consist of me concluding, "well, i guess you had to be there" after every story i told. it hasn't stopped me from trying, though. on a much smaller scale, of course. with the assistance of my sister's karaoke machine, i told my very first "stand-up joke" to her and the dog. here's the scene: i introduce myself. my sister applauds; the dogs stares. i grab the microphone from my emcee self, say "thank you," wait for the "applause" to die down and say, "so, i'm straight." the response? crickets. yep. you had to be there.

gayle, the punchline is that i don't look straight. in other words, i physically manifest many of the codes of daggery. so, i figured the absurdity of me very matter of factly "coming out" as straight would ensue hilarity. i guess i was wrong. about as wrong as i am when celebrities who i think are very obviously gay get all this attention when they come out.

wanda sykes came out the other week. yay for her. but, DUH. though she's not getting the press others (read: the white, more famous gays [not to be confused with the white gaze]) have, the point was mildly newsworthy. it appeared on a couple of the blogs i frequent. i like the way she did it: during a speech at a rally protesting the passage of prop 8. (i don't believe in marriage, but i think folks who want to jump the broom should be allowed.) but when i read about this i thought the very same thing i thought when i've read about other famous gay folks: who didn't know this? wasn't it obvious? maybe biggie shorty's daggerificness was only apparent to me. that's understandable. i love wanda sykes. and i've relatively recently discovered that just about any famous woman i've bothered to admire inevitably ends up admitting to loving the ladies. or is at least suspected of it. in other words, my admiration is my gaydar.

a friend of mine once observed, "you think everybody is gay." my response: "you [and the rest of the world] think[s] everybody is straight." perhaps this assumption, coupled with the above-mentioned admiration eliminates any potential surprise i might have had when a celebrity ends up on the cover of people with some homo blurb under her face, right next to alluring nuggets of verbiage about the latest dumb-ass celebrity wedding. which brings me to my next point: will someone who i don't already assume is a homo come out?

i just want to be surprised for once. ellen degeneres? no shit. lance bass? duh, muhfucka. clay aiken? yawn. alicia keys and queen latifah? paging captain obvious. oh, wait. nix those last two. they ain't gay... yet.

again, i don't think anyone should feel compelled to admit their homo tendencies, but doing so often proves lucrative. afterwards, you get to participate in the commodification of coming out. jump out of the closet and into a pile of money! public confession will get you a cameo on logo and an olivia cruise sponsorship. (what's that, sheryl swoopes? i'll be more surprised when a wnbasketballer comes out as straight, btw.) show me the money, baby.

so, if i ever get famous, my people magazine blurb will read: damn right i'm a dagger. i got the bank account to prove it.

congrats to wanda and all the other obviously gay celebrities coming out. i hope you get a bravo reality tv show.

07 November 2008

black like me

from: Day in Pictures - Sacramento News - Local and Breaking
"[S]o in a few thousand years, I who regard you will also have sprung from the loins of African kings.” -- William Faulkner
I love black people. I love to see them happy. I especially love to see them happy about things other than, I don't know, rims and Tyler Perry movies. But my joy at black people's overwhelming happiness on election night was tempered, and nearly destroyed by a distraught sadness that even my apathetic cynicism cannot render obscure. I am sad for myself; I am sad for black people.

I make no argument that what happened on the night of November 4, 2008 wasn't historic. It was. We should be elated that we--and the world-- survived eight years of the Bush Administration. We should be relieved that we endured over twenty months of campaigning. And yes, we should celebrate the fact that a person of color has somehow found a way to become the leader of the so-called Free World. Then again, it's this last point that troubles me.

As I watched journalists interview countless black people--both famous and not--about the significance of this moment, my disbelief and furious inner-critic could not be quelled. I wondered: Why are we celebrating? What are we so happy about? Why do some of us tearfully utter that we've [finally] overcome? That the Promised Land is in sight--and this time our view isn't a picture of Oprah's southern California estate courtesy of Google images? As friends have noted, the moment was as if the resounding, "Not guilty," coming from a Santa Monica Courthouse one Tuesday (I didn't even have to look at a calendar, the memory is so clear) morning in 1995 had been heard again; except this time, there were a few white people dancing in the streets, too.

I'm sad for black people. I'm sad because we can be so forgiving, and willfully forget how Obama became President-elect. That one essential element of his campaign was to stand atop and juxtapose himself against some of the same kinds of black folks who celebrated his victory as if he were a son, a brother. We forget that we had to wait until white Iowans validated his candidacy, as if they were saying, "It's all right this time. We like this [or is it that?] one. Go ahead. Dream," to shift our support from Clinton to him. That Obama disavowed his minister and spiritual mentor when semantically exagerrated portions of several sermons were leaked, allowed those views to be considered racist, and thereby implicitly suggested that maybe part of the motivation to join that church was to gain footing in the Chicago's southside black community. And even though most of those black people in the streets celebrating the outcome of this election didn't think there was much wrong with what had been said, this Reverend Wright, this old crazy uncle became expendable because he made too many white people uncomfortable.

I'm sad because his wife--and I think she's incredible-- had to make a speech to prove herself safe enough, and not bitter. And she still got called a black militant in the process. Satirically, of course. (No, I don't know why the caged bird sings, but I do know why they send a canary into a mine.) I'm sad because Obama felt it necessary, with cameras rolling for whites to see and nod in approval, to chastise black parenting, to suggest that they voluntarily feed their children Popeye's for breakfast, as if the McDonald's or the liquor store across the street is a better alternative. As if they make their children sit at home and watch television rather than subject them to the danger of these streets. (I have police cameras on my block because a young black girl was shot and killed on the playground.) I'm sad because he allowed black pathology to be regarded as an ideological position, and was somehow the creation and fault of blacks. And I'm sad because the people he maligned then, are the people he ignored especially in the latter part of his campaign: Sure, you want to reaffirm the middle class, but what about poor people? Or are they expendable, too?

I'm sad. I'm sad because on election night, a tearful Roland Martin pointed out that 100 years ago (roughly), the NAACP was founded and now the United States was electing a black president. As if the NAACP, CORE, any black organization or leader or person had only existed to put a brown face at the head of this nation. As if Obama hadn't garnered the national spotlight in 2004 by denying the existence of Black America, only for some of us, a mere four years later, to celebrate his victory by singing the national anthem of this non-existent entity. But he's Joshua, right? I'm sad because in order to be happy, to find joy in a system that continually jeopardizes our tenuous citizenship, we must suspend our critiques to celebrate and defend "Close enough."

I'm sad because this moment affirms for me, not that any black person with the will and desire can be president, but rather that any black person can't be president. Could Obama have become President-elect with his wife's geographical origins? Or mine? Or yours? Riddle me this: if Barack Obama had been born in the summer of 1961 not in Hawaii, but in Oakland, CA, would he be here? I venture to suggest no. For if he had, he might have made the mistake of living too close to Black Panthers' headquarters, and accidentally eating one of their free breakfasts on his way to kindergarten.

Could he have become President-elect had his father been an American? His mother black? If he had been raised by grandparents who look like those who raise so many black children? If he'd not had the auspicious luck of being born on an island in the middle of the ocean, and not on a continent, a terrain trod with racism and the fight against it? Understand me, this is no fault of Obama's. Yet if these are the essential ingredients in creating a serious black presidential candidate (and at this juncture, I'm not sure I can believe they're not. Recall: the only other "viable" potential black candidate in recent memory has been Colin Powell, and he's also light-skinned and the child of Jamaican immigrants.) how many young black boys and girls can replicate that kind of chance? What American Negro can replicate the exceptionalism that assuaged Obama to whites? This is not an argument that Obama isn't black. He is. But he's a special kind of black. As a friend and I like to say, an "Accented Negro," slightly--and just enough-- different from the rest of us. Just enough to make enough white folks feel better; just enough for us to celebrate him anyway.

And what are we happy about? What are we celebrating? That this brand of American Imperialism will be brought to you by a melanined face? For nothing in Mr. President-elect's foreign policy makes me believe that American occupation in other countries is over, just a bit nicer and served to you with a smile. Sure, whatever he does will be a change from the Bush Doctrine, but how hard is that? Won't poor black and brown folks continue to be deployed, only to return with no options? That is, if they are not already incarcerated in our for-profit prisons? Because you can't become president without making white people feel safe. And unfortunately, that safety necessitates keeping the hometown persons of color from rioting, and the away team persons of color at bay.

So, what are we crying tears of joy for? I woke up this morning, and I'm nowhere near a promised land. I'm still in Chicago. And police cameras keep a bird's eye view of my street. I know it's still hard to be black. And it's still hard to be Muslim--or at least look it.

I'm sad because I can't help but rain on black people's parade.

Hold on, my people. Please.

05 November 2008

hail to the hater: things i've learned and/or thought about during the election cycle

  • um, if we are the ones we have been waiting for, didn't some of y'all just vote for the wrong nigga?
  • and while i'm at it, if you've been waiting all your life for this, does that mean you can die now?
  • oprah had a shirt on yesterday that said, "a bold new world." that's not too far off from "brave new world(order)" is it?
  • an election party is some real white shit. it is essentially the celebration (or the exorcism of disappointment) of a white person's mood when he/she voted that morning.
  • can't we come up with a law that limits this whole thing to nine months? seriously, if one can have a baby in 9 months, can't one run for president in nine months? or fewer?
  • change i can believe in: taking some of the change obama raised, and helping folks get out of foreclosure. that woulda got you even more votes than the infomercial. trust me.
  • i woke up this morning, and i'm still in chicago. i know this isn't the promised land, because a homeless nigga asked me for money on my way to the bus stop, and there are still flashing police cameras on my street. joshua generation my (black) ass.
  • obama elected: i guess i have a reason to live (or die?). i'm breathing better already. inhale...exhale...
  • i want to smack the shit out of jesse jackson. more than i want to smack the shit out of roland martin. and i really can't stand roland martin.
  • and while i'm at it, all these non-CRM i-cried-my-eyes-out-we-have-overcome-yes-we-did niggas can get the bozack. catch a cab in new york. i dare you.
  • i swear to god, if another white person asks another black person, "did you ever think you would ever live to see this day?"--and said black person answers with words-- i will join the new black panthers. (why is my beef with white liberals on tv so hard to understand? like nas said, "it ain't hard to tell.")
  • now that he has won, i submit that the folks over at tvland digitize an image of barack obama next to black jesus, so he can be in seen every episode of good times. ain't we lucky we got 'em?
  • maybe it's me, but this is the first time i've seen craig robinson's white wife all in the open like this.
  • i really should've watched the real housewives of atlanta. fake is the new real.
  • congratulations, negroes. you have now been recognized as citizens. psyche!
  • where's the nearest army-navy store? 2012 soon come.
dear mr. president(-elect),

i know i'm the divisive asshole you've warned your flock against, but thanks for extending an olive branch last night by saying you were still my president. mighty white of you.

summer of sam

29 October 2008

minding my own beeswax.

hey gayle,

my cynicism has a purpose. i know it does.

i read the secret life of bees before i went to go see it. i had had the book on my shelf for a while, but the way i earn my bread had precluded me from engaging in any leisurely reading for, like, two years. when i saw the cast on oprah the other day, i decided that i should spend my upcoming vacation day reading the book, for i was sure someone i knew was going to ask me to come with them to the movies to see this thing. (and yes, i dry heaved through queen latifah's over-hetero antics--again. the queen lusting after the men in egypt? is that what i just heard while brushing my teeth? bitch, please.)

the blurb on the back of the book seemed harmless enough. blacks and whites getting together and loving each other despite the mores of their society. how lovely. i plowed my way through it. the story was ok. knees in grits? nice. i'd never heard of that one. and though black beekeepers seemed fertile ground from which to sprout magical negroes--paging bagger vance--kidd seemed to get close to that line without entirely crossing it. either way, the book was rather predictable. perfect for a little midweek leisurely reading. and, it read like a movie.

the film, like the book, features all the usual suspects: racist southern red-faced spitting white men, black substitute parental figures, singing blacks, angry, social activist blacks, and, of course, the simple-minded, yet heart as pure as gold southerner (full disclosure: i kind of love forrest gump). except of course, unlike the novel, in the film the people are younger and better looking.

i hated this movie. well, not entirely. dakota fanning was good. i'm not a movie buff, but calling her the next jodie foster sounds about right. they kind of look alike. alicia keys wasn't bad; she definitely portrayed a female version of the "huey newton complex" (a term i coined meaning, hella light-skinned, hella militant) just fine. the more i see her on screen, the more i think j.hud is a natural.

so mostly, i hated queen latifah. as soon as she appeared on screen, my hand went into my afro, and i slid down in my seat. it seems as if she's gone from "ladies first" to portraying every possible stereotype she can muster. is she getting back at me? for this? and this? if alicia "hell's kitchen" keys can kinda sound southern, or at least make a good attempt, why do you dana "dirty jersey" owens, sound like a house slave? ("we'se makin' honey!"). i guess the moral of ms. owens' career is: you might default on dignity, but coonery will (still) get you paid.

perhaps it was just me, but her image radiated the following message from the screen: by way of my cleavage alone, i will impart wisdom on you, young white girl. if it wasn't her 60s natural looking like someone just put some leave-in conditioner in her head and kept it moving, it was her "sermon of the black madonna." inspired by the oprah winfrey school of monologues, her speech elicited some of the weakest call and response i've seen this side of the color line. though, i can't blame her for that. your bad, gina prince-bythewood. i expect better church scenes from negro directors. i fully believe i could've gotten more from my actors. and i'm a heathen.

i left the movie having learned two things: 1. even child abusers can be redeemed through the presence of blacks; and 2. integration was really about young black boys accomplishing their dream of boning white girls without getting beat up. (i feel warm inside.) i left the movie and the book with the following, more general question: why is white parent absenteeism so... cute?

perhaps it's residue from my whole obama/moynihan gripe, but i read that book and the movie trying to figure out why stories about white orphans make such heartwarming tales. harry potter? annie? oliver? angels in the outfield? those may not leave you depressed. hell, you might just leave the theatre humming a tune. but losing isaiah? the color purple? hell, the bluest eye (i know it's never been a movie)? watching a movie partly premised on lack of black parental rearing will make you wanna slit your damn wrists. oh wait. i forgot about like mike. that movie will give you the warm fuzzies. thanks, lil bow wow.

that said, i could be completely wrong about this. i just can't shake the feeling that most of these movies about orphan black kids need to get adopted by brangelina. if not, i'll have to rely on tyler perry for my happy endings. yep. it's a hard-knock life.

09 October 2008

humanity 101


one of the things i've found frustrating about the obama campaign is the way in which race has been deployed. this time, i won't harp on the point about obama's father being from africa and not, say, the south side of chicago. that's important, but i really only think it matters to white people, as it contributes to the way they subconsciously understand him. though the silence around that point gives me pause, what irks me more was how, especially during the early part of the campaign, obama talked to black people. i hate to say it, but i agreed with jesse jackson on this.

it seems to me that obama's talks about the absenteeism of black fathers, his assuaging of white people's fears by implicitly telling him that he-- and more importantly, his wife-- won't make them feel guilty about racism; that he would rather repeat the moynihan report and chastise poor blacks, consequently conflating the pathology of many into some sort of modus operandi position of all; and that his campaign would be complicit in allowing, and therefore encourage this media-obsessed "transcendence of race" talk all relies upon some notion of black exceptionalism. doing so implicitly accepts racial blackness as a list of behaviors and traits rather than, maybe, a particular relationship to various and varying historical experiences--which would, i guess, disqualify senator obama altogether. accepting the former position allows obama to say, "i'm not like them," and also, maybe, "i will make them more like me and my family."

gayle, in a certain sense, i suppose i can't fault him. he is, after all, trying to win a national election. then again, i wonder what the political fallout would have been for him to have said simply, "no, i'm not necessarily transcending race in all the ways you might think. i identify as a black man; my wife is a black woman. sans my desire to become president and a few other things, certain aspects of my life are only exceptional and transcendent if you have a constricted sense of who black people are and what they do. lots of black people, for example, matriculated through harvard and princeton and columbia before me. lots have and will after me. this is only a big deal if one's imagination regarding such things is limited." moreover, what would the media look like had he said there's nothing wrong with being muslim?

the other reason i might not blame him for rather easily accepting this transcendence stuff is because this isn't new--even amongst our (black) selves. though i'm not that into eating outside or drinking games, and despite the fact that i've never seen an episode of friends (or even seinfeld for that matter), i occasionally and rather glibly (more like lazily) pronounce my adoration for certain "white shit." for instance, i got the oddest stare from a black guy one day when he pulled up next to me in traffic; it might have been a myriad of things, but for whatever reason, i'd decided to blame the stare on me blasting the cranberries from my car stereo (what can i say? i want dolores o'riordan to sing me lullabies). at the same time, my friend and i got the biggest chuckle out of peeping a black dude singing a james blount song at the top of his lungs from the driver's seat of his escalade--we heard the music, his voice, the car, then finally saw him.

so i guess what i'm saying is what was so frustrating about those moments during the campaign was the fact that it seemed like an opportunity to expand who and what we think black people are. granted, a lot of folks' minds will and have been expanded. one can only hope that such enlightenment transfers to other avenues. for example, my list of available images for black women in the popular mind is pretty short. to name a few: nell carter, beyonce, clair huxtable. michelle obama fits very nicely into the latter category. but surely, there's something else.

of course there is. gayle, i've taken the scenic route to my essential point: the student body presents is totally rad. (yes, i said "totally rad.") i initially fell in love with the oakland duo late last summer. a musical guru of mine suggested them to me; i copped their cd and was immediately smitten by how weird they were. i listened to arts and sciences pretty heavily for a minute, and then they somehow fell out of rotation. last week, while rolling through my city, i blindly grabbed their album from the inside of my arm rest. i instantaneously re-enrolled in their course. i remembered sitting in my parked car in front of lake michigan playing this joint on repeat. their track "driftwoodit" is worth the bones alone. they talk about everything-- from outer space to the boxes people sacrifice themselves for just to fit in.

as i re-acquanted myself with tsbp's music, i mentally compiled a list of people i need to urge to listen to this record. then my thoughts turned to how often i've decided to do this with music i fall in love with. though i sometimes become protective of such slept on artists, i wonder what the world would be like if we understood what was coming out of my speakers as black music, too.

santogold has an awesome (yes, awesome) quote about music critics. about being lumped into the r&b genre because she's black she said, "it's racist (laughs). it's totally racist. everyone is just so shocked that i don't like R&B. are you shocked that good charlotte isn't into R&B? Why does R&B keep coming into my interviews? it's pissing me off. i didn't grow up as a big fan of R&B and, like, what is the big shocker? it's stupid. in the beginning i thought that was funny. i'm an 'MC', i'm a 'soul singer', i'm a 'dance hybrid artist'. and some guy said i looked like Kelly Rowland!"

exactly. to come full circle: i'm not that into transcendence. i prefer expansion. transcendence allows us to retain prior notions and accept the foreigness of others without disrupting or complicating our long-held beliefs and ideas. expansion inspires us to move beyond codifying people, and understand that though there are types--to a certain extent, we all are-- the great task is to recognize the humanity beneath, below, above, within-- in ourselves and others. that, i imagine, would be the ultimate goal of an awesome liberal education. in other words, cop arts and sciences. it'll send your brain to outer space.

there's a square peg in all of us.

18 September 2008

i scream. you scream.

Hi Gayle,

Apparently, yesterday was dagger night out in downtown Oak Park, IL, a wonderful western suburb of Chicago, known as Ernest Hemingway’s hometown and for its Frank Lloyd Wright homes. I wasn’t there, however, to trace literary ancestors or look at architecture; I was there for ice cream. And nothing screams suburban more than a nice little overpriced ice cream chain. Yes, Coldstone Creamery.

I’ll admit, I’m a Dairy Queen kind of girl. Nothing assuages my ice cream jones better than some soft serv from the 'Q. My order of a chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard sans chocolate syrup hasn’t changed in years. Since there was no Dairy Queen within decent driving distance, I had to settle. Besides, the company I keep doesn’t share the same enthusiasm I have for DQ. Plus, since I can be sort of demanding when it comes to my palate’s desires, I decided to employ a rule or two I learned back in kindergarten and let someone else choose.

Technically, this was my third time to Coldstone Creamery, but my first time actually attempting to figure out what all the fuss was about. On my prior two visits, I’d settled for the most basic milkshake on the menu. This time, I chose a flavor and a topping.

First, like a fellow yelper I read the other day, I resent when places compel you to order in sizes other than small, medium, and large. I don’t think it’s cute; I find it obnoxious and stupid. Further, I don’t appreciate it when employees attempt to “correct” me. (“Listen, asshole, I know what the board says. I can read. I want a SMALL iced chai. And for the record, calling something a ‘chai tea’ is redundant. Now shut that ‘tall’ shit down and give me my over-priced beverage.”) I will confess that upon sampling the cake batter flavor, I agreed that CC had in fact found a way to replicate cake batter taste in ice cream form. Despite being impressed, I just settled for a SMALL sweet cream with oreos.

Second, I am skeptical about the consistency of the product here. Frankly, I don’t appreciate folk I don’t know—official-uniform or no—fondling my ice cream. I don’t care if one can logically explain how the employees can perform this feat without turning helado into a milky, dairy mess. I do not like it one bit. Just plop my scoop on a cone and keep it moving.

Third, I can’t believe I paid this much for what I just witnessed. Given the way the thing tasted, surely the extra coinage was merely for the show. Four dollars to watch someone scoop ice cream onto a counter and beat an Oreo into submission? I stood there, arms crossed, unimpressed and could only think of random Barack Obama and integration jokes suitable—but having different meanings, mind you—for Value Voters and cynical, satirical Negroes such as myself. Satire in the wrong hands isn't satire. But I digress.

I am not a fan of Coldstone Creamery. As far as ice cream goes, I suppose a lil DQ soft serv will suffice for an Indiana black girl like me. Now that little spot in the Paris Hotel? The ice cream there is worth a plane ticket to Vegas alone. Trust me. I’ve had lots of ice cream. That makes me an expert.

12 September 2008

(get your independent ass out of here) question:

hi gayle,

riddle me this:

if john mccain is crazy and barack obama is infuriating, for whom does one vote?

28 August 2008

biden my tongue

hey gayle,

here are thoughts on day 4:


i fucking hate msnbc and these crying black women they've chosen to interview.

dear obamanuts: if elected, he will disappoint you. love, me.

i'll be re-reading octavia butler this weekend. i'm sure she covered this whole thing somewhere.

barack obama is officially nominated. and white people feel good about themselves.

i used to like keith olbermann--when he was an anchor on sportscenter.

why am i so thoroughly underwhelmed? *checking pulse now*


bubba clinton! the original black president.

wjc gets on stage and folks forget about all the clinton hate.

admit it: y'all would vote him a third term if you could.

michelle obama cannot even muster a smile with teeth. icy.

speaking of dentals, at what point during this speech did bill clinton start lying through his teeth?

"renewal of the battle against hiv/aids at home." good call, clint.

i think i'll call day three, "old white guy validation night."

bill clinton could've had the dnc's shortest speech if he had said what he wanted, which was, "i hope he loses."

"and what about katrina..." that's what's up, bill.

political conventions are very much like las vegas: both inspire very tacky fashion.

bill clinton is way cooler than barack obama. and he doesn't even have the "benefit" of melanin!

bill clinton was a black preacher in a former life.

hmm... a black woman introduces joe biden, and talks about the violence against women act. still i say: ANITA HILL. ANITA HILL. ANITA HILL.

countless women get a second chance at life? maybe. second chance to put a justice on the supreme court? maybe not.

joe biden is boring me. i need him to say something inappropriate in 5...4...3...

i don't know why, but i keep thinking about all the right moves.

"freudian slip!" that's close to the joe i know.

"that's not change. that's more of the same." that's not very catchy. not even for a fast food commercial.

bruce springsteen. what an obvious choice.

...and there's the anointed one now.

he speaks!

shouts out his boo.

"hillary clinton rocked the house?" what is he? a hype man? from '83?

if barack "big ups" someone, i will enthusiastically vote for him. and make sure dead people vote for him, too-- chicago-style.

i wonder what the musical selections will be for bho tomorrow. personally, i'd love some lil wayne. it'll prolly be earth, wind, and fire or someone like that.. though, if you're gonna go 70s, i'd prefer parliament funkadelic. no, wait. he should play some lionel richie.

michelle got that, "that's my boo," look.

27 August 2008

i need a (traveling) pantsuit.

mayor villaragossa is a handsome dude. and sitting right behind bill clinton. let's call that section "philanderer's corner."

bill clinton is always within spitting distance of a black dude.

did i just see judge mathis?

"no way, no how, no mccain." i likes, hillary. i likes.

shout out puerto rico! boricua, baby!

"sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits." that's two, hillary! two!
hi gayle,

here are my thoughts on day two of the dnc:

way to shout out those who have passed on, hills. pour out a lil liquor.

"...twin cities... awfully hard to tell apart..." hillary is slaughtering these dudes. she should become a battle rapper.

so, it's not michelle obama, but hillary clinton who shouts out the black women ancestors? ironic, no?

is it too late to vote for hillary clinton?

on some identity politics game, i'm kinda sad for the women who won't live long enough to elect a woman president of the united states. i hope i don't become part of that group.

26 August 2008

conventional observations.

hi gayle,

i don't know if you saw any of day one of the democratic national convention last night. i did. i've posted some of my reactions below:

i have nothing bad to say about ted kennedy.

michelle obama is freshly relaxed. yep, yep. frankie said it, and she followed suit. bouncing and behavin'. go, (south side) girl! hawaiian silky, beyotch!! (has she been on the cover of sophisticate's black hair yet? i'm sure she has. hell, ebony is acting like the obamas are the only black family in the country.)

no microphone near joe biden. good call. just show us those pearly whites, and the white hair that rivals anderson cooper's. takethattakethattakethat, andy.

will i live to see the day when the most non-threatening black people on the planet no longer have to be all subtly obsequious, subliminally telling white folks that they aren't black nationalists? i mean, fuck, her relaxer is FRESH! she is not sweating that shit out by rocking black leather and a beret in august! damn...

and while i'm at it, will cindy mccain have to make a similar speech? probably not. actually, not at all.

"...like hillary clinton..." nice gesture. you shoulda big upped shirley chisholm. though, it might've been disorienting for white people, i imagine. right now, i'm pretty sure you, beyonce, condoleezza rice, and oprah are the only black women that white people think exist. yeah, y'all and shawanda down in human resources. what can i say? all the black people are men, all the women are white... (what is, but some of us are brave?)

i really wish barack had joined us via satellite from a black home. i know there are some nigs in kansas city, mo. i've met a few. can you imagine it? barack drinkin' a forty, playing bones, eating barbecue, peeping his shorty spit game to the delegates. why ain't eddie griffin at the crib?

what's this? michelle obama got ass! duly noted.

sasha and malia? straight press and curl.

kids with microphones are as cute as kids on answering machines: not at all. kids only get a laugh from me when they cuss. a nineteen-month old saying, "this is some bullshit," gets me every time. way better than fart jokes.

i think donna brazile is attractive. and a dagger. you think she hooked michelle up with her stylist? donna's shit is always shining! both should get pantene sponsorships after tonight.

21 August 2008

jimmy. crack. corn. (and i don't care.)


a few weeks ago, npr ran a story on why black people, er, excuse me, african(-)americans "loathe" uncle tom. lately, the blatantly obvious has been getting a lot of play in the media (cnn's black in america, anyone?) these days, but that's neither here nor there. the story was a part of the station's in character series, and my beloved michelle norris interviewed a folklorist who discussed the ways in which stowe's characters were extracted from the novel, and reworked (read: distorted), and subsequently occupied an incredibly profound role in 19th century america's popular culture psyche.

i forwarded the story to a friend of mine. we both agreed that the highlight of the interview was the folklorist's response to a question inquiring about the possibility of uncle tom not eliciting such a negative response amongst folks. she said, "i don't think the real uncle tom will ever be restored from the shackles of distortion." damn. the homie and i masticated on that nugget of commentary for a bit, flirted with a book idea, and then probably ended up talking about barack obama, as we are wont to do.

along with the school gig, i work as a research assistant for a professor. occasionally, my job requires that i read old newspapers and magazines; i look for anything from serialized stories and book reviews to obituaries. the work, though sometimes tedious, can be interesting and rewarding. one of the highlights of this kind of job is looking at advertisements in the paper. from skin bleaching treatments to hair straighteners to pancake mix, i find them all fascinating. maybe i just dig mammies and old black uncles (not the jeremiah wright kind) enticing me to buy syrup or rice. after all, i am an american. (note to self: search for and bid on a topsy doll over on ebay.)

these days, of course, we like to purport that we are wiser and much more evolved than the early 20th century consumer. so mammies and such don't get as much play as they used to. aunt jemima gets a texturizer. or is it a perm? and, i guess, since we've nearly exorcised our consuming selves of all branding with stereotypical images of negroes inspired by those glorious plantation days (i'll take my stand, too, goddamnit!), we can now (again) turn to other countries to make sure they walk in our footprints. in other words, it's time for memin pinguin: the sequel.

in the wonderfully titled, "negrito please," (what can i say? i love puns.), tamara walker, a contributer to the root, interrogates a figure--one that she sees as a stereotype of black folks, one that falls in line with previous images on american products, and thusly offensive-- she encountered while visiting mexico. bimbo, a baked goods company, likes to advertise its goods to our southern neighbors with the help of negrito, a "little black black boy," who apparently enjoys sweets. walker has two questions: 1) why doesn't she see these images on package in the states? and 2) why do mexico and other latin american countries continue to use them?

walker didn't have to spend an entire article answering these inquiries, as i think i can do it more quickly: 1) you don't find these images in the u.s. because american negroes just wouldn't have it. 2) i imagine, and this is just an educated guess, that discourse(s) on race might not be the same south of the border. so maybe the images can be used "down there," because those inhabitants view them in a different context. then again, who am i? i barely paid attention in honors spanish.

i've written about this before; i'll repeat, expound. context is crucial. the american exceptionalist rhetoric applies to negroes, too. i suppose since we feel that we've been relatively successful in ridding ourselves of negrito, et. al. images to advertise products, that we are master teachers on the whole stereotypical image game, that other people do or should react to such images in the way that we do. if they don't, surely they must be complicit in accepting, if not also spreading, a certain form of racism. maybe. maybe not. american exceptionalism implies superiority. it also suggests difference. can we simultaneously argue for a unique experience, and demand that people respond in the way we do... to pictures? i'm not sure we can.

further, in spanish speaking countries, negrito is actually a term of endearment. so for walker to simply translate the name "negrito" literally, without providing its actual meaning is slightly disingenuous. not that walker's point is totally off base. i mean, clare's husband did call her lovingly referred to her as "nig." yet at the same time, brian was adament about moving to brazil, because he believed that race (and racism) worked differently there. calling someone (like a barack obama, for example) a little black boy would undoubtedly warrant a smack in the face; or, for the non-violent, politically correct types, an issued apology by the offending perpetrator. if someone calls you "negrito/a" in mexico, however, it more than likely calls for humming a bar or two of jt's "sexy back." in other words, we cannot so easily apply our ideological perspectives, and sensitivities, onto other countries, into other contexts.

finally, and walker tepidly acknowledges this, erasing bandannad black women from our grocery store aisles doesn't mean we've overcome. i want to take that point a bit further. of course we don't have these images on food packaging; we don't need them. the topsies, the jemimas and uncle bens have all been replaced--by real black people. to return to uncle tom, it doesn't really matter if he'll be recovered from his distortion. black people have become caricatures of themselves. just ask debra lee how her bank account stays so fat, or vh1 how they get their show ideas.

on a lighter note, personally, i think packaging changes make the cream of wheat, etc. taste different. i might be an exception, though.

13 August 2008

avuncular. black. comedy.

hi gayle,

i don't know if you read it, but i really enjoy the blog, stereohyped. i check it frequently, as it cuts down on any extra internet searching i'd have to do to get all upset about the world. anyway, i just checked the minority report, and apparently good ol' reverend jeremiah wright is at it again. according to the blog, what about our daughters, word on the street is that rev. wright has an "october surprise" for the obama campaign, and presumably, the rest of (goddamn) america. allegedly, wright will publish a book and go on tour just before the november election. now that's a crazy uncle for that ass!

i did some searching, and maybeprobablyapparently this is a dirty rumor, but i don't really care because it inspired a great idea. i've decided to write a treatment for a sitcom--because black life in america, if anything, is sitcom-worthy-- called, "that's my crazy uncle." here's the concept: an upwardly mobile black couple with two children (maybe two daughters, or a boy and a girl) have decided to take in the wife's aging uncle, a former minister, war veteran, etc.. he's recently had a stroke (a la my beloved sophia petrillo, r.i.p.), and shouldn't be left alone. he has no children, and refuses to go into a nursing home. since the couple is the most well-off of anyone else in the family, they've decided to take him in. the laughs mostly come from the interaction he has with the children, the well-meaning, liberal white neighbors and friends, and the husband--who, though black, didn't really grow up around other negroes (maybe he was adopted by a white family or something) and doesn't really code switch with the best of them. maybe the uncle, let's call him uncle tom, has a nickname for him, a version of george jefferson's "honky" or "zebras," but something more creative than "oreo." i'd suggest "nesquik," (br'er rabbit for that ass) or maybe even "ovaltine," but that might cause some legal issues.

i imagine the pilot episode might be called something like "the housewarming." the family has recently moved into a new neighborhood, and they've invited a few of their white neighbors over for dinner. say they serve, i dunno, baked chicken, and the uncle makes fried chicken jokes and such. though his niece suggests that baked chicken is more healthy, he complains. he says things like, "when white people come to black people's houses for dinner, they expect several things. among those things are fried chicken and the electric slide." maybe he pretends to be benson the whole night--we could constantly refer to other black sitcoms, in that quentin tarantino kind of way. do you see where i'm going with this? (oh, and there could be the episode where one of the children is doing a school project on u.s. history... or one where the son has to confront a bully at school...)

"that's my crazy uncle" could be the "dy-no-mite!" or the "whatchu talkin' 'bout, willis?" every black show has to have-- something catchy and not really funny that white people can say to each other while tailgating or talking to their black colleague at work. you know, it can be a line the the husband or wife says right before bed when they're chatting it up the way cliff and clair used to do back in the day.

is upn still in existence? i really don't want to pitch this to bet. i don't think they'd get it. though if donnie simpson would do a cameo during the first season, i'd totally go that route.

people may find it controversial, but i think this idea is way better than a sassy maid. what do you think, gayle?

11 August 2008

hold on, my people.


you know what really bothers me? black people who refer to their job site as a "the plantation," or derivatives thereof. quite a while ago, i was peeping in on some myspace pages, and saw a picture this woman had taken of herself while sitting in her cubicle. the blurb under it read, "at the plantation." that is, frankly, utterly ridiculous. i was incensed (maybe i overreacted. perhaps i was ovulating-- or whatever). so much so that i mildly wished there was an overseer nearby to give her a lash or two, just for being an idiot. though i make no arguments about things in this world being sacred and untouchable, i just don't think most black folks today can make analogies about their current predicaments being like the middle passage and events thereafter. especially if you have a job. that pays you. and a digital camera. and internet access. besides, no one's going to cut your foot off for trying to take a "vacation" up north.

anyway, the point? well, i've consistently argued--to anyone who would half listen to my not so sober ass-- that modern-day black folks were just weaker, a bunch of punks compared to our ancestors. my cuticles, for example, dry up if i fail to apply burt's bees lemon butter cuticle creme after each hand wash. can you imagine them after picking cotton? my cantankerous claim about my skin folks, however, was directly challenged, and subsequently dismantled, during every minute of the latest documentary on hurricane katrina, trouble the water. after the film, i dined on (jim) crow. (actually, i just went and checked out epic burger. the burgers are only so-so, by the way.)

a synopsis. two documentary film makers head to new orleans to shoot footage of the hurricane katrina aftermath. as the gods would have it, they run into kimberly rivers roberts, an emcee (black kold madina), and her husband, scott, two ninth ward residents who have survived the disaster. not only have they lived to tell their story, but astonishingly, kim had the foresight--and bravery-- to film their experience, and that of their neighbors, with her video camera. interspersed with footage by the documentary film crew and clips from various news and media outlets, we witness the roberts' life immediately before, during (yes, during!), and after the hurricane hit. it's a documentary that exposes the true nature of endurance, humanity, survival... and just how fucked up the government is.

we are a chosen people. we must be.

what i like about the film is that there's no old-school anthropological fetishizing of the subject bullshit here. there's no vulgar marxist mythologizing of the folk. because, for the most part, this time the folk got to tell their own damn story, and vocalize their own assessments of the situation. no one needs or dares speak for them--on the high or low(er) frequencies. they know exactly what's up, and they don't mind telling us.

the story is biblical--in proportion and theme. it's the story of noah, moses, and jesus in one; an old and new testament cocktail. the flood: well, that's obvious. roberts points her camera, and shows us her view from the attic: hard rain, a massive deluge of water covering street signs. noah: suddenly, the camera's eye catches larry, a ninth ward neighbor, literally wading in the water with a heavy boxing bag in tow. he's decided to transport his neighbors, one by one, to higher ground. roberts commentary is pithy, "katrina is a bad bitch."

moses: after the storm, scott finds a truck and transports 30 of his neighbors to a naval base, only to be met by a salute of m-16s. so they wander, looking for some sort of refuge. yes, the end of the storm is only the beginning. zion remains ever-elusive.

trouble the water made a believer out of me. whatever "slave mentality" our previous kinfolks had to survive the middle passage, slavery, jim crow... dwells somewhere still. (i know i'm making an essentialist argument. i kind of don't give a fuck.) unfortunately, it seems that inhumanity has to rear its ugly head for us to remember how incredibly resilient, creative, and, perhaps, human we are. that we hold within us a legacy, and descend from and remain a part of an enduring community of survivors. black survivors.

we are a chosen people.

10 August 2008

saturday night fever.

it's four am on a saturday night. well, sunday morning. and i want cookies. doughy, chocolate chip cookies. to distract myself from popping the four remaining pieces of "all natural" cookie dough i still have in the freezer, i've decided to speak with you, anonymous electronic reader.

it's been quite a while since i've done this. it feels like a stealthy, quietlittle comeback into the blogging world. i like it so far. it's like getting re-acclimated to roller skates after years off wheels, or moving your hand for the first time after having the cast removed: good, but funny and chicken soup weak. eventually, i'll get my sea legs. i hope.

or maybe this is how people feel when they wake up the next morning, adjusting their eyes to the unobstructed rays of sunshine and the face of an ex. the morning, sober mind immediately realizes some horrendous decisions must have been made the night before to result in the current predicament. except, fortunately, there will be no awkwardness at the door should i decide that no matter what i said the night before, i'm still not ready for this kind of commitment. we'll see.

either way, here i am, starting this new blog, "my best friend gayle." i think it's a swell name for a confessional blog. and, tonight at least, i think i'll treat this place as an online diary of sorts, my electronic best friend. i'll tell you all my (not so) secret opinions on the news of the day, or whatever else might move me. this time i'm more naked and loose; this is an "i'm in my silk jammies in the bed right before night time talking to my best friend on the phone" version of my former life (those were good times, no?). my goal is to write in a sort of "it's the last thing i do, right after i finish my tea and read portions of the secret and poems from maya angelou's selected works" way. you know, if i did that kind of shit.

(f'real, what kind of shit do oprah and gayle talk about?)

gayle, i think my next entry will be a review of this AMAZING! documentary i saw the other day. if i was oprah, i'd totally have the film makers on the show when i came back from hiatus. and then i'd cry as they told their stories, and then tell all the white people watching me on tv to go and see the documentary because it would change their lives, and maybe some of them would even find their passion. in actuality, i'd just be subliminally telling them to go see the documentary because i thought it was AMAZING! but not in the same way i find tyler perry movies and movies with john travolAHHHH in them AMAZING! but a more serious AMAZING! the kind of AMAZING! i reserve for my humanitarian endeavors. but that would only be if i was oprah. and since i'm not, i'll just have to pretend i'm talking to my own best friend gayle instead. and that's what this blog is. i hope that makes sense. i think it does.

so far so good.

g'night, gayle.

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