31 December 2009

Things I Probably Shouldn't Say

Ok.  So N has a 10-year-old daughter, E.  We all went to the movies yesterday.  She wanted to see The Chipmunks and I jokingly said I was going to go see Sherlock Holmes instead.

E: That [the idea that I didn't want to go to the movies with her] really hurts. [She was being mildly dramatic.]
Me: Take it up with your therapist in about 15 years.

I'm glad she got the joke.  N gave me the side eye.

27 December 2009

Dear Common, Did you seriously say, "I'm a man"?  With a straight face?

Generally, I resolve not to make New Year's resolutions.  That way, I've already broken my resolution by day one, and don't have to spend 364 days talking about how I failed yet again.  Since I'd rather watch football than go see racist-ass Avatar, I'm low on blog ideas.  I know you don't want to hear me rant about the Colts' stupidstupidstupid "rest the starters" approach to the end of the season, and how they're totally going to get their butts kicked by the Chargers if they don't get their act together.  So, I've compiled a list of things I resolve to do in the new year.  No, finish my dissertation is not one of the things I plan to do.  If anything, I am a sensible human being.

24 December 2009

The Nannie Diaries: The Nutcracker

Every year, Nannie would take my mom and me to see the Fort Wayne Ballet perform The Nutcracker.  I could never stay awake for the entire performance.  I'm still not sure I've seen the ballet in its entirety.  (If anything, I've seen The Nutcracker [on Ice?] courtesy of HBO.)  I'd fall asleep sometime after intermission.  I'd try really hard to stay awake, but the jolt of sugar the peanut M&M's I ate during the break provided never helped me last.  (Lately, I've been popping peanut M&M's like they're perscription pills.  This may or may not be part of my mourning process.  I don't know; I haven't had a lot of time to psychofuck myself.  I'll let you know.)

22 December 2009

Greek Goddess of Victory

Say what you want.  Does Nike suck?  Yes.  But these commercials are awesome.  And the company makes excellent basketball shoes.  Labor issues notwithstanding. :/

And Krs' rhyme is a lot less offensive than the time when he "remixed" "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" for a Nike commercial.  That made me gag--a lot.

21 December 2009

Making a List, Checking it Twice

Bah Humbug.  I almost totally forgot that Christmas is this Friday, have no idea when Hanukkah started, and couldn't name the principles of Kwanzaa if Maulana Karenga threatened to falsely imprison me.  Still, I've found enough holiday spirit to give gifts to folks both naughty and nice.  I think they'll be somewhat useful to the receivers.  It's the thought that counts, right?

18 December 2009

What is Africa to Me?

This song.

What a wonderful acknowledgment of his past and his future.

If I had a time machine, I'd check out The Voodoo Tour--again and again.

16 December 2009

The Nannie Diaries: A Negro Love Song

This is an experiment.  I don't know how long I'll do this, but a post I wrote a while ago gave me an idea: write about Nannie.  I want to say that I'll post a weekly diary, but I doubt that.  That said, I'm scared I'm starting to forget her.  So I need to write something.

Sometimes I sit and try to figure out how I got here, this excruciating arid land of the life of the mind, this place where fun comes to die.  I always tell folks that I went to graduate school for all wrong reasons: I didn't want a job, didn't know what I wanted to do, didn't think I'd make a very good lawyer.  All I knew is that I liked to read books; it's the only thing I ever did consistently.  Piano lessons?  I hated to practice.  I quit.  Basketball?  I hated playing defense.  I quit.  Trombone?  A 2nd grade experiment gone bad.  I quit.  But reading?  I always did that.  I'd finish the public library's summer reading challenge in a couple of weeks.  My Uncle Parnell had to have been fed up with escorting me to and from my local branch.  He was always really nice about it, though.  I wanted to walk by myself, but my moms wasn't having it.  Our trips wouldn't have been so frequent if they would've let me check out more than two books.  Looking back, I understand my moms trepidation about sending her first born out into the 'hood alone, but I knew my avuncular walking buddy would have preferred to have been playing ball at McMillen Park than wait for my prepubescent ass to check out The Westing Game AGAIN.

14 December 2009

Scribbled Paper: Notes on a Scandal

I had a bit of a family emergency last week that resulted in me spending several hours in New York Presbyterian Hospital instead of checking out that tree in Rockefeller Center, seeing Shrek before it leaves Broadway next month, and visiting my favorite sneaker boutiques.  (To the folks who commented on last week's blog, my apologies.  Life happens and I didn't have much time to engage.) As a result, I kind of have no idea what's going on in the world.  I do know, however, that Victor and Nikki got back together (AGAIN!) after his heart transplant.  Thanks, Grandma Charlotte.

08 December 2009

Family Diary: Harlem Shook

Is this what they call a free write?

07 December 2009

Today in Post-Race History: Full Corps Press

I don't follow the comings and goings of the White House press corps, so I'm wading in uncharted water here.  (I come from a long line of water waders, so I think I'll be ok.)  Yet I did watch the clip of last week's exchange between White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and American Urban Radio's April Ryan three times after I saw the story posted on Yahoo!.  (It does not get near my "Video Phone" record, but who's counting?)

04 December 2009

You Know I Love My Baby

To say I've been obsessed with this song on and off for nearly 20 years would be an understatement. I still don't think I have the vocabulary to describe what it does to me.  I'll just be going about my day and all of a sudden--no, f'real--need to hear it. 

Nana likes brandy/especially peach/She keeps it by the radio/and listens to the reverend preach...

I kind of want to write a paper about that line alone.   It speaks eloquently and perfectly about the oxymoron of a ghetto heaven.

Video Soul used to play this video.  Oh how I miss those days of nuanced blackness.

03 December 2009

This Woman's Work: The Quest for Smurf-Berry Crunch

I think I'm starting to feel like a Baby Boomer.  On Thanksgiving Day, N and I were chatting about cereal and our favorites as kids.  Though she's one of five kids, somehow she got her own box of cereal.  I had 2 sisters, a brother, and an occasional cousin to contend with for television remote control dominance, but wasn't so lucky.  My folks were ballin' on a budget, so we got economy-sized boxes of Frosted Flakes and Crispix--it'll be a cold day before I eat one of those cereals again.  (Since the statute of limitations has already passed, remind me to tell you about the times David, Janelle, and I would sit in the car for what seemed like hours while my parents shopped in Sam's Club.  It would explain a lot about my ability to entertain myself for long periods of time with little to no aides.  But that's another blog.)

30 November 2009

Captain Save-a-Negro: A Primer

FYI: My Monday posts are also published at the Black Youth Project.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I swear I saw commercials for the movie The Blind Side more times than I caught the ads of those cats singing the free credit report jingle.  (F-R-E-E that spells free/credit report dot com, baby...) Environmentalists could learn a lot from Hollywood; that place recycles scenarios more often than a tree hugger sneers at Hummer drivers.

23 November 2009

Upgrade U: What We Can Learn From Beyonce

Beyonce's  Thanksgiving special airs this week, and I know there are plenty of folks hating.  Had I not seen the light, I would've been one of them.  A few weeks ago, I was checking my Facebook account, and a friend's status message read that she intended to write a negative (feminist) critique of Beyonce.  Of course there were the co-signers with their expected "This is so necessary; can't wait to read it," responses.   Whatever.  These people probably bowl with bumpers in the gutters, and celebrate when they roll a strike.  Either exercise is about as difficult as convincing a 4-year-old that there are monsters in the closet.  The implicit position, the crux of "Beyonce makes feminists nauseous," argument, I imagine, might be described as something about Beyonce failing to meet certain expectations--her apparent lack of depth, her music, her relationship to men, her skin tone in those makeup ads.  Such critiques are ironically similar to a Tyler Perry movie: you've seen the tropes before and you how that it's going to end.

19 November 2009

Every Silver Lining has a Cloud: On Mourning and Other Kinds of Despair

Clearly, I am not the most positive thinker.  But I do try to have an even outlook, and not let the bad stuff bother me too much.  I figure if Monday is really sucky, then the rest of the week will be fantastic, comparatively.  That's how I've tried to look at this year.  In February, my great-grandmother, who we all call(ed) Nannie, passed away.  When my mother first moved back to Weezy, she lived with Nannie and Papa (who went on to be with the Lord in '93), and she and my father were still living with them when I was born.  When my parents finally did move out, they literally moved across the street.  I didn't go to daycare; I stayed with Nannie and Papa.  I went there before and after school.  My younger, less socially awkward sister did go to daycare with other kids, and though I came along with her, I was much older and by then preferred to deal with old people.  I saw Nannie everyday for the first 14 years of my life.  So yeah, we were close.

17 November 2009

Why am I Up?

I'm hungry, so I decided to surf the internet.  This is what I found.

16 November 2009

Today in Post-Race History: Say it Ain't Sosa

Credit: ROBYN BECK, AFP/Getty Images / November 5, 2009

We've seen the Sammy Sosa picture(s) by now.  The Michael Jackson jokes are stale and unimaginative.  So I won't make any here.  Yet as a black blogger, I guess I have to say something.  So I will mention just a couple of things.  This is a mere sketch.  Would love it if you all would fill-in and/or correct me.

What I Am is What I Am

Picture it.  Chicago, 2009: Last week during Oprah's Karaoke Challenge.

I'm sitting on the couch with N.  Oprah has just announced that (eventual winner) Abraham McDonald has performed.

N: That's your cousin?

Me: Nah.  Same plantation, though.

N: *Blank, yet mildly disguted stare*

She underappreciates my humor.  She really does.

13 November 2009

The Magic of Disney

These are my confessions.
I got problems, ok?  I know better, but I get crunk about Disney.  I dig Beauty and the Beast.  I love Aladdin and The Lion King.  The latter is, like, my second favorite movie.  I damn near cried when I saw the musical, and when prompted still go on and on about why we shouldn't bother making war when we can make such beautiful headpieces.  It's my most favorite version of Hamlet.  And I know it's problematic, and racist, and homophobic or whatever.  I still love it.  It's like I got Disney DNA.

And I'm excited about The Princess and the Frog.  I know it's going to be fucked up.  I know this.  But I also know that the songs will be pretty awesome, and that the Creole firefly is going to say something funny. Still, I get excited about Disney animation.  And when it comes down to it, I really enjoy good stories. 


10 November 2009

Gone Til November: The Obama Mixtape

Yo. I also blog at the Black Youth Project. This entry is for, and can be found on that site.

Due to my desire to post on Precious, I failed to fulfill a writing assignment.  I think I was supposed to post something about the 1st anniversary of the election of President Barack Obama.  I didn't know we celebrated the anniversaries of elections, but weird stuff happens when black people are involved.  Frankly, I don't really have much to say.  I think my blogging record speaks for itself.  I did not feel like the Jeffersons on Election Night 2008.  In fact, I was pretty critical of the whole thing.  But I'm not going to be cranky about this.  Like my grandmother said, if you don't have anything nice to say, make a mixtape.  (Okay, she really didn't say that.)  So that's what I've decided to do.

I suppose it's not really a mixtape, but rather several EPs.  Either way, though I love Radiohead, I'm not going to give the birthers any love by calling this thing "Hail to the Thief."

Happy Anniversary, Sesame Street


This jam is still funky after all these years.

09 November 2009

Lost in Translation: A Response to 'Precious'

Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry said Precious was awesome and that everyone should go see it.  Since I am the most obedient of Negroes, I saw it last Friday.  If Flavor Flav is the world's greatest hype man, this duo is officially the world's greatest hype machine.   I found Precious slightly underwhelming, uninspiring, and lacking much of what makes the novel, Push by Sapphire, so powerful.  Sorry, Ms. Winfrey.  I had no "A-ha!" moment.

My reaction to and assessment of the film, however, needs context.  With relative ease, I could probably come up with a book list of black women's fiction about incest--The Bluest Eye, Corregidora, etc.  In other words, I have discussed, read, written, and thought about the issues the film presents visually perhaps more than the average moviegoer.  So I'm willing to concede that my expectation, my threshold might have been a bit higher than the people (talking loud as hell) in front of me.  Still, I think what I found troubling about the film worth mentioning.  Lee Daniels & Co. had the envelope; they just didn't push it.  (Was that too heavy handed?)

06 November 2009

A Wishing Well of Crocodile Cheers

Early this week, I was gchatting with APG, and the idea of an embarrassing music mixtape (or podcast) came up.  Though I probably should be ashamed at some of the suspect cds in my collection (the sophomore efforts of Color Me Badd and Soul IV Real, for example), I can't say that I'm embarrassed by any of the music I like.

05 November 2009

Instant Vintage: It's not Easy Going Green...When You're Black

Zoe McFarland likes to think of herself as a friend of the environment.  She doesn't own a car, only flushes when she goes number two, recycles rigorously, and has turned a vacant lot in her west side Chicago neighborhood into a community garden, where she teaches neighborhood kids the way of the land.  She never thought her effort to leave a lighter carbon footprint would almost land her in jail.

02 November 2009

Luchini Fallin' From the Sky

I think I'd rather watch this over and over for two hours.

30 October 2009

Vincent Price's Voice Freaks Me Out

I'm almost back from the dead.  Finally finished restructuring my draft.  I have a gang of emails to write and apologies to make.  For the moment, I'm just waiting for word on my uncle's latest surgery.  Still, I've been hella zen throughout.  On the real, I think I've been changed these last few months.  I got a story to tell--for real.  Maybe I'll tell you one day.

Anyway, just posting this video.  I can't watch it.  It still freaks me the fuck out.

Happy Halloween.  I need nahlaters (Now and Laters) and fun size Snickers, please.

27 October 2009

Kiss and Tell: Losing Isiah

Johnson, left, and Thomas exchanging kisses before a game during the 1989 NBA Finals (Andrew Bernstein/Getty Images)

Those of us who lament the current incarnation of the NBA despite Lebron James' and Chris Paul's (he's soooo cute -- no hetero) greatness do so because we remember the golden age of the league.  (Are you looking for Kobe love?  You won't get that here.  Move along.)  Those of us born in the 80s were raised on the good and nutritiously entertaining similac of dope hip hop and an NBA that was absolutely faaaaaantastic.  Part of what made the mid-80s professional basketball such a renaissance was the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, a contentious pairing that began during the championship game of the 1979 NCAA men's basketball tournament, where Magic's Michigan State Spartans beat Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores.  Thirty years after the Bird or Magic debate began, the former adversaries, now friends, have co-written a book with the help of former Boston Globe sports columnist Jackie Macmullan.  Though the book won't be on shelves until November 4, last week the sports world took a brief break from obsessing over football to report on some of the juicier content.

23 October 2009

War Chant

My Bob Marley marathons are never planned.  Usually something random happens, and the next thing I know, I can't do anything but listen to RNM for six weeks straight.  I think I might be having one of those moments.  The other day, N and I were rolling through the city in Octavia (my responsible-looking Honda Civic), and she--in an effort not to use my iPod to salve our musical wounds--put in Babylon by Bus after Van Hunt finished.  I swear, every time I hear "War/No More Trouble" I want to stop whatever I'm doing and start my own revolution--or at least begin televising it.  I love the medley so much that I forget that for a long time my ear had been trained to hear "Rat Race" after "War."  That's called listening to Rastaman Vibration your entire junior year of college.

New dissertation distraction: compile a "This is Revolution" playlist.  

The message is in the music.

Oh, and the I Threes are awesome.  F'real, who's cooler than they are?

21 October 2009

Today in Post-Race History: Random Acts of Racism and the Rest of my Beautiful Day

The rose we remember; the thorns we forget. -- Sade

Heads: I haven't been to the grocery store in weeks.  Though I love and highly recommend the Caesar the Day chicken wraps from The Goddess and the Grocer, I'm growing tired of smashing on them.  The price tag is steep.  Besides, the store is located across the street from Dairy Queen, and I just don't have enough will power not to O.D. on Blizzards.   I was out of Trader Joe's O's and rice milk, anyway.  I gotta have my O's.  So yesterday, I went ahead and made the schlep for vittles. 

20 October 2009

Today in Post-Race History: No Homo

Remember last year when all the white gay people were mad at black people because Prop 8 passed in California?  Well, it wasn't a fluke.  We're still their whipping boys (er, bois?).  Last week, my internet boyfriend AC (again, the only man I'd ever seriously consider marrying), sent me a link of the above video, where Current TV contributor, Bryan Safi learns us about the phrase "No Homo."   Most of the commenters loved this piece and deemed it "genius."  Me?  Not so much.

16 October 2009


As I was writing my earlier post about BHO winning the Nobel, Lamya's "Empires" crept into my head.  I used to listen to Lamya's debut album, Learning from Falling a lot during my first year in graduate school.  It wasn't that great of an album, but for whatever reason it spoke to me and I enjoyed it.  I was especially drawn to her lyrics, which I thought emanated from a true wordsmith; I'd listen to the single mix of "Black Mona Lisa" ad nauseum.   (The sky above me is silent and empty/I am an island/A little freak of melancholy/But these hands/They unbead your rosary of wisdom/Bewitched, spellbound I'm found/And returned from superstition/You are my martyr/I'm a vestige of a revolution/My alma, my mater/And now I can let go)

13 October 2009

Today in Post-Race History: Ignoble Nobels

Here's your daily dose of hate-filled pessimism.

Dear Vh1, Guess who's having the best year ever.  Hope.  That's right, Hope--a four-letter word I find no reason to use unless it's accompanied by a "-less."  Yet, in retrospect, I totally should've kept the little bit of Hope stock I had.  Instead, I panicked when the economy kissed it* and sold it to David Axelrod for a Home Run Inn Pizza coupon and a used copy of The Jordan Rules.  Yep.  I choked, just like my fantasy football team did this week.  (Gargamel's Revenge is now 4-1.)  Hope is not intangible.  Hope is priceless.  Hope is worth more than the American dollar multiplied by GM stock.  Hope is currency.  Hope can e-race you.  Hope can garner you more votes than your opponents.  Hope will win you Nobels.

(kissed it = committed suicide)

06 October 2009

She's Gotta Have it: What, Exactly, is "Rape Rape"?

I'm still on IR trying to get this chapter draft to semi-embarrassing level.  (Which, frankly, would be a pleasant surprise to my committee since, you know, I rarely have anything to show them--and when I do it's some incoherent mess about black people and geography. Yes, I mortify the race with every word I type.) So, I have to give you a video you've probably already seen.

02 October 2009

Forget Me Not

What can I say?  I love this song.  And frankly, how can you not love Shingai Shoniwa?

That is all.

30 September 2009

Instant Vintage: Pres. Barred from CBC Dinner, Admin. Cries Foul

Last Saturday, President Obama was barred from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner, and the administration is pulling out the race card.  Although President Obama had been scheduled to address the audience, the crowd was instead serenaded by the likes of Michael McDonald and Hall and Oates.  Now, those close to the Commander-in-Chief are claiming that he was not denied entrance because of his racial background.  "This is one of the more racist acts in recent memory," one White House spokesperson said during a Monday morning press conference.  "There's no doubt in my mind that he was denied entry to the event because he is half-white."

29 September 2009

Status Ain't Hood

Folks, I'm busy redrafting this chapter, and haven't really had time to blog.  I should be off injured reserve by next week.  Editing beckons.  So, I'll keep this quick.

I'm not really concerned about Facebook polls regarding BHO's life--or the end of it.  And frankly, I hope Chicago isn't awarded the 2016 Olympics.  I think it's pretty obvious that Richard II and BHO have more serious issues to address.  While they're hanging out in Copenhagen selling the City of Big Shoulders to the IOC, Chicago Public Schools students are being beaten to death.  This year, more than 35 of them have been killed.  That's right. 

Here's my question: When do sickening moments like this stop being described as just another day living in the 'hood and recast as a national epidemic, a crisis worthy of intelligent conversation and action? 

Have at it.  (Some say there's no such thing as a dumb question.  Well, dumb answers do exist.  And yes, more police/law enforcement is probably a dumb answer.  We should try harder.)
Off to work on a dissertation not even my mother will read.  'Til then, think of the world.

23 September 2009

Today in Post-Race History: Semantic Antics

(Oh, BHO.  You're so funny!)

I will (try to) be brief: I hate this joke.

Then again, when's the last time you heard me say that I liked what this cat has to say about race?

Why? Put simply, it's dismissive.

22 September 2009

Must be the Money

I hate money 'cause it makes me numb. - M.I.A.
Yesterday, I had to stop by the main library on campus to return a recalled book.  (I'm coming for you, book recaller! What am I supposed to use for coasters now that you've taken a liking to all my books on racial passing?  You suck!)  There were a bunch of first years standing in line waiting to take their ID photos.  People were smiling at each other; they seemed both nervous and... happy.  Which is totally weird for the place where fun comes to die.  Then I remembered: school is about to start.  And I became happy, too.  Why?  The beginning of autumn quarter means money is about to come to me.  Please cue Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid."  It's time for my beginning of the year shimmy + two-step.

18 September 2009

I Love Football, I Love Bill Withers: What Sports Can Do

The other week, I was video chatting with Moya B. and the subject of football came up.  I tried to explain to MB why I loved sports, and football in particular.  I'm working on that blog--it'll be up next week, I hope--but I thought I'd post these videos in the meantime.

Last month, USC head football coach Pete Carroll tracked down Bill Withers, and invited him to a team meeting.  Withers posed as an NCAA official before notifying the players who he really was.  It was cool to see/hear their recognition.  It was even cooler to see the team come together and sing the song in front of Withers.

I've posted the video chronologically.  The first was filmed in August 9th, and shows a snippet of the team singing the song.  The second is the one I described above.

Sports, teamwork can be really powerful.  I wish I/we could implement some of the things we learn from being on a sports team in real life.

You Know that I'm 'Bout it, Baby

If and when I make that drive to Atlanta, GA, Donell Jones' "U Know What's Up" is going to be the first song I select for my Mason-Dixon mixtape.  That's right.  Before 'Kast, Goodie, TLC, before everybody, I'm putting this song on my Chicago to Atlanta playlist.

14 September 2009

You Gon' Be All Right: On Maia Campbell and (More on) Tyler Perry

Campbell, center, with the cast of In the House

Last week, I didn't take the opportunity to blog about Maia Campbell, something that I had fully intended to do.  Instead, my only significant output was a blog about Tyler Perry taking over command of the for colored girls film.  I worry that not allowing myself time to post my thoughts about Campbell was an implicit, unspoken participation in the suppression and dismissal of her situation, her struggles.  I want to correct that.  Further, I want to make a connection to both events, which is something I haven't seen folks do, but I find especially necessary at this juncture. 

11 September 2009

Like Mike: On His Airness

Today, Michael Jeffery Jordan will be inducted into the pro basketball hall of fame.  (Watch the induction on ESPN today at 6:30 pm ET.)He is the greatest to play the game.  Some statistics (from NBA.com):  Six-time NBA champion (1991-93, 1996-98); MVP (1988, '91, '92, '96, '98); 10-time All-NBA First Team (1987-93, 1996-98); All-NBA Second Team (1985); Defensive Player of the Year (1988); Nine-time All-Defensive First Team (1988-93, 1996-98); Rookie of the Year (1985); 14-time All-Star; All-Star MVP (1988, '96, '98); One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History ('96); Olympic gold medalist (1984, '92).  And those are just professional highlights.

09 September 2009

Roy G. Whiz

Uh oh.  It's a code red (black and green).  The bat signal is out.  bell hooks has started spelling her name in all CAPS.  Call up your elders, pray to your ancestors; conjure up your inner fairies, spirits, and goddesses.  Tyler Perry is turning your favorite play, excuse me, choreopoem into a movie.

The film version of Ntozake Shange's for colored girls--whose rights were procured by director Nzingha Stewart (she directed the First Born Second's music video for "Soul Sista")--has landed in the cork-blackened hands of Mr. Madea himself.  Perry will be not just producing, not just directing, but also writing the screenplay for Shange's Obie award-winning play.   Yes, the words of that rainbow shall be given film direction and dialogue by Mr. Perry.  Take a minute.  Read it again.  Deep breaths.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Good.  Chill out, unknot your headwrap.  It's going to be ok.  But just in case, bring those sage incense.  Right there on the mantel.  Next to your Yoruba statue.

I might know what you're thinking.  My advice?  Forget about it.  Forget about how patriarchally formulaic Perry's black Christian parables are.  (If you've seen one, you've them all, right? Gee, I hope so.  I've seen 2 flicks and 30 seconds of House of Payne.  I can't stomach any more.)  Forget about the fact that every black woman character Perry has ever created is characterized as insubordinate (hat tip, Moya B.), and therefore deserving of a smack on her face, if it stops her from talking to her husband all out of her neck like she ain't got no damn sense.  Forget about Perry's overly played out All a black woman needs is a good, not perfect but hardworking and well-meaning black man theme.  Forget about how real the acronym C.R.E.A.M. has just become to you (thanks, Wu).  Forget about the fact that there are plenty of black feminist women directors out there who would do a magnificent job turning this play into a movie.  Forget about the fact that some of those black feminist directors, who shall remain nameless, might make said movie more boring than, well, some black feminist films; we're talking principle here.  Forget about Perry's oeuvre, which features black women, characters with about as much depth as a Beyonce interview and attitudes that rival the stench of a cesspool.  Forget about how, in matters not fiscal, putting Perry at the helm of this endeavor makes no sense.  Forget about making sense.  Forget about the facts; forget about meaning.  Just forget about art; right now, it's as useful as your degree in the humanities.  While you're at it, forget about (a purposeful) life.  You'll just get a headache.

Tyler Perry directing for colored girls is an awesomely good idea. And if you think otherwise, you lose.  So get on board.  Support a brother.  (Have you forgotten all the lessons of the Black Arts Movement?)  Don't be so divisive.  Stay black and proud, baby.

I get it.  I get it. You performed the Lady in Purple's monologue at the '94 ACT-SO awards, so you feel particularly close to this play.  But in this doom and gloom world, pessimism is such a cliché--and totally unsexy.  So, let's look on the bright side.  Some good things can come out of this.  And, since I've decided to turn a new leaf by no longer visiting despair.com on a daily basis (where will I get my inspiration now?), I've decided to provide you with a list of some of those awesome possibilities.   Shall we?

1.  Jill Scott might be in itI'm going to take my tiiiiiime!  In a word, Jilly from Philly is theatrical.  She exudes epic.  She has the resumé.  She's worked on stage, television and she has a book of poetry.  (It's probably better than Alicia Keys' Tears for Water.)  And, if it wasn't for Ms. Scott, Angie Stone would be the queen of the Support a Strong Black Man through Song Crew which, it seems, is right up Perry's alley.  Can't you just hear her singing "Shortnin' Bread"?  You know you can.

(The discussion of how she ruined "Watching Me" with her spoken word verses will have to wait for later.)

2.  Better yet, Beyonce might be in it! Can she upgrade this film?  Well, if she can do for you what Martin did for the people, the answer is a resounding hells yes!  for colored girls the flick can do for Matt and Tina's daughter what Dreamgirls didn'tIf you haven't noticed, Beyonce is bank at the cinema.  That crap of a movie, Obsessed starring Sasha Fierce and Stringer Bell debuted at number 1.  (Did I see this film? No. But my guess is it was crap.)  $11 million on its first weekend.   And isn't that this is all about?  Besides, Beyonce needs the acting practice, no?  Yes, now is a good time for Lady in Yellow jokes.  Start now.

3.  You can play a game.  Guess who will star in the movie.  This is an ensemble cast.  There are seven colors of the rainbow, which makes seven roles for black actresses.  Last time I counted, I think there were about 14 black women in Hollywood; that does not include Queen Latifah, Halle Berry, or the black lady in the Pine Sol commercials.  Set up an office pool.  Whoever correctly chooses the most actresses wins.  Will Taraji P. "Jody, you a black ass lie" Henton get the nod as the Lady in Brown?  Is Sanaa Lathan up for the role as the Lady in Red?  Will Zoe Saldana pass as black--again--for the role of the Lady in Orange?  Is Kerry Washington still too busy campaigning for Obama?  Bet some wheat grass shots or something.  We hate money, remember?

4.  Hey, it could've been Spike Lee.  There is a valid argument that Spike Lee would do a better job, but do you really, really want him writing this movie?  She's Gotta Have it 2, anyone?  (Zora Neale Hurston angrily revolves in her previously unmarked grave!)  Furthermore, he did go to Morehouse.  'Nough said.  I won't bother mentioning Steven Spielberg.  I'm sure he's busy.

5.  Time to exhale.  (Shout out to my girl, Maegs.)  Remember the epic fail of trying to get your book club to read Toni Morrison?  Remember how homegirl turned up her nose at the idea?  Remember how you were so frustrated that you wanted to quit paying your dues and stop attending until your other homegirl pointed out that you had yet to get the club treasurer's bomb-ass spinach dip recipe?  Well, with Perry on board, this is the perfect time to add for colored girls to your book club reading list as this year's non-urban selection.  With the Perry stamp of approval, the ladies will gladly postpone that new Eric Jerome Dickey to February or March 2010, easy.  After all, surely there are some quotables that will make the movie, and there is nothing more pleasurable than sitting in the movie theater and reciting and laughing with the actors.  Make sure you bring it up before y'all get knee-deep into the Real Housewives of Atlanta.  (Who gon' check me, boo?)

6.  There will be an Oprah special...  And you will watch that shit.  (Ntozake Shange, we speak your name!)  I know you're conflicted about Oprah.  She's made a billion dollars on lightweight mammy game, but outright hatred is problematized (oh god, I can't believe I just typed that word in a blog entry) by your allegiance to black women.  It is a tough call.  But you have to watch this episode to make up for skipping Best Life Week and to make amends for believing in The Secret.  (Still waiting for my bike, by the way.)  There will be more black folks on the show since she opened up that school in Africa, and more black women on the show since, well, let me get back to you on that.  Maya Angelou will say something that sounds wise until you realize that said wisdom is merely a facade, a result of being hypnotized by her deep voice, wordiness, and poetic inflection that sounds nothing like the see-saw spoken word cadence you're used to.  You know Gayle is coming!  All the stars of the show will be there talking about how the play changed their lives.  Oprah will talk about how it changed her life and then tell the audience that it change their lives too, and the audience will nod in Pavlovian agreement.  Maybe Ntozake Shange will show. (You're looking for a rehab joke here, aren't you?  Not gonna happen.  I have standards now.)  If anything, it's worth tivo-ing; the visual dissonance of watching soccer moms cheer for this play and the copy of the book under their chair will be gnarly.  Trust.  

7.  March on. I know you like to protest.  It's what you do on your days off from your non-profit job.  So call up your homegirls, er, sistern.  Text the garbage bag, grocery bag, gucci bag, paper sack, nickel bag, booty bag, cheap sack ladies, and the baby baggin' mamas. Tell them to call their friends, and y'all have a vegan-friendly potluck and make some signs.  Then go up to Lionsgate headquarters or Tyler Perry Studios (because most of y'all live in Atlanta, right?) and walk around for a few hours.  It won't change anything, but I'm sure you'll be able to finagle a Facebook album out of the event.  Wear your best vintage denim jacket, and comfortable--but fierce--shoes.

8.  That said, you might get to meet Erykah Badu.   Ms. Badu makes the illest videos, and one of my favorites is the aforementioned for colored girls-inspired "Bag Lady."  If you make enough noise, maybe Ms. Badu will honor your cause.  Either way, follow her on twitter.  She's the best.

9.  There's still time to pray that Perry won't dress in drag for this movie.  When Madea throws that baby out of the window, it will be funny--right? 

10.  By the end, you'll forget you ever considered suicide.  (You might consider murder.)  Face it, dude.  Self-loathing doesn't befit everybody.  What you wanna go around killing yourself for?  The Tyler Perry version of this film is going to make you feel so much better; so uplifted, so inspired.  By the end, you might not love the movie, but you will love Jesus--and maybe the black man you left at home to go watch the movie with your girls.  And you will find God, He's nowhere near yourself, though.  You'll find Him in the church house.  And if Perry has anything to do with it, you will worship him--and your (new) black man--fiercely.

See!  Why did you ever get upset over this news?  You've totally forgotten all the reasons you opposed this move, haven't you?  Can't even remember the fact that "somebody almost walked off wid alla [your] stuff," hunh?  Don't you feel so much better now?  Good.  See you at the movies.

Note: For smarter, more serious accounts of this issue, please check out my internet husband, AC and/or my fellow black youth blogger, fabulous Fallon.  Their posts on this rocked.

03 September 2009

Freestyle Fellowship: Relax Your Mind, and Take Your Time

I'm old school.  I identify as black.  I have a real commitment to blackness, and understand it as a socio-political identity with the power to transform and dismantle hierarchies of oppression.  I am proud that I am the descendant of slaves.

This sense of (my)self was probably cultivated in the late 80s and early 90s, when pre-commodified conscious, jazz-inspired rap (am I romanticizing?) was flourishing. Cats like Brand Nubian, Latifah, Isis (of the X-Clan crew) and Poor Righteous Teachers were my Afrocentric mentors. I rocked an Africa medallion (copped at the Fort Wayne Black Expo), read Roots and the work of Malcolm X, probably alarmed my teachers and parents with my DANGER! educated black woman game, and begged my pops to buy me a 14K gold X chain for my 13th birthday--that's black militant bling right there, homie.  And yes, you can see it in some of my school pictures.

I didn't exactly catch all the messages then, but I slowly learned that a lot of the rhymes I was committing to memory were inspired by The Nations of Gods and Earths and Islam.  I found Islam attractive.  It felt, I guess, very radical for me at the time.  I didn't grow up in a particularly religious household, but when we did worship, we went to church and studied the white man's religion.  The alternative spirituality I was hearing in rap music was alluring, but I never converted.  I blame that on being a little scared and a girl.  Though I found pictures of the women of Nation of Islam movingly beautiful, I think my negative response to the white hijabs they wore was really my nascent, inarticulate critique of gender politics, and perhaps a portend to my budding sexuality--I wanted a bow tie.  I remember reading the section of The Autobiography of Malcolm X where he described how/why he "chose" Betty Shabazz as a wife and thinking, "Hell nah."  Plus, I really enjoyed bacon.

Anyway, Freestyle Fellowship's "Inner City Boundaries," from their second album Innercity Griots, is a perfect example of the kind of rap I was obsessed with as a pre-teen.  (I should also note that IG features "Shammys" one of my favorite misogynistic rap songs.)  A lot of folks forget about Freestyle Fellowship, but they're dope.  Aceyalone, Self Jupiter, Myka 9, and P.E.A.C.E. never got the shine they deserved, partly because most of what was coming out of L.A. at the time was (what would be deemed) "gangsta rap."  But Freestyle Fellowship weren't the only left coasters interpreting hip-hop in this artful, jazzy way.  For a fuller account of L.A.'s hip hop scene circa '93, check out This is the Good Life, if you haven't already.  I caught it a while back and loved it.  So much so that writing this post has compelled me to add it to my Netflix.

In the meantime, let's sing along:

I gotta be righteous, I gotta be me
I gotta be conscious, I gotta be free
I gotta be able, I gotta attack
I gotta be stable, I gotta be black

02 September 2009

Instant Vintage: Grad Student Makes History with Dissertation

(Remnants of my former life.)

Twelve years ago, Percival Bryce McAllister-Jenkins-Smith wouldn't have believed anyone who told him of the feat that he would accomplish at the end of his graduate school career.  Two weeks ago, after successfully defending his dissertation, McAllister-Jenkins-Smith was notified that he had become the first African American graduate student on record not to mention W.E.B. Du Bois in his work.  For McAllister-Jenkins-Smith, one of the newest graduates of Clarke University's Africana studies doctoral program, the accomplishment, though unintentional, is welcome.

"What I really set out to do," McAllister-Jenkins-Smith confessed, "was not to write a dissertation about hip-hop.  I just really didn't want to be the black student saying 'I'm writing about hip-hop' at one of those department cocktail hours.  I might as well be saying, 'Hey folks, another song leaked from the new Jay-Z album!'  Who wants to be that guy?"  In fact, McAllister-Jenkins-Smith's project, Potholes in My Lawn: A Conceptual History of the Lawn Jockey in the American Literary Canon 1896-1975, is nothing like hip-hop--that is, if you ignore the whole white obsession aspect of both subjects.  In his work, McAllister-Jenkins-Smith offers a treatise on the lawn jockey, a figure with a dubious history, that for many symbolizes America's racist past.  "[But] I wasn't concerned with any of that," McAllister-Jenkins-Smith says.  McAllister-Jenkins-Smith then went on to explain the debt he owed to Barthes and semiology, inevitably digressing into academic jargon that, ironically(?), signified nothing.

So, how did McAllister-Jenkins-Smith take up a black figure and not mention Du Bois in his final offering to his dissertation committee?  "It just never really dawned on me," he says.  "We're in a new era, you know?  And I just want my work to reflect that."

Though he made history by finding the past hardly useful, McAllister-Jenkins-Smith's future is incredibly bright.  He recently accepted a Sankofa Fellowship at a prestigious university.  Along with a lectureship, the award will allow him ample time to focus on turning his dissertation into his first book-length project. 

The response to McAllister-Jenkins-Smith's accomplishment has been mixed.  Department head Mtume Ali had only terse remarks for his former student, "He's still an artificial nigger."  Neither the university nor the Africana studies department plans to give McAllister-Jenkins-Smith special recognition.  However, a note will appear on Clarke's wikipedia page; McAllister-Jenkins-Smith is not currently listed in the notable alumni section.

Congratulations, Percival Bryce McAllister-Jenkins-Smith.  McDonald's salutes you.

N.B. Though he managed not to cite the godfather of black thought, McAllister-Jenkins-Smith did have extensive footnotes on Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.

(Yeah, I'm rusty.  This was fun, though.)

01 September 2009

Pop Life (Remix): I Will Always Love You, Whitney

Yesterday, my mom sent me a text message proclaiming her excitement for Whitney Houston's newest album, which was released yesterday.  In her "I'm fifty years old" text message shorthand, Ma said she loved every song on I Look to You, Nippy's first solo effort in years.  The reviews are mixed.  Though I haven't *technically* heard it, I'll just go ahead and say I love Whitney's new album, too.  I'll hold my tongue re: Akon's appearance.  (Alvin Seville does want his job back, though.)  I do think the latest single, "Million Dollar Bill" will make a killer house remix.  Maybe it's my mother's fault, maybe it's because I'm getting soft, but I'm rooting for Whitney.  I'm glad she's here.

A few years ago during Ms. Houston's nadir, I wrote a blog about her.  On this the first leg of her comeback and on the eve of her appearance on the divine's Ms. O's (you can't spell God without an o) season premiere--no jumping on the couch!--I want to return to what I said.  I've posted it below, with very few edits.

I think most of the stuff I said holds up.  Well, I hope it does.

(Note: I wrote this during my all my blog titles will be inspired by Prince period.)
What you putting in your nose?

Let me be clear: this entry is not a traincar on the dis Whitney Houston express. I've done my share of that over at fecundmellow, and on being bobby brown: the blog. Besides, my mother would put me on punishment if she found out that I was all up on the internet yet again talking smack about her girl, Ms. Houston. In this entry, I've no desire to express my sadness and concern over the soon to be dissolved Brown-Houston marriage; I've conquered that urge by simply choosing not to discuss it. Rather, this entry is more of a rumination on the re-emergence of a seemingly happier, healthier Whitney Houston who, it seems, has found a way to recover and rediscover what we assume is her old self.

Is that where all your money goes?

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email with the subject heading, "SHE'S [Whitney Houston] BAAAACK!" with instructions to pass the message along to moms. Since it was a forward, I scrolled down, curious about what others might have said about the pictures. Along with the typical comments such as, "Let's (continue to) pray for her," there was another that suggested that (the ever hard to define) "we" support Houston with the same energy and vigor we employed to further exacerbate her very public downfall. Though a slightly obvious observation (in a similar, albeit less significant vein as, "George Bush does not care about black people."), for whatever reason the message stuck with me, and over the next few days, I had a couple of conversations about both the pictures and the comments in the email.

The river of addiction flows.

During one discussion, a good friend said to me--as she'd said a few times before when we'd talked about Brenda's [my mom] favorite pop singer-- "I really think she's gonna be the Billie Holiday of our time." Hm.  Lugubriously sad, but potentially true. And though the photographs that comprised this mass email gave me a tremendous amount of hope that Houston will mount a comeback that makes Mariah Carey's look like a spoken word piece put next to anything from Gwendolyn Brooks' oeuvre (or any other legitimate poet for that matter...had to get that jab in somewhere), despite my extremely poor vision, on the horizon I see very clearly the possibility of another very public fall. It is, I imagine, quite lonely at the top, and even lonelier when you tumble from it.

And so I wonder: What must it be like to have no peer?

You think it's hot, but there won't be no water.

I believe that the following statement is (pretty much) true: Whitney Houston is the greatest voice of our time. Perhaps you don't like her pop music, or question some of her later material. Ok. I can understand that. Yet at the same time you can neither ignore nor deny the purity of her voice. In a time when young ingenues thrash their throats in an attempt to outrun each other, and when the greatest singers from decades past need to sit their asses down somewhere (don't make me name names: Aretha, Diana, Chaka...), Houston--when she had her shit together-- sang so effortlessly, so naturally you'd swear she was simply speaking to you with the ease of a conversational tone. Surely, there is a small group of modern day musicians who have left their fingerprints on our collective psyche, but in my estimation, Whitney Houston stands alone. And because of that, when it all fell down, I was saddened as I witnessed her very public struggle to simply do the thing she loves to do.

When the fire blows.

During one of the myriad of poignant moments that peppered the first and only season of the greatest reality tv show starring a famous person ever, Being Bobby Brown, the Brown-Houston clan sat eating near a pool at a hotel. Some folks gingerly approached the group and asked if they could have photographs. Though Brown very gladly took pictures with everyone, Houston sat at the table and adamantly refused. As Houston shook her head and turned her back to the group, the viewer heard Brown's voiceover, and he explained that he got and remains in the entertainment business for the love of the fans, while Houston got in the business simply because she loves to sing.

What if the one thing in the world that you loved to do the most, that you'd work all of your life if not to perfect, but at least to reach your potential, was accompanied with the side effect of having your every move documented and scrutinized? What if people thought they had the right to audaciously approach you and invade your private life whenever they chose, when all you wanted to do was the one thing you love? Could you love doing something enough to pay that price? Would you risk it?

Tell me, what's the matter with your world?

There are millions of people in the world who took/take drugs and exhibit other kinds of destructive behavior due to pressures not nearly as oppressive as being the best at something. I'm not attempting to disparage or belittle people's personal struggles and downfalls, nor am I in the game of ranking traumas. However, it seems to me that attempting to hang yourself because that B+ moves you from valedictorian to salutatorian by no means matches up to a coke binge that could have very well been inspired by the fact that the gift you've given the world, that thing which you're best at, is apparently insufficient.  The dearest part of you that you share is simply not enough.  Rather, fans and foes wish to devour every part of you to satisfy a quite temperamental appetite. I imagine you can find several other people who missed two free throws that cost their high school team the state championship. But who do you turn to when everything in your world sucks, and you're the only one in your league? I'd do drugs, too.

Everybody can't be on top.
And maybe--successful comeback or not--Houston will still be, in some way, the Billie Holiday of our time. However, instead of having to cope with the oppressive and obtrusive nature of, say, jim crow, Houston has had to deal with the increasingly invasive media and the people they ostensibly serve. More than that, both women have had to endure living very public lives in an environment, a society that devalues black women so much that it doesn't even bother being unforgiving. 

Life it ain't real funky, unless it's got that pop.

I cannot possibly sympathize with Ms. Houston, or the few others who have walked in similar shoes. Sympathy requires a kind of intellectual comprehension; on some level, it also demands some sort of condescension. So, all I can really do is continue to be a member of team Whitney. And since Brenda is my mama, it's sort of my birthright. 

We all got a space to fill.

28 August 2009


Alright - Allen Anthony

Like any kid with decent taste in music who grew up during the Golden Age, I fell in love with ATCQ's "Electric Relaxation" the minute I heard it.  Since then, I've had a little love affair with Ronnie Foster's "Mystic Brew," which Tribe sampled to make their classic hit; the song appears on Midnight Marauders which is, at this very moment at least, my favorite Tribe album. 

I was reminded of the sample earlier this week when I read about Joy Jones' use of the bass line for her song "Over."  Frankly, I don't really like this song; I find it boring, and unlike some of the commenters, I don't think this is "proper" use of Autotune--proper use might be no use at all.  That said, I love Madlib's "Mystic Bounce," and developed a crush on Miss Jack Davey for the way she flipped the Tribe joint.  On the low, I have mad love for Allen Anthony's "Alright."

Anthony, who you may remember from the 90s group, Christión (who I also dug), released this jam in 2003.  I don't think I've ever talked to anyone who liked Christión or this song, but I'm ok with that.  I still like "Alright" even if I am the only one. Maybe I just like nigs rolling through the 'hood on ten speed bikes instead of 20s.  Whatevs.

Cruelest Summer (Ever!): Reading Rainbow

If you had asked an eight-year-old me what my goal in life was, I very well might have told you that I wanted to appear on Reading Rainbow as a reviewer.  I envied those kids, wanted to be like them.  I just didn't know how to get on the show.  I never did figure it out.  I am still severely saddened by the fact an appearance on Reading Rainbow cannot be one of those 25 random facts about me.  It might be a greater disappointment than my not winning Nickelodeon's "Meet The Jets" contest back in '86.  I still think my mom didn't get my postcard to the USPS on time.  (I'll never forgive her.)  I also never won those coveted 5 minutes in a Toys R Us.  But that's another story.

I practiced for my television appearance, though.  I'd sit at Nannie's dining room table, armed with a kids book, doing my best imitation of the kids who were lucky and savvy enough to land a gig on the show.  I'd retell the juicy nuggets of the story in the perkiest, most excited whisper I could muster; I didn't want to disturb Nannie and Papa watching the CBS stories.  After I concluded my synopsis with my version of "...well, you'll just have to read the book to find out!" I'd smile into the imaginary camera recording my audition and hear the three-note "dundunnnDUN!" in my head.  All right, Mr. Burton, I'm ready for my close-up.

I'd like to think that I wasn't the only kid who made believe that she would get her first taste of celebrity on Reading Rainbow.  Of course, child stardom is fleeting, and had I made my debut on RR, who knows what might've happened?  The fact that I was funny looking as hell probably prevented me from a brief career as a child star, followed by a steep fall full of drug habits and stints in rehab.  But RR was about so much more than being on television; it was about loving to read--the worlds books would take you to, the adventures you would take.  And I am so sad that the next generation of young readers will not have LeVar Burton as a companion on these literary expeditions.

After 26 years, PBS is over the Rainbow.  No one wants to fund the show's broadcast.  To add, times are changing.  According to an NPR story on the cancellation, the end of the show "can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling."  So, in other words, how can one love to read if one does not know how to read?

I never thought those two things were mutually exclusive.  But since I'm not an education expert, just a person who has always loved to read, I guess I'm wrong.  I can only speak for myself, but I've never wanted to learn how or continue to do something I didn't (think I would) love.  I think I became a good reader because I love doing it.  I was surrounded by folks--like Nannie, Grandma Charlotte, and my mom--and shows like RR that made reading exciting, and frankly, cool.

Learning how is never enough.  I learned how to solve an equation, but I don't do it anymore because it's no fun.  Eventually I will forget how to solve for x.  Part of that has to do with how unnecessary algebra is in my life, but it also speaks to the excruciating pain I feel when I see letters and numbers together.  I never learned to love it as I learned to do it. 

Even though I see folks with books all the time, I can't shake the feeling that people don't read anymore.  With things like Kindle (book purists like m'self [should] find these machines sacrilegious)  and libraries providing so many other services you forget they do things like lend books, I get the sense that so many of us never learned to love and appreciate the feel and smell of books, the way the words appear on the page.  And I'm afraid that with the absence of shows like RR we'll create a generation of kids who will only think of reading as fundamental, a necessary ill of life.  As someone who has dedicated her life to unlocking the worlds that literature holds, I can't stand the thought.  I already deal with an English department full of folks who don't seem to love reading.  I need a reason to continue to believe that somewhere someone's young, new romance with reading is beginning.  The end of RR is a deluge of water upon my torch.

I will cherish my RR memories, and keep practicing my book reviews.  It's all I have now.  Still, I can go anywhere--including back to childhood.  Reading Rainbow says so.

26 August 2009

Summer Explains it All: Jail Time for Dummies

Any of you following the NFL might have been slightly shocked when the details of Plaxico Burress' sentence became public.  Even I was surprised by the severity of his sentence, and I've been watching NFL players tango with the (in)justice system since well before, um, Ray Lewis?  For those of you who have not diligently observed the latest parade of black (American) footballers marching from locker room  to lock down, here's what happened: Plaxico Burress, former wide receiver for the New York (football) Giants and quasi-legend of Super Bowl XLII (he caught the game-winning touchdown and predicted a Giants win) turned himself in to authorities in December 2008 for unlawful possession of a handgun.  According to reports, in November 2008, Burress, though not licensed to carry a firearm in New York City, brought a gun with him to a New York City nightclub.  While on his way to the VIP section of the club, Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg.  Burress then checked into the hospital under an alias (he claims someone else registered him under an assumed name); though the hospital was required by law to notify police when treating the result(s) of a shooting, it was never reported, and NYPD wasn't aware of the situation until it became news.  Unlawfully carrying a firearm in New York City is very, very illegal.  Consequently, Burress was indicted on two weapons charges.  Due to NYC's mandatory minimums for unlawful gun possession, Burress' lawyers reached a plea deal, and last week he was sentenced to two years in prison.

Damn.  Burress got two years for accidentally shooting himself--and this was the result of a plea deal.  And Burress is rich!  So much so that he's hired a prison consultant (another example of white folks making up their own jobs) to let him know what life in the slammer will be like.  Dude, Dante Stallworth served 30 days for killing somebody else; Burress has to serve at least 20 months of his sentence--for putting a hole in his leg.  Maybe homeboy should've hired a differnt lawyer.

I know, I know, I know.  New York gun laws are harsher than a sandpaper diaper.  And Mayor Bloomberg made it pretty clear that he wanted Burress to become the poster boy for, well, stupidly bringing a gun up in the club and shooting one's self.  Still, two years seems a bit austere, especially for someone who could post $100,000 bail, no problem.  So I thought: How did that happen?  What has the world come to when folks can't buy their way out of jail time?  And then, though I suck at math, I started calculating things, and came up with what I call "The 24-Month Formula: How Plaxico Got Locked Up for Being a Sucka."

Here's how (I imagine) the sentence was determined:
  1. Scrabble, anyone? P-L-A-X-I-C-O.  That's 18 points, plus 50 points for using all your tiles. No points for double or triple word scores.  Let's not get greedy.  Total: 68 months.  
  2. Wait, I forgot something! In his E:60 interview, Burress said his teammate, Antonio Pierce asked him for a lift to the club (Go green!  Carpool!).  Pierce lives in the same complex where another teammate, Steve Smith was robbed.  Burress said this fact compelled him to go back home and pick up his heat.  With New York traffic, illegally parking (with the hazards on), and running upstairs to the crib, my guess is that put him off schedule, say, -40 minutes.  He might've missed the no cover before 10, but it's always fashionable to show up at the club late.  Total: 28 months.
  3. So much for elasticity.  Burress just put the gat in his waistband.  He didn't bother with a holster.  Besides, how seriously can you take a dude who puts his nine in a holster? Real gangsters aren't afraid to put the steel right next to the jewels.  Holsters are for mark ass busters!  I'm guessing Burress realized he'd forgotten the gun's jacket, and had to decide whether or not to leave the gun naked.  Obviously, he opted to leave the holster at home.  The time it took to come to that conclusion?  Well, Burress is a wide receiver, and in general only two other positions score lower than WRs on the Wondelic.  So, let's say, +5 minutes.  Total: 33 months.
  4. Party like a rock star.  Burress probably left parking to the valets, but he had to go through security.  According to Burress, he got patted down by the bouncers and went the metal detectors.  Bypassing the club line + having a gun (and security doesn't care) + passing the velvet rope? -10! Total: 23 months.
  5. Super Bowl shuffle.  Burress and the homies couldn't chill with the common folk because they're celebrities and Super Bowl heroes.  New York loves you forever!  Burress did catch a touchdown during the big game and predicted a Giants win, though the then-undefeated Patriots were a heavy favorite.  Plax is no David Tyree, but he did make the game-winning catch.  Nice.  -20 points. Total: 3 months.
  6. Watch your step. Burress trips on the way to the VIP section.  Not a good look for wide receivers, who are known for their deft footwork on the sidelines.  +5. Total: 8 months.
  7. Better safe(ty) than sorry! I'm not Beyonce, but something tells me that if I were a boy (who liked to put guns in my waistband), I'd be sure the safety was on.  Just in case, well, you know.  Obviously, Burress didn't do that.  +5.  Total: 13 months.
  8. Butter fingers.  Burress said he felt the gun slip, and tried to keep it from falling.  Instead, he pulled the trigger.  Nice catch.  Maybe this is why the Giants were so unwilling to renegotiate your contract.   +2 months. Total: 15 months.
  9. Good aim! But you didn't shoot anyone else, Plax.  Way to go.  -1. Total: 14
  10. In the immortal words of Biggie Smalls: Niggas Bleed. Burress said he didn't realize he shot himself until he saw blood on his Chuck Taylors.  Dude, that's a gun shot wound.  Plax, I know you're a football player, but if you spent most of the 2007 season not practicing because of an ankle injury, how do you expect folks to believe you didn't know you shot yourself until you saw your own blood?  Unless you lathered your thighs in novacaine, you're a big fat incarcerated liar.  Or were you under the influence of drugs?  If so, that would explain numbers 2-9.  Either way, that's +3. Total: 17 months.
  11. What's in a name? Burress says someone else checked him into the hospital under the name Harris Smith.  His explanation of why it was impossible that he came up with the pseudonym is paper thin (+4), but it's a much better alias than Ron Mexico (-2).  Total: 19 months. 
  12. Have you updated your shot records?  Burress had a gun license (-6), but it was a Florida license (+2).  An expired Florida gun license (+4). Total: 19 months.
  13. Knowledge is power.  Unless it's a Super Soaker, if you're going to carry a gun, please know the rules and regulations of the environment in which you plan to carry.  +5. Total: 24 months.
  14. Learning that if you're going to shoot yourself you better do it in a place like Texas? Priceless.  
Please note: though we are glad that a black man--and not a fellow coworker--shot himself this time, these kinds of antics will not lead to beer at the White House.  Watch and learn.  How was my math?

25 August 2009

Trouble the Water on DVD

If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to add Trouble the Water to your Netflix queue, or rent it--people still do that, right?  It was released on DVD today.  I wrote a response/review of the documentary after seeing it at the Black Harvest Film Festival last year.  Trouble the Water, which follows the before, during and after Hurricane Katrina experience of ninth ward residents Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband, Scott, got nominated for an Academy Award, but I guess a French guy on a wire--voluntarily danger--was a lot more compelling than being reminded of this country's EPIC FAILURE during the disaster.  That shit is a movie-going buzzkill. 

The other week, my dissertation writing partner and I were talking about extreme sports.  Neither one of us could understand why folks find watching and/or participating in them so much fun, so fascinating.  In response to our lackluster feeling about the genre she quipped, "Being black is an extreme sport."  Remembering Trouble the Water, maybe she's right.  Check it out.

24 August 2009

Happy Birthday, Connected!: More than Beats, More than Rhymes

I can't believe it, but five years ago today, The Foreign Exchange (@nicolay and @phontigallo) released their album, Connected.  It's pretty amazing stuff--just great hip hop.  What makes this album even more amazing is the fact that these cats instant messaged, e-mailed, and snail mailed beats and vocals back and forth to each other.  (At the time, Nicolay, who was living in the Netherlands at the time, would compose the beats and send them to Phonte [of Little Brother fame], who was in North Carolina.)

I was in Dusty Groove when I first heard the opening bassline of the now-classic "Nic's Groove" (still a scorcher).  I stopped fingering through the used cds, and asked the cashier what they were playing.  I copped it, and have been a fan of this duo ever since.

TFE keeps getting better.  Three years after their debut, they released the absurdly awesome Leave it All Behind which, to my mind, was one of the best albums of the year.  Recently, they announced that affiliates Zo! and Carlitta Durand will each be releasing material on Foreign Exchange Music.  On September 15, Nicolay will release City Lights 2: Shibuya.  (For a taste, and a free download, click here.) 

As a fan, I just can't get enough of this duo.  They make classic, quality records and are engaging and entertaining live.  These are the type of cats who deserve our support.  Stand up for good music.  Happy fifth birthday, Connect.  And many thanks and mad love to Nicolay and Phonte for holding it down.

The Foreign Exchange (featuring Yahzarah, Darien Brockington, Zo! and the Els)

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