I'm working on part 2 of Fideles Quaerens Intellectum. That should probably be out by this weekend. I'm about to try some different time management strategies, so hopefully we'll see an increase in overall productivity. In the meanwhile, in looking at all the ruckus over Richard Clarke, I like Gregg Easterbrook's analysis the best. Basically, he says that all this partisan finger-pointing over 9-11 is foolish. I can't make myself believe for one minute that any American, Republican, Democrat, conservative, progressive, libertarian, Christian, atheist, whatever...any American would have known what was about to happen and done nothing to prevent it. Maybe I'm being naive, but I just refuse to believe that. The fact that 9-11 has become a political football with each party asserting that the other party should have known what was coming and prevented it saddens me a great deal. Heaven help us all.
"Funky Worm" - Ohio Players "Ain't We Funkin' Now" - Brothers Johnson "Ain't No Sunshine" - Roy Ayers "The International Zone Coaster" - Leaders of the New School "This Is the Life" - Living Colour "Whispering" - Benny Carter & Oscar Peterson "As" - Stevie Wonder "Sister Sanctified" - Stanley Turrentine "Energy Blues" - Biz Markie "A Touch of Jazz (Playin' Kinda Ruff Part II)" - Zapp
Got sidetracked by that white "Black" dude. (You mean John Kerry was on the bus and I didn't even recognize him?) • "Takeover" – Jay-Z: "Five to One" – The Doors • "The Truth" – Beanie Sigel : "Chicago" – Graham Nash • "Tha Nigga Ya Love to Hate" – Ice Cube : "Weak In The Knees" – Steve Arrington • "Bobyahead2dis" – Redman : "Atomic Dog" – George Clinton (lots of songs have sampled Atomic Dog, but Bobyahead just beat the sample up so bad it towers above all the other uses to me.) • "You Can't Stop The Prophet" – Jeru : "Chain Reaction" – Crusaders.
Watched a couple episodes from the first season of Good Times again. Let me tell you, Good Times was a very different show those first few seasons. The difference was James. When James was there, it was still very much an ensemble piece. JJ was still cooning it up, but in the proper context, he was actually very funny; his elastic face and rubber band tongue provided an interesting contrast to the stern-faced, hollering James, Sr. Good Times wasn't about any character in specific, it was about the family as a collective. Really, if you wanted to name the main "character" in the early episodes of Good Times, it was love. The principal form was the love between James and Florida, but there was also that confrontational-but-symbiotic love between the kids, especial JJ and Thelma. The James-Florida dynamic was the element that gave the show depth, however. Once James left the show, there was no balance; James kept everything in check. It was James' old-school sensibilities like taking pride in his family and his ability to provide for them that gave the show its main source of material. What difference would it have made if James couldn't find or keep that good job if Florida had been working? Not much. Aside from that, it's always interesting to me to look at the early episodes of a show to see how long it takes before the characters come to behave as we know them later. The characterization on Sanford & Son, for instance, really didn't gel until the 2nd season. That's when the bond between Fred & Lamont really started to seem solid. Likewise, on the Cosby Show, much of the material in the early episodes was taken right out of Bill Cosby's stand-up act; Himself, in particular. (Speaking of which, when are they gonna put Cosby on DVD? That's money out of my pocket already.) On Good Times, however, the episode does a very good job of introducing the viewer to the characters and letting the viewer know what each person is about. While some shows take a while to really hit their stride, Good Times had its voice early and lost it later. Anyway, on the disc 2 are my favorite episodes of the show, "Sex and the Evans Family" and "Junior the Senior." Coming in a close third is "Black Jesus," which is on the first disc. It was the show's second episode. From what I've read, there was a serious backlash to the fact that they had dared suggest that Jesus was not white. If I remember correctly, there were death threats and the whole nine. (Although I may have the death threats aspect confused with a play in NJ some time in the 90's.) "Sex and the Evans Family" is my favorite episode for reasons unrelated to its larger significance. The show starts with JJ and Thelma each getting ready for a date on a Saturday night. Thelma, who is 16, is going out with a 21 year-old man. While the kids are getting ready, Florida and Willona find this typewritten booklet entitled "Sexual Behavior in the Ghetto." Florida immediately assumes the booklet is JJ's and lights into him for reading trash like that. JJ denies owning the book, but Florida doesn't believe him. When James comes home, Florida tells him about what's going on and is nonplussed when James actually seems to be proud of JJ. Of course, it's not JJ who was reading the book, but Thelma. And of course, when James finds this out, he hits the roof. In the end, the "filthy piece of trash" is Thelma's date's (played by Philip Michael Thomas with a pointdexter fro, parted down the side, an argyle sweater vest, and a tie with a fist-sized knot) Master's thesis. He says that Thelma supports a theory of his, which is that children from two-parent homes, especially those in which there is a strong father figure, show lower incidences of teen pregnancy. Anybody who watches television knows that the days when regular broadcast television would run a show in which the father's vigilance in watching over his daughter is ultimately shown to be a good thing. To be sure, they did bring up the whole double-standard issue, with James "letting the wolf out while he kept Little Red Riding Hood locked up." Unlike today, however, the focus of the show was not the issue of James' double standard. James' stance was actually affirmed by the academy; even smart people knew that James and Florida were doing right by hawking over Thelma the way they were. Nowadays, it would be all about James being old-fashioned or a chauvinist for not letting Thelma's boyfriend sleep over. For as leftist a bent as the show had at times, it certainly demonstrated a high level of family values. My second-favorite episode is "Junior the Senior." In it, Michael, Thelma, and JJ get their report cards. Actually, Michael got his the day before Thelma and JJ. He brought home straight A's. Thelma gets all A's and a B+. JJ gets an A in art and C's in everything else. Everything is good until JJ starts talking. Then Florida and James start to suspect that he's not really earning the grades he's getting. James says, "I'm readin' C's, but I'm hearin' F's." They then march him down to the school to get the principal to keep JJ in 11th grade! We can talk about school choice and vouchers and whatnot all we want, but if parents showed this much interest in their children's education, the school system would be nowhere near what it is today. Having taught before, I can say that I personally have never had a parent come in to see me about giving their child too good a grade. I have never even heard of such a thing. Come to think of it, I have heard of it. My mom did that to me; she didn't make me repeat a grade, but she did pull me out of the Individual Education program I was in. But that's another story for another time. When parents are actively involved in their children's education, the kids can't help but be inspired. I, as a viewer, may wonder where James and Florida were all the while JJ was not-studying, but I have to like what they were trying to do when they found out. As an interesting aside, Jeremy Pierce at Parablemania has posted the third in his series about John McWhorter's book, Losing The Race: Self Sabotage in the Black Community. This time, Jeremy is looking at anti-intellectualism. Maybe this is a bit of television magic, but Michael, the "Militant Midget" is, in one sense, absolutely not anti-intellectual. For as sensitive as he is to racism ("Daddy, 'boy' is a white, racist word!") he does not see learning as 'white.' In fact, he sees it as the pro-Black thing to do. One might question whether McWhorter would see Michael's singular focus on Black issues as problematic, perhaps anti-intellectual in his unwillingness to deal with issues that are not related to Blackness, but I think there is a level at which having a means of praxis gives some value to intellectual pursuits. I'll probably write about all that at some other time though. Good Times. The first season, at least. Maybe sometime soon I'll actually stop gummin' about it and buy the 2nd season.
My pop once told me that every young man needs an old man. He either said "has" or "needs" and I like "needs" better. I feel fortunate that I have had a lot of "old men" in my life, even when I was still a boy and my old men were young. In some ways, I think that my life typifies what people on the left mean when they recite that old African proverb. My first communication with my dad came when I was 17 years old; I didn't meet him face-to-face until my 20th birthday. Nevertheless, I had plenty of male role models, from guys who were slightly older than me, to uncles, to grandfather figures. In that respect, then, I don't think that biology is as important as somebody being there. Obviously, it would be ideal if all children knew their fathers and all fathers were involved in their children's' lives, whether the parents were together or not. That goes without saying. Even though I had plenty of positive male influences around me as I grew up, I can see where knowing MY old man would have been helpful; more quiet confidence and less bluster and bravado. Still, coming from a single-parent home is no death sentence. There has to be a positive support network, though. What made me think of all this is that last night I was at a beef-n-beer and I ran into my Funk "old man," officer Doug Paige, whom I met when I was a freshman at Temple. He took me to my first P-Funk concert, back in August '96. That man has an encyclopedic knowledge of recorded music, funk in particular. I remember the first time I went over his house. I was trying to find the source for a sample on a Leaders of the New school song, "Sound of the Zeekers." (The source song was "Express" by the B.T. Express.) Man, when I went to his crib, I was staggered by the amount of music he had. In the corner of the living room was a wardrober, full of CDs. Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them that I have around 500 CDs. His collection is literally staggering. Especially considering that his whole collection was not in the wardrober. I don't know any hard numbers, but Iwould be surprised if it wasn't closer to 1500 than 1000. I still have that B.T. Express CD, too. Following his model, I have tried to be people's funk "old man." Actually, I'm some kids' funk "godfather" because I supply their teacher, who is introducing them to the funk by playing them the source song for the hip-hop samples they love. I make genealogy CDs where I do just that. From what he's told me, he got the biggest reaction from "Five to One" by The Doors, which is the sample for Jay-Z's "Takeover." I can't lie, that's one of my favorite sample uses, too. This reminds me of a debate I used to get into with one of my professors (another one of my "old men") over the legitimacy of hip-hop as an art form because of sampling. At the time we really used to get into it, Puffy was really hot, so the popular song all had very obvious, untouched samples. I agree that stuff like that takes no talent. However, as a contrast to that, if you listen to "Nation of Millions," the use of samples there is incredible. For instance, on "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," the Isaac Hayes sample from "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquidalynistic" is perfect. It's almost like a score for the movie Chuck D is talking in the song. Come to think of it, maybe I'll just break down and do a list of…there's no way I'm gonna sucker myself into trying to make a literal top 10. I'll just mention some samples that impress me, in the order that they came to mind. • "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" – Public Enemy : Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquidalynistic" – Isaac Hayes • "Rebel Without a Pause" – Public Enemy : "The Grunt"- The JBs • "Thought @ Work" – The Roots: "Apache" – Incredible Bongo Band • "I Am I Be" –De La Soul : "You Have Made Me Very Happy" – Lou Rawls • "Fakin' the Funk" – Main Source : "Magic Shoes" the Main Ingredient • "Fat Pockets (radio remix)" Showbiz & AG : "Scorpio" Dennis Coffey (I'm on the bus on the way to the crib. There's this phenotypically white cat on here talkin' about he's Black and singing James Brown's "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud." Wow. Some stuff you just can't prepare for, no matter what.) As an addendum to yesterday, I was going to mention how it seems that there aren't as many Black girls who have that 'black girl' butt, while White girls seem to be gaining. My friends and I have been marveling over this for years. Still, when you get right down to the bottom of it, the ones with the most pronounced waist-to-hip ratio are still sistas. Some'a them chicks I saw yesterday…man! My boy, Art, all he likes is chicks with those ghetto blasters and I did some broadcastin' to him! There was this one young girl, that joint was outrageous. Art would'a jumped up and kicked his heels together.
Wow. Days like today make me really grateful that I was able to cop a lap. This is an absolutely gorgeous day. It's about 65, maybe 70, the sun is shining, and I'm in Philly. The only thing keeping this from being an absolutely perfect day is that my lady's not here. If she was, this would be an obscenely great day. As it is, it's a censored great day. Some random observations: There's nothing better than making a purchase, thinking you got a good deal and then finding out that you did for sure over the course of the day. I copped some art markers for about a dollar cheaper than I've seen them in either MD or VA, and then I went to another store and found that the price I paid was 25 cents cheaper than anywhere else in town. That's hot! On days like today, there's one song lyric that keeps dancing in my head. It's the opening line from "I Like the Girls," by Fatback:
Winter time is gone/ and the summer's almost here/yeah, yeah, yeah yeah/ time to get rid of all the overcoats/and let the girls go free/yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahThat's what I'm talkin' about…yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! I'm in Rittenhouse square right now, but in a minute, I'm gonna head up to UPenn campus for old time's sake. Sometimes I try to see if I can get on any of my friends' telepathic frequencies, so if I see a girl who's one of my friends' brands, I try to send them an image. So far I don't think it's worked, but I keep trying. I think it's because I keep thinking about sending them the image instead of actually sending it to them. Like I said, we'll keep trying until we figure it out. At any rate, I hafta be wrong and mention the fact that some women need to know how to dress appropriately for their figures. I mean, I should probably be gender-neutral and say people, but there's two problems with that: first, I'm not interested in dudes so I don't really care what they've got on, unless it's a hot t-shirt or an outfit I think would work for me. Furthermore, I don't really analyze their figures carefully enough to know if what they're wearing doesn't work well. Second, most men's outfits aren't really designed to show of the man's figure. There are some, but normally, guys tend to err on the side of caution. Normally. Women, however, dress around their figures. Either they try to show it off, they try to hide it, or they hide some and show some, depending on what they think is appropriate vis a vis their religion, body type, self-perception, etc. So here's some thoughts, most of which are things I think every year about this time. This year, I have a laptop and a blog, so they're getting outside of my head and my notebooks. • Everybody can't wear those low-cut jeans. If your waist-to-hip ratio is too close to 1:1, the look won't work. (As an aside, even though Black women tend to have higher BMIs than women of other demographics, many of the ones I've talked to understand this simple fact: it's not necessarily about the size, it's about the ratio. From the Black women I know, I've heard more complaining about having a flat butt than a fat one.) • Every style is not meant for every size. Thankfully, I have not had to deal with this today, but if it stays warm like this for a few days I will. Even with good ratios, some people just don't need to wear certain outfits. Overflow is definitely problematic. I tease my old lady when she points it out on other women, but for real-for real, I'm right there with her. • What's with these chicks with no butt wearing sweatpants with writing across the back? I saw a girl today, her pants said 'NET.' They were supposed to say 'NORTHEAST.' Another thing I like to do is watch dudes watch women. Now, I ain't gon' lie, I look, but I'm just observin'. None of these birds out there can fade my old lady. (And this ain't brown-nosin' because she doesn't even read my blog regularly.) I can see, though, so whenever I see a good-lookin' woman, I immediately look to see if there are any guys around. Earlier today, for instance, I was behind this bad Asian chick; reminded me of a word I used to use, "superhetrodyne." When I saw her, I slowed down a little bit because I knew guys were gonna act a fool. They didn't disappoint. One dude was with his lady. He couldn't turn his head so he just kept trying to walk slow and move his eyes as far to the corner as he could. A little further down the block, there were two cats posting up against a building. The first brother checked her out a little as she was approaching, but just about broke his neck as she passed. The second brother leaned forward and started breathing so hard I thought he was gonna suck a piece of paper up off the ground. At that point, I got tired of walking so slow, so I walked ahead of her. Two business men came around the corner. "Wow!" one said to the other. If you don't watch dudes watch women, I highly recommend it. It's the cheapest comedy you will ever see. The only thing is, you can't really laugh out loud like you will probably want to. I'll probably make some more observations once I get up West, but 'm bout to fold up and roll. (2:11p) 3:45P I'm sittin' outside the Penn bookstore, listening to this CD I made of some serious MCing. Right now, I'm on Rakim. These kids think these cats today can rhyme, but they don't know the half of the half. Rakim was absolutely amazing. I'm listening to some of these songs 16 year after I first heard them and I'm still floored by the lyrics. Anyway, I went to this used book/record/comic store, wishin' that piece was there when I lived here, and I copped this Walter Hawkins record from 1972. That brother had a perm on the album cover. And when I say a perm, I mean that brother should'a been on the cover of some hair magazine. I know on the Love Alive albums he had a kind of blowout perm, but this piece he has on the cover of Do Your Best, it's just a perm. Snoop Dogg wishes he could get his hair to look like this. Checking out these women has made me think about the difference between looking and lusting. The fact that I bought some art markers so I can work on this portrait of my old lady only adds another level of texture to my thoughts. Having done a fair share of figure drawing, I've seen my share of breasts and booties. Add that to my erstwhile choice of entertainment on weekends and the subject of a report in my dance class while I was in undergrad, and I've seen a whoooole lotta butts and breasts. And from seeing them in those two contexts, I can state with authority that all nakedness is not the same. But the difference is not observable to anybody other than myself and God. When I pick up a pencil (or marker nowadays) and start drawing, I really don't have time to get off on the model. It's like the books always say, draw the planes. When I'm drawing the planes, I can't sit there and think, "Oooh! That's a titty!" I'm too busy worrying about rectilinear and curvilinear, shapes, and proportions. It just doesn't work. So lust while drawing is just…well it's not impossible, but it takes too much work. All the energy I'd spend lusting just takes away from the amount of attention I can pay to the picture I'm supposed to be working on. To that end, I've seen where some Christian artists have suggested that Christian artist not draw nudes for the sake of lust. In this case, I think the artist in question was thinking more of the viewers than the artist himself. My dispute with that is that nakedness does not equal lust. That is to say, nakedness is not a requirement for lust whatsoever. I've known cats who try to check out garbed-up Muslim women, talkin' about, "I bet she got a donkey under there." Clearly, for those dudes, it's not a matter of fabric. That means it's not a question of what's on the woman's body (whether on the street or in a picture), it's about what's on the man's mind. (I like women in suits, myself.) If a dude wants to lust, no amount of clothing is gonna stop him. Conversely, if I was to do a nude of a Rubenesque model, for most of the guys I know, there would be no expression of lust; maybe some disgust or ridicule, but that's about it. So nakedness does not equal lust. Now, when it comes to lookin' at females, I think there's a set line there, but it's subjective too. So for myself, I have a 3 second rule when I'm not drawing. Up to three seconds, it's still appreciation; recognizing the beauty of God's design and being thankful for sight. After three seconds, though, it ain't nothin' nice. That also includes looking back to get a better view. Now that's just something I came up with for myself. When I have conversations about this with other guys, I bring this up, but I don't see it as a normative idea. Some dudes need to just walk around with blinders on. Some others could look for five minutes. It just depends. I think that's the whole point of Matt 5:28. Every person has to be aware of and control what's going on in his own heart. There is no watching what other people do and figuring out whether or not they're lusting (Although some looks you can't help but recognize.) That said, fashion issues aside, some women should just know better. To quote Jeru the Damaja, "sisters with good minds get no respect when/their ass is all out..." I mean, to be honest, I don't mind looking but some women just take it too far. I don't need to see butt cleavage.
I got these out of this book, "The Little Book of Stupid Questions" by David Borgenicht "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects"- Will Rogers • If you were lost on a desert island and could only take with you one book,and CD, what would you choose?
Book: The Bible CD: I can think of a couple that I've burned up recently that would probably do the trick. If it had to be a prerecorded cd, I would say "Songs In The Key of Life" by Stevie Wonder. Although if I could take my laptop, I could kill two birds with one stone.• Are you more likely to be the "good cop" or the "bad cop?"
I'm the good cop. I'm all easy going, laughs, and good times. Until...• If you could change your name, what would you pick?
Eric Avery. That's what my mom was going to name me in the first place.• If you had a theme song, what song would you pick? What if the song were played every time you entered a room or walked down the street? Would this change your choice?
I actually make my CDs with this idea in mind. When I graduated, I wished that they could've played "Freddie's Dead" by Curtis Mayfield as I collected my diploma. (I did have it playing in my head, though.) Nowadays, I'm thinking my theme song would either be "Ain't No Sunshine" by Roy Ayers or "Soul Power" by James Brown.• If the person you hate most in the world needed a kidney transplant and you were the only person with a healthy kidney who is a perfect match for that person, would you give up your organ?
Yes. I would hafta pray myself up really hard, and I would hafta pray that I didn't hope his body would reject it, but I would give it up.• Shouldn't you be able to rent one of those carts people ride at the airport, sort of like airport taxis?
Yes! Well, maybe not all like that. I personally travel very light, but when I'm with my mom or my grandmother, I wish I could flag one of those carts down.• Which muppet are you most like: Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Grover, Kermit, or Big Bird?
Ernie...or Grover. But is Big Bird male or female? That's what I need to know.• Why didn't Miss Piggy karate chop Jessica Simpson on that Pizza Hut commercial? That would'a been hot!
The intersection between politics and religion is a dangerous one. It's fraught with more peril than the one between health, weight, and body image. To put it in a local context, it's worse than the intersection of Red Lion Road and Roosevelt Boulevard (I'm back home for spring break). Countless people and have been killed physically and driven to commit spiritual suicide because of improper division the word of truth and a self-serving application to the physical and political worlds. (Think the Nation of Islam) I don't propose that I have the answers, but I suspect that in attempting to make my behavior more closely align with The Answer (and I ain't talkin' about no AI), then as the song says, I'll understand it better by and by. I have said on countless occasions that I cannot stand political labels. Nevertheless, sometimes, it's important to use them. When I do, I prefer to use the labels that the people themselves use. Like I say when I'm not being mean, it doesn't cost anything extra to be nice. In this discussion, when I am speaking of political opinion, I will use the terms, conservative and progressive. When I am speaking of theological frameworks, I will use the terms fundamentalist, liberal, and liberation. This way, there will be misunderstood usage, so there's no cross-pollination. Hopefully I'll remember while I'm writing. To start, I think most of the trouble stems from the fact that people tend to base their interpretation of the Bible on their political ideology. Being the postmodernist that I am, I know that people bring their previous knowledge and experience into any interrogation of new information. You can't un-know what you already knew before you learn something new. That's just facts, and there's nothing wrong with it. However, for a Christian, since the Bible is inerrant, hypothetically there should be a different standard at play. That is, since the Bible can't be wrong and we can, then if there's any adjustment to be made, it must be on our part. Let God be true and every man a liar. However, I believe that it just doesn't play out like that in the real world. People may mean to let the Bible determine their outlook, or they may do so to a certain extent, but at the end of the day, most times they wind up using the Bible to justify whatever they thought in the first place. For a good example, we'll look at the story of the woman taken in adultery. (John 8:3-11). If you're unfamiliar or don't have a Bible handy, here's the story:
Joh 8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, Joh 8:4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Joh 8:5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? Joh 8:6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not]. Joh 8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. Joh 8:8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. Joh 8:9 And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. Joh 8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? Joh 8:11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.Now the traditionional fundamentalist reading of this passage stresses Jesus as the forgiver of sin. He alone had the power to forgive her sin and he alone could exercise that power. There is also some discussion of the Pharisees' attempt to entrap Jesus by attempting to juxtapose his judgment to that which would be prescribed by the law and Jesus' move beyond the Mosaic law into a higher form. The liberation theology reading of this passage places emphasis on the fact that Jesus sided with the oppressed against the powerful. Period. Using that interpretation, there is nothing more to add to this story; nothing more to exegete or attempt to explain.. Jesus sides with the powerless against the powerful. Now personally, I don't think that the core group of either school of interpretation gives full credence to the other view. (Liberation theologists are probably more familiar with the fundamentalist view, since liberation theology is almost exclusively an academic phenomenon. Hence, a liberation theologist would necessarily have to be familiar with fundamentalist theology in order to critique it.) There may be some movement on the fringes, but I doubt that it's very prominent. What I know for sure is that in all the lessons I have ever heard taught, or in all of the fundamentalist literature I have read on this passage, there is no mention of Jesus as the liberator of the oppressed. In some cases, I think there might be outright hostility to that reading from the most conservative fundmentalists. The question is, is the liberation reading accurate? I don't know that there is any way that the liberation reading is not accurate. There may be some question as to the application of that concept, but to understand Jesus as the liberator of the oppressed is biblically consistent. See Luke 4:18 with any questions about that. Furthermore, I believe that the job description of the church, as the physical representatives of Jesus today, the body of Christ, is still "… to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…" Now, none of this is to suggest that the fundamentalists don't do the above. In fact, I'm sure that many do. Nevertheless, it generally seems to me that healing the brokenhearted comes as an afterthought. Conservative Christian groups will get on the IB screaming long and loud about what they don't like and who's doing wrong, but when it comes to showing compassion, it gets a little quiet. Again, I'm not questioning whether it happens, but I am saying that there's a great deal of emphasis, too much in my opinion, placed on certain aspects of being a Christian with much less emphasis on others. Specifically, the zealous fervor with which some sins (mainly the ones that pertain to sex) are sought out and prosecuted. Looking back at the example in John, the woman was caught in adultery. She wasn't reputed to have been an adulteress, she was the real deal. They caught her red… uh…well, they caught her. Everybody knew what she had done. Now, Jesus did tell her to go forth and sin no more. The implication there is that the woman repented of the adultery. I point that out because in no way does what I'm about to say suggest that Jesus condoned or tolerated or blinked his eye at anybody's sin. Nevertheless, Jesus did not "come at her neck" for committing adultery. On the contrary, before he said anything to her about her sins, he defended her against the Pharisees. We should make some chewing gum out of that and work it around for a while. Before Jesus addressed the sin of the woman, he challenged the hypocrisy of her accusers. The question for us as Christians, then, is what's our role in this play? Do we act like the scribes and Pharisees, who dragged the woman before Jesus to condemn her? Do we look out on the world, stones in hand, looking to "get" people? Or are we Jesus? Do we forgo the opportunity to judge somebody who is clearly in the wrong, and then offer them the chance to meet Jesus so He can straighten out their lives? Honestly, I'm not exactly sure what I think this means politically. One reason is that the American political system is basically adversarial. Political entities define themselves by what they disagree with as much as (and in some cases, more) they define what they believe. It's all about cash and votes. Making a move like Jesus did in this instance would yield neither. Now in terms of fundamentalist theology, I think that our emphasis on the individual can have somewhat deleterious effects. In Dorothee Solle's Thinking About God, she writes, "From this perspective, the kingdom of God is completely suppressed in favor of the redemption of the individual…it takes no account of the impoverished masses of this earth; the starving appear at most as objects of charity. Otherwise problems of sexual ethics or the ethics of dying are far more important in this theology than social, political, or ecological questions." I will raise my issues with Thinking About God later, but suffice it to say that this is one of the ideas I agree with. It is our theological approach that determines our political approach, not what the Bible itself says. Again, the postmodernist in me says that this is inevitable. The problem is, because the Bible is infallible, most people think their interpretation is infallible too. Therefore, they justify whatever they agree with by quoting some scriptures while explaining away or simply ignoring the rest. Everybody does it, it just changes form according to the political and/or theological ideology of the person in question. For instance, to my fundamentalist women friends, I ask the question: when's the last time you covered your head before you prayed? If you read, you had to have read that part.(1Co. 11:5) Why don't you do it? Because by whatever exegesis the minister you listen to uses, those passages were explained away. Well, those people who believe that there is biblical support for abortion or homosexuality, to name two issues, employ the same strategies, for the same basic reasons; either they think the interpretation is incorrect or they think that those scriptures are intended for a specific audience at a specific time (and that time is not today.) And again, ask yourself: are men and women segregated in your church? Why not? This is not to say that I think that there actually is biblical justification for either abortion or homosexual relations. It is to say that I think that fundamentalist theology can lend itself to some very non-scriptural tendencies and that it would serve us well to interrogate some other modes of understanding the scriptures. The Bible does a lot more than rail against fornication. I'm sure that some of the same ministers who were telling Dr. King to wait (the ones to whom the letter from the Birmingham Jail was written) were preaching against fornication. Fornication is a sin but tolerating (at best) oppression is okay? That's not authentic Christianity. For next time (because I seriously did not plan to go on this long): how the devil you gon' tell me the Bible supports abortion?
For as much as I complain about the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton 'nem, I can honestly say that if I was in a situation like those people in Texas who had been incarcerated by the lies of a rogue police officer, I would call Jesse or Al before any Black conservative I can think of (except my mother. I would call her first.). The problem is, I don't think I'm the only one. Why is that? Given that most Black conservatives seem to stress the idea that we could achieve Dr. King's dream if only Black people would stop crying racism at every turn, why isn't anybody out there when there's an unmistakable example of real, live racism? Why the attempt to act like everything's okay? I look at Townhall.com just about every day. Not a peep out of the Black writers there. (Not a peep out of any of the writers, actually, but the cynical part of me is not exactly surprised.) Granted, the people were released from prison last summer, so there might have been a massive hue and cry. I wouldn't put money on it. Although I think there probably is a good article for a traditional conservative in there on the high cost of police misconduct. Like I wrote last week, that's a weakness of Black conservatives, stressing the individual over the collective to such a high degree. In doing so, the "there, but for the grace of God go I" perspective gets lost. That's problematic. Like I said, I know that if I lived in that town, it could have been me just as easily as it was those people. Those people were guilty of nothing. They just lived there and looked to the police officer (it only took one!) like the jury would believe they were guilty if he said so. (And the sad part is, he was right.) Same thing goes for the death penalty. I don't have a problem with capital punishment in theory. In practice, though…the way things go in this country, the way some police lie, the way some judges hand out sentences unevenly, the way far too many innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death (and who knows how many people have been killed over lies?)…I just can't sign on like it's all good.
I'm at the Borders in Philly and they have a display copy of the picture book, GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali.(The acronym stands for Greatest of All Time) That thing is absolutely fantastic. It's incredible. I either own or have read most of the books about Ali that are out there, so when I say there are a lot of photographs that I haven't seen, I'm serious. There's this crazy picture of him before his first fight against liston, where he's standing over the prone body of somebody in a bear costume. (Remember he called Liston the "Big Ugly Bear.") That book is amazing. So is its price. It goes for a cool three grand. To buy one at this store, you hafta drop 1500 as a holder's fee. For a while I thought that there was no way I would ever drop that much for a book about any person. On the other hand…if I had 3K to just toss around, just nothing better to do, I would buy it. Plus, the book is huge. One page is bigger than my laptop. Some of the shots are just amazing. If that joint was, like, 500, I would have a serious conflict.
Skatin' around the web as I do (especially now that spring break is here. Whee!) I ran across this article critiquing the CDC's analysis of obesity. Now, I've said myself that BMI alone is not an accurate measure of obesity. My problem with this article is that it trots out a list of muscled-up celebrities and actors, as if to say that the obesity numbers are massively skewed because they count built people as obese. So while the article does well to question that 61 percent obesity measure that's frequently cited, it suggests to the reader that that number is way off. Sixty-one percent is too high, but I suspect that if we control for all the people whose BMI is high because of muscle as opposed to fat, we're still over 50 percent; probably closer to 55. This is just another example in the long list of reasons why I hate politics. This article is published on a conservative website. If you read the article, note expressions like, "government-approved overweight and obese categories." I mean, hey-- it's cool to have different opinions and it's important and necessary to critique bad math and overblown media covering of issues. The fact that the death of any obese person is somehow attributed to their obesity is ridiculous. And yes, the coverage of obesity in the press and on the IB is out of control. But you know what? Issues like this are not even about liberal or conservative or Democratic or Republican. We all need to take more interest in healthy living, from increasing the amount of vegetables and fiber in our diets to getting more exercise; I'm the main one needing to watch his diet. Painting issues like this with a partisan brush helps no one. Having said that, let me say I'm all for the Cheeseburger Bill. How you gon' sue McDonalds because you got fat eatin' there? Ain't nothin' in McDonalds food addictive except the taste. In fact, there are nutrients in McDonalds food; you can't starve eatin' a Big Mac. May not be at the peak of health, but you won't starve. At some point, jokers just gon' hafta realize that you can't sue your way out of trouble. People hafta be responsible for their own lives. If I go into DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), I can't jump up and try to sue Hostess. My fool hand shouldn'a put them honey buns and cherry pies into my fool mouth. Period. I'ma prob'ly be wrong for sayin' this, but if people did get money off'a McDonalds, half of 'em would prob'ly give 2/3 of the money back within six months.
R. Kelly is a mystery to me. And I'm not even talking about his penchant for young girls. That's not even germane to the discussion...or maybe it is. We'll see. what I'm talking about is the fact that he is actually a pretty good songwriter. "You Are Not Alone" was a great song. It was the best thing on whatever album Michael Jackson sang it. I can't think of something more recent, but it seems to me that R. Kelly writes good songs and then gives them to other people. When he writes raunchy crap like "Ignition" and "Feeling On Your Booty," he keeps it for himself. That's weird. But to put all this R. Kelly business in some sort of perspective, would Marvin Gaye have the following that he has if people knew the details of his life? If you're interested, Divided Soul ,by David Ritz, is a good primer. But suffice it to say that Marvin Gaye had a whooole lot goin' on that would get him a whooole lotta negative press in 2004. I don't think that necessarily takes anything away from his work, though. "What's Goin' On" was a work of genius, no matter what he did when he wasn't in the studio. R. Kelly, on the other hand, while he may think he's like Marvin Gaye, is nowhere near close. A lot of artists compare themselves to Marvin because he made songs with fairly explicit sexual content. That point, I cannot argue. However, they can't sing like Marvin, and that's where the difference lies. Marvin Gaye could sing. Especially earlier, before the effects of hard living had taken their toll. Generally speaking, I'm more for pointing out who can't sing than who can, but I will say that Marvin Gaye probably had the best male voice of the 20th century. He had a nice natural tenor and he could do a fantastic falsetto; he definitely had the tools. These cats nowadays know how to do the "tricks" of singing, but they don't have the solid foundation. Remember, Marving Gaye started out with the intention of being "the Black Frank Sinatra." These singers start out trying to be a freakier Marvin Gaye. One area where I don't rate Marvin so high is in his songwriting. He wrote some great songs, but some others he didn't write. On the album "I Want You," for instance, Leon Ware wrote and produced most of the songs. That doesn't take anything away from Marvin, but it doesn't keep him in the company of Stevie Wonder when it comes to writing. I remember looking at the IB a few years ago and VH1 was doing a show about Lionel Richie. I don't remember who was speaking, it might have been Kenny Rogers, but he said, "Lionel Richie writes songs that women want to hear and men wish they could say." I agreed to an extent, but I didn't think Lionel Richie was the best example of that. To be sure, Lionel has some great songs under his belt, and he definitely says things that women want to hear in a way that most men wouldn't think is over the top. Unlike, say, Babyface, who writes things that women want to hear that no man in his natural mind would even conceive of uttering. However, Stevie tops both of them. Or perhaps Stevie writes songs that men would like to say that women want to hear. To me, this is the genius of Stevie's songwriting; his songs seem like they could come out of your mouth; like if you sat down to write something for your partner, you would have made up something like that after a few edits. In the back of your mind, you may know that you couldn't have done it, but it's accessible enough to make you think you could have. The best examples, or at least the ones that come to mind right now are on "Songs In the Key of Life" (which is, by the way, the standard by which double albums should be measured. But I'll write about Songs In The Key of Life soon.) From Knocks Me Off My Feet:
I see us in the park/ strolling the summer days of imaginings in my head. and words from our heart/told only to the wind, felt even without being saidI knew that was hot when I was in 3rd grade. (Yes I did copy that piece and give it to the little girl I liked at the time. Not that it did me any good, but that's another story.) What's more, I could relate to it. what, I liked to go to the park and walk around. And even then I knew you couldn't necessarily say everything you thought. As I think about it, that seems to be a recurring theme in Stevie's love songs, expressing the inability to fully express feelings; that's why I think most men can relate to his songs. That, and the fact that they're simple. From As,
As around the sun the earth still keeps revolving and the rosebuds know to bloom in early May Just as hate knows love's a cure, you can rest your mind assured that I'll be loving you always Now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow, but in passing we'll grow older every day Just as all that's born is new, you know what I say is true, that I'll be loving you always.That's feasible. It's not all talking in flowery language, it's talking about things a guy would know about. Even though a regular dude might not think to use these observations to express affection, it seems like he could. He can think, "That's what I would say." For instance, the first track on "Music of My Mind" is "I Love Having You Around." Simple. There are no gushy effusions of romantic sentiment, just straight, honest lyrics. And then he closes it out with what I think is the epitome of honest love-talk from a man, "I need you each and every day, so keep your black butt here." That's truth right there. A man would definitely say that to his woman. I know I have. And sometimes, she's even glad to hear it.
This is just about the only day of the year that I really miss having a television. My March Madness habit started in my senior year of high school, back in '92. I remember watching the USC game when Harold Minor, "Baby Jordan" hit some kind of ridiculous 3 pointer at the buzzer to win the game for USC. (Remember when everybody thought Minor was going to be this major player in the league? Minor and Weatherspoon? Baby Jordan and Baby Barkley respectively? Wow.) Right then, I was hooked. Even when I used to teach, I was aware of the NCAA tournament and I always made a good bracket even though I couldn't watch the games. (What always messed me up was picking the wrong way with Temple. Either I thought they would go farther than they did, or I didn't think they would go as far.) This year, I'm almost totally disconnected from it. I only have the vaguest notion of which dark horses I need to keep an eye on. Having said all that, you better know I came on campus to watch the Terps win. (even though I know I need to be studying for this mid-term.)
How do they pick celebrity analysts? Was Mike Jarvis ever that good? I mean, he made a little noise in the A-10 when he was at George Washington, but I don't remember them ever doing anything substantial in the tournament. To me, Mike Jarvis is as famous for looking like Uncle Phil as he is for winning lots of basketball games. Is it legitimate to talk about the shortage of Black coaches in the NBA when it's teams with majorities of Black players who give up on them? (Stephen A. Smith wrote about that a couple months ago.) Is there anything worse than looking at an otherwise pretty woman who is missing teeth? Is the NAACP ever going to do anything substantial again, or has their time passed? Why are cuss words bad? Why is 'feces' or 'defecate', better than 'shit?' At what point will Billy King decide that he's had enough of Allen Iverson and trade him? Will AI still be a Sixer in four months? Can Andy Reid keep Terrell Owens in control? Why do sportswriters keep using the phrase "off-field behavior" with T.O.? The only legitimate beefs people have ever had with him have been on-field behavior. Nobody's ever even insinuated that he's gotten into any trouble in his peronal life. No beating women, no drugs, no allegations of murder... T.O. may be a little exuberant, but he ain't no criminal. Why do newspaper columnists seem to write about things in waves, like they read each other and decide to write about what everybody else is writing about at the same time? Should John Thompson go back to Georgetown? If he did, would it make a difference? Can the Eagles finally get to the Super Bowl this year? Why didn't they go after Marcellus Wiley? Are they gonna get another running back? Will hip-hop ever be about anything substantial again?
(In writing this, I chose to use "we" when referring to conservatives because I agree with the goals and ideals presented in this specific instance. As I said in an earlier post, I'm more conservative than progressive, but I dislike political labels almost as much as I dislike t-shirt labels. They're both a pain in the neck.) In looking at the status of the Black community, it seems clear that the Black conservatives have a valid point in suggesting that the mainstream Black "leadership" and the traditional civil rights structure has failed us. When I look at the status of the majority of our people, with the outrageous rates of Black-on-Black murder (not to mention other types of crime), teen pregnancy, and joblessness, it seems obvious that there must be a more effective strategy in curing the problems that ail our community, and in a wider sense, our country. The government cannot solve our main problems. The government is not going to step in to protect our young men from each other. The government is not going to stop our daughters from getting pregnant before they are mentally or financially ready to do so. The government is not going to make us economically viable. If we are going to make changes in this sorry state of affairs, the onus is literally on us. While I tend to agree with my conservative brothers and sisters on the manner in which our problems should be addressed, I disagree with the manner in which they present their message. Too often, it seems that the larger Black community is discussed as a "they" instead of as a "we." While this may help us to distinguish ourselves from the civil rights "industry," it also serves to distance us from the people we seek to help. Because a major part of our message is harshly critical of individuals and institutions that have traditionally expressed interest and concern for the welfare of the average Black person, the conservatives must be sure to demonstrate a connectedness to the larger community. In order to reach the people, we must go beyond our comfortable realm of operating at the level of the individual. While I agree that the only way to change our collective lot as a people is for us to improve our individual lots, I think that if we truly seek to shift the paradigm away from "victimhood" to self-determination, we must engage our communities. One important way of engaging the community would be to reform the manner in which our message is presented. While the traditional civil rights discourse has become hegemonic and any dissent is viewed as traitorous, I would suggest that there are ways to broaden the scope of the dialogue and critique the ineffective methods without alienating the people who subscribe to those ideas. The main way would be to present our message as Jesus did. To paraphrase, we should say, "We are not come to destroy civil rights but to fulfill civil rights." If we truly believe that ours are the best ideas for building our community, then we should emphasize that fact. Ignoring the pathologies that run rampant in our community is helpful to no one. Neither is constant critical harping. Jesus was effective because he was not afraid to confront the power structure but also because the main thrust of his activities was not to discredit that power structure. Jesus' principal dealings were with the people. He went about doing good. He sat with and ate with the common people. Even as He knew that He was not an ordinary person, he associated with the ordinary people and made them feel included in his movement, for lack of a better term. In our case, the struggle is somewhat more complicated than that. In Jesus' day, he could go out among the people and the good that he did was spread by word of mouth. These days, we have the media to contend with. Because we are already going against the recognized and accepted power structure, simply doing positive things on an individual basis is not sufficient. Indeed, our own emphasis on the individual over the community hampers the effectiveness of our message. While I do not suggest that we abandon the basic tenets of our ideology, I think that just as we seek to expand the political discourse in Black America, we must expand our own means of presenting our ideas. I am cognizant of the fact that our message is likely to be received by the civil rights establishment as well as Jesus' message was received by the religious establishment of his era, but this represents the point at which our focus must be its most defined. If we are more concerned about making things better for the people in the community, then the form of our message should reflect that. If our concern is merely touting our own intellectual perspicacity or showing that all Black people don't think the same way, then our message will suffice as it is. Since I don't believe that we are nearly as preoccupied with form as it sometimes appears, I believe that a change in the manner in which we critique the modern civil rights movement would lend itself to a better hearing of our message. One of the principal failures in our communication of our ideas and values is that we do a very poor job of entering the dialogue in manners that are readily accessible to the common people. It is one thing to espouse conservative values in The Economist or on Townhall.com, where there is a decidedly smaller Black audience. With all due respect to Stanley Crouch and his work on jazz, where is the conservative Michael Eric Dyson, who will discuss our ideas within the framework of popular culture, especially hip-hop? Too many times I have seen conservative commentators critique the negative messages in hip-hop without acknowledging the positive messages as well. It would almost seem as if there were some animus towards hip-hop itself and its primary audience. Knowing that this is not the case, I posit that this is one of the main areas in which we should focus our energies. Not even necessarily to, say, put a conservative rapper out there, but to find commonality within the framework of hip-hop as it currently exists and to emphasize that. For instance, I have seen many instances where Chuck D of Public Enemy is quoted when he espouses ideas with which the authors disagree. However, there is no mention of the fact that Chuck D regularly addresses the self-destructive behavior of Black people in his music as well. By integrating hip hop and other popular culture into the vocabulary we use to espouse our ideas, we can build a bridge to the larger community, as including those elements in our dialogue necessarily means we see them as valuable contributions to our cultural fabric and as a valid means of bringing ideas to the marketplace. In his review of Scam by Jesse Peterson, Casey Lartigue discusses two elements that I think are critical to any attempt at "winning over" the average Black person. The first is that we should provide a better alternative. The second is love. According to Lartigue, Black "leaders" regularly engage in activities that prove their loyalty to the Black community, like showing up to protest when there is a problem, or even by doing things as simple as speaking in friendly terms to callers on radio talk shows. These acts engender the loyalty of the Black community. If conservatives want to chisel in on some of that action, we have to "put out." In order to get love, we have to give love. Honestly, telling people the ugly truth instead of a pretty lie is showing love. It's actually more loving than allowing people to wallow in their victimhood. But you know what? That's not going to cut it. We aren't going to get a substantial portion of Black people on our side until we convince them that we're on their side. That means that means my conservative friends who oppose affirmative action need to be the first ones trying to get an explanation when another Black man gets killed by the police. If it turns out that the police are not at fault, then it turns out that the police are not at fault. The result is not necessarily the most important thing. It's all about the effort. It's about being there when the people need an advocate. In short, I think that conservatives have the best message and the best political answer to the problems that beset the Black community. So far, our principal strategy in articulating that message has been to question the mainstream Black leaders and the ideas they present. I believe that if we are really looking to make a difference in the lives of Black people, our action needs to move beyond the level of the individual and our conversation needs to move beyond those individuals. Since we have a better alternative, we should present it as just that: a better alternative. There's nothing wrong with a healthy critique, but in order for the critique to be received as more than just criticism, we must demonstrate unconditional love. In order to get the Black community to move forward, we may have to bend over backwards. In the end, though, it would be worth it.
As I have mentioned previously, I have some mid-terms and some paper outlines and whatnot this week, so any writing will be kinda scarce. There's some racket I mean to talk about, though, so I will try to get around to it. With all this heavy-duty reading I have, then what I will probably wind up doing is just keeping it nice and light this week, then later this week and into next week, we'll get dead on the heavy funk, so to speak. But for now... The Terps seriously represented yesterday, didn't they? After the Eagles, I have quit emotionally investing in athetic teams with whom I have no actual input, but I was definitely relishing the fact that they beat Duke. However, I don't get the whole concept of rioting because a team won. Like on the radio news this morning, the announcer was like, "The Terps victory sparked a mattress-burning riot on Route 1..." That's a non-sequitur. Lemme get this right...the logic flow is, basketball team wins -->burn up a mattress. Can't buy it. Basketball team wins -->cheering, yelling, running around? Makes sense. Basketball team wins -->...some? Okay. Basketball team wins --> run up and down the street banging on pans w/a wooden spoon? I wouldn't do it, but whatever floats your boat. Basketball team wins -->riot? No. It doesn't make sense to riot after a game at all, but definitely not for the league championship. I mean that's nice but they could lose in the first round of the NCAAs. After the Final Four, it would still be stupid, but it would at least make sense in context. Riots should be saved for emergencies only. Having said that, if them fool Eagles mess around and win the Super Bowl next year and I change my mind about not wanting a television, whatever happens happens. Speaking of basketball, those fool Sixers are about to make me go back to being a Knicks fan. The Sick-sers are awful. AI...he's embarrasing me now. I can't even think of anything to say to defend him. He just refused to come off the bench? What? Is it me, or is Larry Brown's hair getting darker again? My bet is that the Sixers will trade AI to someplace like Utah and then he'll fool around and get the Jazz their first title. Maybe not Utah, but they're gonna trade him somewhere and for that first year, he's gonna love the place and they're gonna love him and it's title time. Personally, I'd like to see him up there with the K's. Then I would have no team loyalty issues. Get AI and Sheed. All the Philly problem kids together on the floor at one time. They would win the NBA championship, the heavyweight belt, the super-middle (That is, if AI really goes 165. Otherwise, let's call it middleweight, which is 160 lbs.), and the six-man tag team belt (don't think Starbury can't rumble.) All in the mecca of both basketball and boxing, Madison Square Garden! Memo to Billy King and Isaiah: make this happen!
Cruising around the net, I saw this article on BET.com about obesiy in the Black community. It seems that Black women as a racial/gender group have the highest percentage of obesity; 50 percent of Black women are classified as obese. They don't specify in the article, but I am fairly confident that obesity in this case is being determined by the body mass index (BMI). You can calculate your own body mass index by using this formula: (weight/height in inches squared)*703. (That is, weight divided by height in inches times height in inches times 703.) Or if that's too confusing, or you just don't feel like doing the math, you can find it here. At any rate, for anybody who's been keeping track, this is something I have been doing research on and writing about from time to time. One of the main difficulties I have with using the BMI as a measurement of obesity is that it simply calculates based on height and weight. Therefore, using his measurements from 1974, when Arnold Schwarzeneggar was Mr. Olympia, he would register as obese. So it should be noted that the BMI has some limitations. Having said that, I don't think there are a whole bunch of extremely muscular sistas walking around messing up the CDC's report. One thing, though, I think the thrust of the campaign should stress healthy living and not just obesity. I know what the CDC means, but I'm fairly sure that when most people hear "obese," they think "very fat." What people need to understand is that the changes they need to make are not about dieting or trying to look thinner, they need to make lifestyle changes. That is, they need to bring in some exercise and cut out some calories. Especially those empty snack food calories taken in while they're sitting around letting the idiot box watch them. Speaking of the idiot box, I just need to mention that I just watched the Terps beat North Carolina State after being down by 21 points. A friend of mine and I were talking last night and he was like, "I like 'em, but they're too young; they don't have no heart." I guess they got some heart now, huh?
I finally got the wireless card on my laptop working, so this is my first on-location post. I am geeked up. So now, all these 2 and 3-day weekend breaks should be a thing of the past, just as long as I think I have something to talk about. And as long as I have some spare time. Next week (starting this coming Friday) is spring break, so I figure that in that time I'll be a blogging fool. This week, however, I've got homework. I can't even get up on another Wha'chu gon' read now because I have so much reading for class. Gotta make outlines for these papers and whatnot.
In an attempt to understand perspectives other than my own, I'm looking at people who are making theological arguments for their pro-abortion and pro-homosexual positions. On one level, it's very hard to wrap my head around some of the leaps the authors make. Just about everything makes sense in a certain context, though, so to help me get at the underpinnings of their ideas, I am looking at a book that compares orthodox (not Orthodox as in Eastern, as in what we might otherwise call fundamentalist), liberal, and liberation theology. I haven't digested the information well enough to make anything out of it, but suffice it to say that a lot of it is very foreign to the principles and belief systems I was raised on. Still, I see a tiny, tiny sliver of truth running through the more liberal strands of theology. Tiny sliver. That said, when I read some of these articles, I am truly amazed at what passes for biblical influence. More on this soon.
A few years ago, I got into a discussion about James Brown with some of my relatives. One uncle was of the opinion that James doesn't deserve all the credit he gets. "His band made him," my uncle said. I didn't debate the issue with him, since we were on totally different levels of knowledge and appreciation where James is concerned. That is to say, while my uncle may have actually been around to see James Brown perform in his heyday, I doubt that he has done the amount of reading and research that I have. So he may know James, but he don't know James like I know James. In Funk, the Music, the Rhythm, and the People of the One, Rickey Vincent states, "…the central locus of all funk was James Brown." While I absolutely agree with that idea, I think it's important to clear up some misconceptions. First, James Brown did not have a band. Allowing for small changes in personnel in recording sessions, he had three different bands. That's what my uncle didn't understand. The group that recorded "Cold Sweat" is very different from the group that recorded "Sex Machine," which is again very different from the group that recorded "The Payback." So what I think I want to do is look at the different what I think are the best songs of each era and break down the different manifestations of the funk that came about. The eras as I describe them here are based on the following Polydor records reissues of James' work: Foundations of Funk: 1965-1969 Funk Power: 1970 Make It Funky: The Big Payback1971-1975 There are some other good anthologies out there, but this set is top-notch. Anybody who wants to get a good in-depth understanding of what James Brown's work was about should invest in these. I like these principally because on every disc there is some previously unreleased work, which provides the sharpest contrast to the the hits we already know. While I appreciate James Brown's early work, including some of his most recognizable hits, Please, Please, Please, I Got You (I Feel Good), and Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, those don't necessarily constitute funk for me. I can't help but like the personnel because there's a Tooley in there playing the trumpet. (I don't know if there's any relation. I doubt it, but it's nice to imagine sometimes.) In them are elements of funk, but it wasn't until 1967 that James kicked in the door of the funk era with "Cold Sweat." The first thing to notice about Cold Sweat is the One. Rickey Vincent writes extensively about this in Funk, so I will not attempt to retread his points. What I will say is that the listener must pay attention to the fact that the accent is on the first beat of the first measure. The listener should also notice that all the instruments come off the One as well. That's the engine that drives Cold Sweat. The importance of the change in emphasis from the 2-4 to the One cannot be overstated. Everything was different after that. The song that perhaps illustrates the changeover best is "Funky Drummer." At the beginning of FD, the drummer and band use a rhythm that was typical of early r&b/rock & roll (which are at times indistinguishable.) Both the snare and the punch of the horns is on the two and the four beats for the first 3:10 of the song. Then there is a middle part, during which the drummer doubles down on the one but no clear pattern is established. Then, at 4:06, we get the first appearance of the Funky Drummer beat, which has been sampled so many times. The pattern is, of course, most obvious in the drum solo. If we allow the onomatopoetic values of 'Boom' for the kick (bass) drum, 'Bap' for the snare, 'sssp' for the high hat, and 'Chicka' for a quick one –two comprised of a tap of the high hat with a light hit of the snare, then the beat would go like this: Boom boom BAP chicka chicka boom Bap sssp This description is, of course, simplified, since I cannot verbally represent sounds layered sounds. Now, back to Cold Sweat, which preceded Funky Drummer by three years. The early James was marked by a massive horn section. (Unfortunately, all my CDs with the liner notes are up in Philly so I can't break down the personnel like I want to) But suffice it to say that he could effectively split them up into brass and woodwinds. In reality, it's probably best to say that he had an orchestra without the strings. That's how many people he had on stage. With all those people, control is a must and control is what he had. Everybody was locked in. Cold Sweat is not different from his other songs in that respect, but the tightness of the band on that track is unmatched. Keeping Cold Sweat in mind, that era produced my favorite James Brown song, and the one that I think best typifies everything James and the boys had going on at that time, "Let A Man Come In and Do the Popcorn." This is the one. Nobody really knows this song; except for the Foundations of Funk compilation, it's not on any CD I've found. It wasn't a big hit. Nevertheless, this is not just a James Brown song, it's a meta-James Brown song; to understand this record is to understand the principles behind all James Brown records. First, let's deal with lyrics: the lyrics in this song don't really make sense. This song was not written to express a thought, it was written as a conduit for a groove. Hence gems like, "Waterboy/the boy with the bucket/if you didn't want the job/you shouldn't oughta tuck it" Musically, we have the evidence of the orchestral horn arrangement. On one hand we have one set of horns (woodwinds, I think) doing a slow descent, then the brass comes behind them and does a faster descent, then they all punch out circular round to close out the measure. This display is all about control. There are two tempos at work that get combined into one. The bass line stays consistent throughout, and there is no improvizational drum solo. James exhorts the drummer to "gimme a little bit mo'" at one point in the song, but there's nothing like Funky Drummer going on. There is, however, one trombone solo. The reason I think "Let A Man Come In..." is the best James Brown song is that it represents the tight focus of Cold Sweat, and it also displays James' gospel roots. If someone is familiar with the asthetics of Black preaching, it's all present here; all the way down to the shrieks of "Early! In the mornin'!" that would be heard in any Easter Sunday sermon. Also present are James' band-instructing grunts, yowlps, and hollers. It's wild because when you listen to the song, it seems as if the tempo changes, but it really doesn't. It's a mirage that appears because of the massive amount of energy that is infused into the song. Maybe next time, I will break it down a little further. Right now, my brain is frying from trying to put these observations into words. It's one thing to point out what's going on to somebody who is listening to a song. It's another thing altogether to try to explain aspects of a song while assuming that the reader has never heard the song, and probably never will. Having said that, I recommend that anybody who wants to hear some good James Brown records get the Foundations of Funk cd, if nothing else. Then you can hear Let A Man Come In. I will definitely break down the 2nd era next time.
This is why I can't seriously do politics: most of the time, it seems that people are so entrenched in their opinions that they refuse to acknowledge that there are other legitimate options and thought processes. In both of these pieces, I'm just like, come on! In reading over some of the headlines at Black Electorate, I was particularly struck by the article about the woman who seems to want some type of remuneration from Brown University because of some dealings they may have had in slavery. What's the point in that, really? Brown is an Ivy League university. I could be wrong, but I find it hard to believe that many of the Black students there are being held back or otherwise systematically discriminated against. If you're Black and communicate well, and have even a modicum of intellegence, a university is almost like a utopia. Sure, there may be an individual incident here and there, but I don't think that those situations represent the total experience. Those are just some bumps in an otherwise smooth road. Let's say that the panel finds that the founders of Brown University did have some dealings in slavery and that they did profit substantially. Nothing in the article indicates that this is so, but just for the sake of argument, let's say it happened like that. What happens now? Do they cut a check to all the Black students at Brown? If that's the case, let me transfer right now! But seriously, one of the difficulties I have with reparations is the question of who gets them. Would they go to all Black alumni of Brown? Would they go to all Black students who were enrolled at the time of the decision? Would it wind up being a scholarship? And then there's the problem of determining who is actually Black. What's the definition? Who sets it? The NAACP? Situations like this make me really believe in John McWhorter's "Victimology" framework. He says that one of the main things holding Black people back is their embracing of victimhood. This situation with Brown seems to be just that. Let's look at something that happened over 200 years ago and see how somebody took advantage of people who looked like us. I'm not one of those people who believes that everything is okay now, and that racism doesn't exist or anything like that. For that matter, neither does McWhorter. I do think, however, that plumbing history for examples of racism does nothing to make the lives of Black people better today. To be sure, such things should be noted, since they provide a context for what we know and believe about America, but at the end of the day, that stuff happened a long time ago. Whether the founders of Brown made money off slaves or not, I doubt that it has any impact on the Black students who are there now. In the same way, the fact that I probably could not have gone to the U. of Maryland 100 years ago has no bearing on what I do while I am there now. In short, I think that the problems we face in the Black community cannot be solved by looking back at what happened in the past. That old saying about people not knowing their past is true (whichever saying you know, that's the one I meant.) but it's also true that you can't drive forward if you keep your eyes on the rearview mirror. The racist practices of the past are bad, but they have maybe 3% stopping power. Racist practices of today are bad but they have, maybe, 22% stopping power. That other 75%, that's totally in our control. What Nicholas, John, and the rest of the Browns that founded the University, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and even George Wallace and Bull Connor did is not keeping kids today from reading and learning mathematics to the appropriate level for their grade. There's a place for discussing the effects of racism, but this is not it. On the other side of the aisle, I read an archived article about Black History Month by Mychal Massie. Overall, I agree with his premise. However, smack dab in the middle of the piece, he writes, "During Black History Month, black children have Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois – all of whom were purveyors of bitterness – force fed to them." I have two problems here: first, I don't think most Black students could identify two of the three. I'm assuming that they would probably be able to pick out Marcus Garvey because of his military-style regalia, but that may be a huge assumption on my part. Second, and more disturbing to me is the way he singlehandedly dismisses them because he disagrees with their politics. If there's anything that bothers me about the discourse of political thought it's the fact that we act like only people who agree with us are worth knowing or learning about. Now, in Massie's defense, he does mention three people whose names I am unfamilar with, James A. Harris, William Lester Jr., William B. Purvis, and Capt. Robert Lawrence Jr., so there is some research for me to do. The contributions of those four men notwithstanding, that a Black intellectual of any stripe can just casually dismiss W.E.B. DuBois or Paul Robeson is unconscionable. This is particularly true when discussing them as people Black students should, or in Massie's case should not, learn about. Marcus Garvey is an important figure too, but he doesn't resonate with me like DuBois or Robeson. Students need to learn about DuBois because they need to understand that Black folks most certainly do have a heritage as intellectuals. And I'm not talking about Black(?) folks way, way back in Africa somewhere, I'm talking about in these United States. Now, I'm not necessarily comfortable with DuBois' embrace of socialism, but I think that it represents a teaching opportunity. The teacher could engage the students on whether they think his ideological responses to the racism that he saw in his day (might the fact that he had to go to Germany to get his PhD because no school in the States would accept a Black PhD candidate have had something to do with his "bitterness"?) were warranted and whether such thoughts are appropriate now. As for Paul Robeson, I am just aghast that anybody could just casually dismiss him. If I had known who he was when I was younger, Paul Robeson would have been my role model. He did everything. Paul Robeson was the 3rd Black student at Rutgers, having earned an academic scholarship. While there, he earned 15 varsity letters and was a 2-time All American in football. In addition to numerous academic awards, he graduated valedictorian. That's just college. That's before he graduated law school or started performing. What more could someone want to point to in one person? He is the perfect example for students that one need not give up in one area to do well in another. Again, while I understand that Massie's objection to Robeson being taught during BHM has to do with Robeson's political positions later in his life, I think that such thinking can short-circuit the learning process. It is every thinking person's right to interrogate Robeson's political actions. Whether one decides that his actions were valid or not is immaterial. All students would do well to learn about and learn from Paul Robeson. As an aside about Robeson, while we all venerate Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed even though it cost him his title, we only celebrate him today because he won his title back. Most people don't know about Paul Robeson because he never got back on top and as such, does not fit the story arc into which we typically cast our historic figures. At least now we're starting to recognize his greatness. He's on a postage stamp...looking like Sidney Poitier.
Lashawn wrote about it today and it just kinda provoked me to put my 2 cents in. The fact that R. Kelly got nominated for an NAACP Image Award while he's got CHILD PORNOGRAPHY charges pending is mind-boggling. And in the interest of disclosing my biases, let me state right up front that I have never like R. Kelly as a singer. I'm pretty good about not fooling myself into thinking that I know celebrities, so I wouldn't say that I have any personal animus towards him, I just don't think he can sing. He's like 7-up -- never had it, never will. Well, at least I was neutral until all this madness with the tape started. (I did not see the tape, even though I have had opportunities. I always figured that if he was going to jail for making it, I would be just as culpable for watching it. So it might not be him. Gotta play fair.) Once the tape came out, my respect for him sank. I mean, regardless of whether he did it or not, why the devil would his next single after the scandal be "Ignition?" In the words of Kane, "Wha'chu on, hops? Dope or dog food?" Anyway, my point in bringing this up is that the NAACP, by nominating R. Kelly, did the functional equivalent of walking through a lion cage in a wildebeest jumpsuit. For real. I had run out of jokes, the story was so old. Then they go and revive it by nominating him for an image award. The amount of stupidity involved there cannot be overstated. What kind of credibility can your organization have when you nominate an alleged child pornographer for an award? (I bet the folks at Vivid Video wouldn't let that type of thing slip through.) Now, people are legitimately questioning everything about the NAACP, including its place in the America today. I know the NAACP used to be about something, but what do they do now? Kweisi Mfume signed on to PETA's blackout of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The logic behind targeting Black folks is ostensibly "because black people can relate to the suffering of chickens." Obviously they never met me. I never met a chicken I didn't like-- fried, baked, in a taco...well, actually I did meet one I didn't like. Boiled. (Yeah, boiled.) A friend of mine used to tell me that if the chicken goes extinct, I will be the prime suspect. And don't think a bunch of vegans is gonna get me to change my mind. But I digress. The NAACP is now a joke for everybody all along the political spectrum. From as far left as Aaron McGruder (creator of the Boondocks) all the way to the Armstrong Williams right, everybody has weighed in on the utter...I can't even think of a word for how stupid this is. They're just a joke. I'm not disrespecting the history of the organization, I'm just pointing out how far it has fallen. If anybody is disrespecting the history of the NAACP, it's the current "leadership." So basically, the NAACP has gone from W.E.B. Du Bois to Thurgood Marshall to Kweisi Mfume to R. Kelly? (One (or two) of these people just doesn't belong) And I know, Kweisi Mfume responded to the uproar by changing the manner in which people are nominated, so nothing like this could happen again, but at this point, it's just too late. I hope my grandmother cancels her membership.
Now I know I don't want the Eagles to get Terrell Owens. If he can't take it like a man that he got traded to Baltimore, how's he gonna act on the Eagles? He'll kill that team. I mean, hey, Thrash and Pinkston are no superstars. They're probably not even starters. They know how to play and keep their mouths shut, though. And it's not even like I mind mouthy superstar players, because I don't. In the appropriate context. Pardon the cliche, but Philly really is a blue-collar town. Even AI, no matter what people may say about him, is blue-collar to the bone. He might beef with his coaches, but on the floor, that man is about trying his best to win a game. (We won't get into that deal about practice.) T.O., I don't know. The way he's acting about this trade, I'm sure I don't want the Birds messing around with him now. Let him go to the Giants and start acting a fool when Sherri-- I mean Kerry-- Collins starts throwing to Shockey too much. He doesn't want to go to Baltimore because he knows that Big Ray is just waiting for him to cut up. Ain't gon' be no gettin' up in the quarterback's face when #52 is around. Not that the Eagles brass would listen to me anyway, but vote no on T.O.
Did the first stage of a research project I'm working on today. As part of the process, we had some high school students choose pseudonyms. I might've biased their choices by mentioning Ice Cube as an example, but that's neither here nor there. One of them chose 2Pac and the other one chose Biggie. They're both 9th graders; that means Tupac and Biggie have been dead for most of "2Pac" and "Biggie's" lives. Wow.
I'm still working on that James Brown post. At least this week I have actually started it. Looking at it, I'm probably gonna wind up breaking it up into sections. Otherwise, it's just gonna be too long. I think. The holdup is that I don't have my home network properly configured so my computers aren't sharing information. Hopefully I will have all this racket adjusted and regulated sometime this week. At that point, I will post that piece.
I was on my way to look for a USB cord for my computer when I found out that McDonalds is going to discontinue their super-sized fries and drinks. I am not at all happy about this turn of events, although I am less bothered by it now than I would be under other circumstances. Although McDonalds spokespeople are saying that the move is at least equally concerned with operations issues, like reducing store inventory (when you buy fries or a drink, what you're really buying is the container, not the food substance.) and reducing the number of tasks for the employee, I think that this move is largely because McDonalds is one of the main targets of people like me, who are looking at the obesity epidemic. Like I said earlier, though, I'm not in favor of this move. First, as I mentioned when I wrote about this earlier, the staggering increase in obesity is not due to increased caloric consumption at meal times, but during snacking. While I never followed up on that post, the main thrust of the paper was that the increase in obesity is due primarily to the fact that food is cheaper and can be prepared faster. The basic idea is that food consumption is inversely proportional to the time-cost of that food. At first, this might seem counter-intuitive. Take the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, for instance. That takes a long time, but in eating that, people tend to take in more calories than they would with, say, a Hungry Man dinner with the same food. That part is true. The rub is that holiday dinners are special occasions and the time cost of those dinners is part of the whole celebration. Most people don't eat like that every day, or even every week. For many people, particularly those who have found themselves to be a part of the growing trend (no pun intended...well, maybe a little intended.), much of their diet is comprised of processed food, which tends to be cheaper, easier to prepare, and higher in calories. So while that homemade cornbread dressing may taste better than Stove Top, the fact that Stove Top is easier to make means that it's more likely to be made and consumed more frequently. But even that assessment is not quite true to the research. It's the snacks. If you think about processed foods, which are the cheapest, easiest to prepare, and highest in calories? Junk food and snacks. My personal temptation was Hostess frosted honey buns. How cheap? Two for a dollar. How easy to prepare? Open the package. How high in calories? I don't have a wrapper here, but high. I know that one of them has about 54g of carbohydrates in a serving. Translate that to calories and it's gotta be high. Since snacks are cheap and easy, people eat a lot of them. They take in a lot of calories, too. Without regular exercise, those calories add up quickly. To prove their hypothesis, the study's authors divided their test groups into five categories, with the idea that if the main cause of the increase in obesity was the reduced time cost of food preparation, then the people most impacted by the changes in food would be the people who experienced the changes in weight. The results seem to bear this out. Single men experienced the smallest increase in obesity, while married women experienced the greatest. If the authors' premise is correct, then this shows that groups that don't traditionally cook, like single men, didn't eat more because food was cheaper and faster. For groups who cook a lot, like married women, the decrease in preparation time corresponded with an increase in frequency of consumption, and therefore an increase in calories. To be sure there are flaws with this study. It does not disaggregate by race, or income, both of which could yield some very interesting results. My own research is focused on nutrition and obesity vis a vis walkability and urban design, so it's interesting to me to note which restaurants and stores are in which neighborhoods. If I live in the 'hood, is processed food the only thing I can buy? Did obesity rates around the way increase at the same rate as they did everywhere else? If so, what does that mean for the culpability of fast food joints like McDonalds or the ubiquitous corner stores that sell nothing but candy and ready-to-eat foods? If not, is there a difference in the amount of physical activity that explains the trend? In light of this study, I think it might be interesting to look at the rise of the microwave. That's the central locus of all cheaper, faster food. Thinking back, the popularity of the microwave really took off during the 80's, when the massive increase in obesity began in earnest. There are some other possilities for research variables I can think of, like the correlation between the microwave, kids, and the idiot box. I'm just not feeling like spelling them all out right now. Back to McDonalds, I guess the main thing that frustrates me is that I like super-sized drinks. Forty-four ounces, that's enough to last me...maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Those other sizes are barely enough to wet my throat.
(While I'm aware that the 'Taliban' is a loaded term, I'm not using it in the sense of an oppressive religious oligarchy, just a government that based its laws and policies on its interpretation of sacred text(s). Maybe I should come up with a different word, but right now I can't think of one.) As the ruckus over gay marriage continues, both sides have begun to solicit the support of Black churches. That is not surprising, given the importance of the church in the Black community. Interestingly enough, there are some churches that support gay marriage, while others contend that marriage should be between a man and a woman. For the purposes of this post, I'm not interested in the validity of either position, I'm looking at a larger question. That is, what would it be like if Christians had total control of the government and could run the country in the way that seemed best to them? (I'm a Christian, but for the purposes of this exercise, since I will be describing two groups of people who share the same religious beliefs (ostensibly), I will refer to them in the 3rd person. Furthermore, it's not my place to say whether somebody truly believes in Jesus based on his or her political beliefs. If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that nobody has a monopoly on the truth.) I guess the first thing to do is acknowledge that even among self-professing Christians, there are differing political views. Some churches take more liberal views, others conservative. One group seems to favor a more contextual interpretation of the Word, while the other takes the Bible more literally. Given that, a short answer to my question would be, it depends on which Christians were in charge. The thing that really got me thinking about this was a book I read last week, The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad. One chapter lists the 16 rules the Taliban implemented when they took power in Afghanistan. That made me wonder how this country would be any different if the proponents of any religion had full control of the government. Here's the list: 1. Prohibition against female exposure 2. Prohibition against music 3. Prohibition against shaving 4. Mandatory prayer 5. Prohibition against the rearing of pigeons and bird fighting 6. Eradication of narcotics and the users thereof 7. Prohibition against kite flying 8. Prohibition against the reproduction of pictures 9. Prohibition against gambling 10. Prohibition against British and American hairstyles. (Would I be able to wear a 'fro?) 11. Prohibition against interest on loans, exchange charges, and charges on transactions 12. Prohibition against the washing of clothes by river embankments 13. Prohibition against music and dance at weddings 14. Prohibition against playing drums 15. Prohibition against sewing women's clothes or taking measurements of women 16. Prohibition against witchcraft. Because we live in America, our conditioned response is that the above list represents a draconian legal system. Certainly, some of the items are very foreign to our way of thinking. The injunction against kite flying seems ridiculous to us. The one against narcotics, however, is not too different from our official policy. One thing that makes any comparison between Christian groups difficult is that only the Christian Right has fully articulated their politics vis a vis their Christianity. In their case, then, it's relatively easy to anticipate some differences and what some of those differences might be. We know, for instance, that abortion would be illegal and that gays would not be allowed to marry. But what else? What about alcohol, tobacco, and firearms? For Christians on the Left, it's a little more challenging. I'm not sure whether they would make any changes. I can imagine that there might be some redistribution of the country's wealth and that there would be a conspicuous attempt to make a difference in the lives of the poor, but other than that, I can't think of much. Moreover, I don't know if I can really figure out how those types of changes would be any different than those that a humanist might make. I'm just not sure about the whole thing. If anybody has some opinons, I would be glad to hear them.
The Eagles got Jevon Kearse. I'm not sure whether I'm impressed or not. There's a part of me that wants to get all hopeful and everything. Especially since the defensive line was in disarray almost all of last season. Getting all the injured players back and adding a good player to the mix seems like it could make a big difference in the defense's performance this season. At the same time, I've been burned far too many times to get all excited. Besides, even though the defense wasn't its usual dominating self, it generally worked. It's that doggone offense that's the trouble. To that end, I don't know if I want the Eagles to get Terrell Owens. I think I would prefer to see the Eagles get a more solid low-key receiver. Especially with Donovan being the main locker room presence. I don't think Donovan the type of personality that keeps everybody in check. He seems to be more about leading by example and by word sometimes. With a player like Owens, a team has to have somebody who leads by word as well as deed. Maybe I'm wrong and Donovan is in there checking people, but it'a a concern to me. Hopefully, Andy Reid has his eye on somebody none of us is even thinking about who can make a serious contribution. Stinkston and Trash...naw, that's not nice. Pinkston and Thrash, probably good 3rd receivers, just can't be the starters if the Eagles expect to make that final step in the improving NFC East.