Excuse Me While I Whip This Out

Three movies are dominating my thoughts today, The Day After Tomorrow, Soul Plane, and Blazing Saddles. Blazing Saddles is what I'm watching right now, so if any dialogue slips in there, that's why. I saw Day After Tomorrow(DAT)yesterday. Last week, I saw a lot of commentary condemning DAT as basically a liberal polemic to get people worked up and worried about global warming. At the time, I was thinking, "it's just a disaster picture. Why make a political isse of it?" Then I saw it. Blogging affiliations and ideology notwithstanding, I'm not about all that "liberals do this and liberals ain't that" nuttiness. Stuff like that gets me bored and makes me tired. Then I saw the movie. It really was all political. The Vice-President was obviously supposed to be Cheyney, and the President was supposed to be Bush, although he physically resembled Al Gore. Then at the end, there's this scene where the VP (who becomes President when the President dies) gives this speech about how we always thought we could keep consuming at the rate we always have and whatnot... Now I'll be the first one to say that I'm not the one who's gonna sit up there and act like all the talk about global warming is junk science. I'll be up front and say that I haven't read all (any of) the serious literature, but I've read some opinions on the issue. The biases of the writers precludes me from taking any of the opinons very seriously. Basically, as with any scientific ideas that pass through politics, I'm suspicious. Junk science is not confined to one side of the aisle. And even if the global warming will not lead to climatological disaster, is there really a reason we shouldn't take care of the environment? Is there really a reason to act like it's a bad idea that we not drive everywhere just because we can? I don't think so, but that's just me. At any rate, that's my political beef with the movie. As a disaster flick, it has problems as well. I like disaster flicks, especially those concerning natural disasters. As a result, I usually hang my little physics knowledge at the door. When I go into the theater, I know that there are going to be some things that just couldn't happen in this world. That's what made it film-worthy. The only problem I have is when the science in the movie is not consistent. For the sake of anybody who may be going to see this movie, I won't get into all the flaws right now, but suffice it to say that the weather ain't the only anomaly in there. I say this understanding that there is a formula to disaster movies and knowing that I'm just going to be disappointed most of the time. I want to see people gettin' it. If people are getting wiped out, I want to see one of the main charcters get it too. Unless there's a specific reason for Protagonist, Protagonist's family member/significant other/dog/ NOT to suffer, they should be right out there too. But that's just me. Charlie: Bart, they said you was hung! Bart: And they was right. Ambra has written at length about Soul Plane, as have Joseph C. Phillips (via Booker Rising). They're right in condemning that piece of work as a 2004 minstrel show. For a while, I was thinking I would just write the most stereotypical things I could think of (like listing the top 5 fried chicken joints), but it got to be too much work. Also, I started thinking about something. Why are we so pressed over a movie? Granted, it's a waste of film and a capital waste of money (18 million for that crap? Yeah, it's all politically expedient to talk about what we could do for schools with the money we're spending on the war in Iraq and all that, but what about the money we spend on movies, both on production and consumption? I bet that 18 million could liquidate all but the most indebted school districts, but we ain't gon' talk about that. And we surely won't mention the monies spent by regular people going to the movies. I'm not exempt either, by the way.) Anyway, the fact that Soul Plane has been made is the least of our problems. Not to justify it at all, but it's like this: when we talk about the stereotypical presentation of Black folks in the mass media, the underlying premise seems to be that if we were portrayed differently then it would diminish the impact of racism, since some people's only experience with Black people is via the television and to a lesser extent, the movie screen. Connections are often drawn between characters in the current "work", for lack of a better term, and the classic stereotypes of Black people, many of which were present in D.W. Griffith's Birth Of A Nation, aka The Klansman. Since Birth Of A Nation was used as ostensible grounds for racist actions, then the thinking seems to be that keeping those stereotypes going helps to perpetuate racism. I don't know that I'm sold on that any more. It seems to me that people who want to be racist don't need a movie or thugged-out hip-hop or OJ Simpson or anything else to justify their position. Racism is not logical. People may attempt to justify their racist attitudes with examples of Black "misbehavior" but the truth is, it's not the behavior that the racist objects to, it's the person, whether he's Dr. King, Farrakahn, Snoop, Dr. Charles Drew, Bill Cosby, or whoever. Having said that, I will reiterate that I think there are more than enough grounds to protest this piece of crap being made, but I think we also need to maintain some perspective on the matter. We can't just go around looking for all the stereotypes that can possibly be conferred onto a character in movie. One of my favorite examples from when I was taking a Blacks in Film class at Temple was Kramer from Seinfeld. If Kramer had been Black, people would have been protesting that he was just an updated version of the coon stereotype. He wasn't Black, though, and he was one of the most popular characters on the box at that time. At some point, characters just have the right to be funny and people have the right to their sense of humor, as unsophisticated as that may be. I will cosign on Joseph C. Phillips' call for diversity within Black cinema and television because that's the real problem. It's not Soul Plane, per se, it's that Black folks don't usually support good dramas or smart comedies. But then, "good" drama or "smart" comedy is just a matter of taste. Personally, I never liked Martin, but I know lots of people who thought it was the funniest thing on television. As far as I was concerned, it couldn't get any worse than Martin, but that's just me. Now, one thing that did disappont me about Soul Plane was that it was not a spoof of other movies. I only know one person who saw it, and she watched the bootleg (how poetic is that?), but she said she would've been mad if she had paid to see it. It would be one thing if the point of the movie was to make fun of the stereotypes, but I don't think there's enough separation between the charcters and their actions to signify an awareness of the stereotypes. They're not poking fun, they're being it for real. Juxtapose that with Blazing Saddles, which exists solely to mock the conventions by which the characters think and move. There's probably a good satire in Soul Plane somewhere. Too bad nobody thought to bring it out.


Line Of the Day

I bust a rhyme to dust frustrated rappers Thus crush competition, lights out like the clapper. - Pharoahe Monch What!


Reading this article on school vouchers, "Vouchers: The Right's Final Answer to Brown" I admit that sometimes it's very easy to see issues through a partisan lens. Sometimes, I read stuff and I'm think of what the Wino told the Junkie in Richard Pryor's piece, "Better lay off that narcotic nigga, that shit done made you null and void." But then I have to step back and give it a better reading and see if there's anything valid I can take from it. In this case, there's not much, but I'll see what I can do. What it does, however, is typify what I think is the main problem of the Black Left, they hug white racism so hard that it's almost like they're addicted to it. I'm not one of those pollyanaish negroes who thinks that racism is nonexistent. A couple weeks ago, I told my mother that I don't think racism will ever cease to exist in America. It's ingrained too deeply and too many people have stakes in its existence for it to go away. That said, there comes a point at which we have to realize that fact and move on. In the Laff-a-lympics, Yogi's team didn't stop trying because Dick Dastardly's team was cheating. They had to adjust their strategy because of the cheating, but they didn't stop racing and complain about how unfair it was. Granted, that was a cartoon and it was scripted so that the Dastardlys would eventually lose, even if they won an event or two, but the principle still applies. I don't even think racism is necessarily all that pervasive, but for the people who do, racism can't be the cause of all Black folks' problems. If it is, then the racists are right, we're just as dumb and stupid and incapable as they say we are. We know better than that. I have two main problems with this article: one, it seems to go along with the general idea that segregation, or perhaps to be more specific, separation, is necessarily a bad thing. That idea is not explicitly addressed, but the general tone of the article seems to fall in with the integrationist model, where having different "races" at the same school a de facto better situation for the Black students. I don't deny that nowadays it tends to work out that way, but it was not always the case, and it does not have to be, in any case. My second problem with the article is in its attempt to argue against vouchers without having some alternative. I'll be the first one to tell you that I have serious reservations about vouchers. I'm not comfortable with the notion of creating a permanent underclass by sending poor students (both financially and academically) to "schools" that are little more than holding pens for prisons. It can be argued that many public schools are already just that, but if the few real students who do attend those schools were to leave, then what would happen to the rest of them? Should we replace the teachers with correctional officers and leave it at that? That problem becomes compounded when we realize that even with vouchers, there are some families that couldn't afford to put their children into private schools. One of the times I was writing about Good Times, I started to go on a whole tangent about how if the Evans family existed now, with Michael and Thelma being as smart as they are, James and Florida still wouldn't be able to put them in any private schools because they were just too poor. So what, then, should Michael and Thelma have to go to prison schools because they're too poor. Then there's the fact that private schools don't have to take anybody. Voucher or no, they can turn a child down for any number of reasons. In short, then, I don't see vouchers/private school "competition" as the panacea that some others do. At the same time, I don't see how any self-respecting pro-Black person can sit there and act like the only problem with public schools is that they're underfunded. Please. Public schools, particularly urban and rural, have some serious problems. In the urban schools, the students most dramatically affected are Black and Latino. While I don't know that vouchers represent the solution to the problems public schools face (in fact, I know that they don't), given the state of public education, if my allegiance is to the kids, I would be willing to try anything. It can't be worse than what's there now. In this article, none of the issues I listed above are even addressed. Instead, vouchers are presented as a continuation of white flight from public schools after Brown. The valid nugget I believe this article holds is its presentation of history. While I don't think it's necessary to dwell on the past, it is instructive to have a clear view of what has happened. The problem here is that in the desire to make white people culpable for something, the authors ignore the fact that in cities like Detroit and Cleveland, some of the most vocal supporters of vouchers were grassroots Black folks who were tired of their children graduating high school unable to read. These people are glossed over as "African-American front groups." Like it's impossible to hold a viewpoint different from the Black hegemony and still be pro-Black. But we already know that's what they think. Better lay off that narcotic.


Bringing Back Memories

Here's a story about one of my grade school teachers. She tried to get me to sing in the Christmas play in 5th grade. I knew better.


The Genius of the Cos and Other Comedians

Seems like everybody and zer cousin has written somethin about Bill Cosby's statements at the NAACP dinner last week. I'm not above adding my voice to the rest, but I want to see if I can get a complete transcript first. At any rate, here you can read LaShawn,Ambra, Cobb, and Clarence Page. For now, I'm more interested in looking at Bill Cosby's stand-up work. Not necessarily trying to come up with a ranking, but just positioning him among his peers. In reality, he's in the pantheon, but in the interest of giving myself something to talk about, I'll probably include some people on the very next strata. When I think of the great comedians, I have to start with Richard Pryor, primarily because the people that came before him are a little before my time. I have some Redd Foxx records and I've heard Pigmeat Markham and Moms Mabley, but if you've ever been to a comedy show, then you know the dynamic at a show is very different from what you get on a record. I think the comedy record that best gives the feeling of being at the artist's show is Robin Harris' Bebe's Kids. I should also be careful to include Flip Wilson and Dick Gregory in this group, even though I've never actually heard Dick Gregory tell a joke. I've read/heard some funny things from him, but I've never heard him doing a set. Of course, as I was coming of age, Eddie Murphy was killing it and then courtesy of the Def Comedy Jam, I came across Bernie Mac and Cedric. Robin Williams used to be up there for me too, but it's not quite the same for me any more. I don't know if because he's gotten older or because I have, though. Same thing with Steve Martin. Then by the late 90's it was all about Chris Rock and now Dave Chappelle is getting a lot of attention, but he's been gettin' it in for a while. Now that I've done my obligatory name dropping and bias disclosing, here's the deal: any historical look at Black comedians has to include the element of protest that informed much of their work. Not so much for the ones before Richard, although there may have been some overtly social material in their acts too, but definitely after Richard, that was almost an expected part of any Black comedian's routine. (Because I'm not so familiar with his act, I don't know if Dick Gregory comes before Richard or after...I'm thinking before, but I don't know) Bill never really got down like that. I remember reading back in the 80's that when Cosby initially started off along that route but then another comedian told him, derisively, that if he lost his color, he wouldn't have an act. That's when he started to focus his material on childhood. Some people I know think that in centering his material on a non-confrontational topic like childhood, and by being particularly non-confrontational about it, Cosby was accommodating the "powers that be." For them, the Richard paradigm is in full effect: give 'em (white people) hell every time you step to the mic, even if you just sneak it in as an aside. While I think there's enough fodder there for an interesting discussion, I think it misses what seems to be an existential sort of Blackness. That is, Bill Cosby never had to put his Blackness in the audience's face because it was already in the audience's face. When he did the "Fat Albert" routines, I don't think there's anybody who has ever imagined that Fat Albert or Weird Harold was not Black. What's more, he wasn't apologizing for his Blackness or downplaying it, so much as he just presented it like it was a given. I think it's similar to Zora Neale Hurston's use of the Southern Black vernacular, esp. in Their Eyes Were Watching God. To the extent that she was making a political statement (and knowing her politics, if she was at all, it was to a very limited extent), it was the implicit statement that these people's lives were valid and worth talking (reading) about, as did their manner of speech. I would argue strongly that that does not make him an accomodationalist, even if it does not mark him as a radical. (For any lit majors out there, there's a pretty good paper topic in there to be fleshed out-- Cosby's apolitical comedy : the overtly political Black "establishment(?)" comedians of the time, esp. Richard Pryor :: Zora Neale Hurston's stories, in which white racism gets minimal ink : other Harlem Rennaisance writers, esp. Richard Wright. Got your Black lit in there, plus you get to listen to a whole lot of Richard Pryor. I wish I had thought of something like this when I was in undergrad.) Another interesting element of Cosby's routines is that his style is primarily storytelling. This doesn't separate him from anybody, but I think it is definitely one of his strengths. One difference between Bill and Rich is that Bill generally narrates the stories, sometimes speaking in character, whereas Rich was good for going into character and staying there for the entire routine. Think "Mudfoot" and "Wino and Junkie." Speaking of voices, does that "white guy" voice start with Richard? I have to go back and check out my Redd Foxx collection, but I think the "white guy" voice, as well as the whole "Black people v. White people" as a routine staple starts with Richard Pryor. Looking at Bill and Richard together is interesting because even though I think Richard was on a whole different level for a lot of reasons, more people tried to imitate him than they did with Bill, whose work and stylings are a lot more accessible. Not saying that just anybody could do what Bill did, but nobody could do what Richard did. It's not uncommon, though. There are more imitators of Prince than Michael Jackson, and far too many young Black people would rather be athletes than engineers. The irony here is that Bill Cosby, outside of being a stand-up comedian, is much more widely revered than Richard; I think it's safe to bet that he's richer than Richard, too. I don't think it's hard to understand why, though. It's the cussing. As anybody of some age knows, Lenny Bruce is the Curt Flood of cussing on the mic. Redd Foxx did it first, but he didn't get suffer the political repercussions that Lenny Bruce did. Redd Foxx just couldn't get work. (Don't know who Curt Flood is? Take a break from this and google him. He's an important figure, whether you care about sports or not.) After him came George Carlin and Richard. Okay, so Richard didn't invent cussing on the mic, but he was very profuse with it. And even though Bill tried to separate Richard from his imitators by saying that Richard's cussing was a function of his speaking in character, it's not accurate. To tell the truth, Richard's cuss volume decreased in character. When he was speaking in his own voice (figuratively), he cussed a lot more. In the same way that the basketball players who have come come after Jordan have lessened the quality of the game by focusing so much on the spectacular things he did that they lack the fundamentals (Kobe & KG obviously excepted, the Def Comedy Jam era comedians did much the same thing. (Except, and I hafta vent this here: one time there was an old dude on there who basically bit Richard's whole routine. I forget which routine it was, and I don't remember the dude's name, but as he was up there talking, I was finishing his punch lines. I was about to go off, but I didn't want to hear Butterscotch's mouth. Or maybe it was Redd Foxx he was jacking, but the point is, I knew the routine and I was mad he got up there acting like it was new.) It seems that many of the more recent comedians kept the cussing but forgot the jokes. They're topically limited to "Black people v. White people" (with the requisite "white guy" voice) and sex, maybe expanding it to relationships. I ain't gon' front, sometimes it's funny, but most times, it's not. One of the last brothers who cussed a lot but had ridiculously solid fundamentals was the late Robin Harris. I don't know if I would go as far as calling Robin Harris a genius, but he was at the very top of the next tier. He was certainly the king of comedy once Eddie went off to be a movie star. Robin Harris was solid. He did something comedians rarely do any more: he told jokes. Nowadays, most comedians' acts consist of observations highlighting ironic elements, sometimes using excessive hyperbole. Robin Harris did that too, but he told actual jokes with a beginning, middle, end, and details that held the joke together. To this day, I can't think of an isolated joke that is better than his Piccolo Player. Now, Robin cussed a lot. He cussed a whole lot, and it was not always integral to the joke, but his material was so solid that it didn't even matter. (At the same time, if you really break down the way people talk like I do sometimes, you'd have to admit that Robin Harris said the word "motherfucker" the way it's supposed to be said. He popped it like a bath towel.) He also had incredible "dozens" game. Vulgar as he wanted to be, but when it came to squelching hecklers, he was ruthless. Like that time he was like, "Somebody put somethin' in his mouth, cuz my zipper's stuck." Now that's ruthless. Unfortunately, he passed away just as he was about to come into his own. Stepping into Robin's place is Bernie Mac, whose act seems like a cross between Bill Cosby and Robin Harris. (In fact, Bernie Mac played Robin Harris' brother in House Party 3. I don't like admitting that I actually saw that piece, but I thought it was tremendous casting that had him playing Robin Harris' brother. They're both dark-skinned, got similar beetle eyes, cuss like it's going out of style...that's a match. I could definitely imagine them sharing a bedroom when they were younger, capping on each other all night.) Not the same lasting impact of either, I don't suspect, but he is very, very good.

Best Fried Chicken

I honor of the release of Soul Plane this week, I'm making a list of the top 5 fried chicken joints. 1. Pathmark (a grocery chain in the states surrounding New Jersey. If you're ever passing through, stop and get a 12 pack. But only go to the stores in the 'hood.) 2. Popeyes 3. KFC (original recipie) 4. Home-cooked. (I hafta put Mom and Granny somewhere, but I can't front like I'd take them over Pathmark or Popeyes...KFC might be a batle, though.) 5. Church's (I thought they went out of business but I went to one in Philly last week. They put honey on the biscuits!)


My Take On the Media

Seems that more and more people are giving up on the mainstream media as a source of information. I made that decision a long time ago, but for different reasons...sort of. Although it's fairly obvious that the media has a liberal slant, I can't say that I think it's deliberate. Well, maybe it's deliberate, but I don't think it's necessarily malicious. I was one class short of a minor in Af-Am Studies, concentrating on Black portrayals in the mass media, so this is something I know a little bit about. I used to be like many of y'all, getting mad and disgusted and frustrated at the presentation of things on so-called news, but then it finally sunk in: the "news" is just entertainment in disguise. That's why it's so much about having a telegenic anchor; ze (instead of he/she. Gender neutral and good for Scrabble.) has to have a face the people can trust. Not that ze has to be trustworthy or any of that, just look like it. Same thing with the other people on the set. They have to seem like they get along, otherwise the viewers won't watch. I critique it, but I participate too. That's one of the reasons I don't like the news down here in Washington, because I think the newscasters are corny; if banter was breakaway pants, they still couldn't pull it off. Moreover, and more to my point, as an aspect of entertainment, the "news" exists solely to ensure its own survival. Period. Conservatives may say that it has a liberal bent, progressives may say that it has a conservative bent, but if anything, the media is like a paperclip, bending all ways at all times. I think it tends to go one direction more than another, but that's mostly because of where I sit. Here's a for instance: For all my conservative friends out there, if you still look at local network news, watch how Black folks come across, Black males in particular. You think Christians get it bad, look at my phenotypical demographic. See if you can count how many Black faces are attached to local crime vis a vis any demographic. Not that Black males are the only criminals in your town, mind you, and you needn't consider that the majority of the victims of Black criminals are Black themselves, just read the blurbs and look at the pictures. What I'm saying is this: the stories that get told on the news are intended to provoke the viewer into feeling that something is not right. Because at the same time that they're showing these supposed-to-be scary Black dudes, look at the pictures of the victims. Even though statistically, the ones who are getting done in look like the perpetrators, that's not what you normally see on the "news." That's not a compelling story because unless a young Black male has an angle, like being a promising student or athlete or something, there's less of a likelihood that the ordinary viewer will care. Again, if you think I'm exaggerating, just watch for a few days, preferrably with the IB muted. Look up statistics about who does what to whom, and then think about all the other crookedness that's going on in your area that didn't make the IB news broadcast. What are the stories didn't make the show because they were covering the Friends finale or because the anchor got artificially inseminated and felt the need to share it with the viewers?(yeah, that actually happened in Philly. Why did she hafta be Black?!) So what? Well, to a Nationalist, that's incontrovertible evidence that the media, controlled by conservative interests is engaging in a systematic plot to devalue the lives of Black males. I don't think that's the case, but I also know if the news was really objective, it wouldn't look like that. If you watch the news like they watch the news, you'll see the pictures they see, whoever "you" is and whoever "they" are. What I really think is going on is that the media is "conservative" in their presentation. That is, they tell the same stories the same way because that's what they think people are comfortable with and that's what they think will keep the people coming back-- so they can do what? Sell soap, beer, cars, and fast food. Ultimately, that's the point of anything that comes on the television. Any idea, social, political, or otherwise, is secondary to that.


I'm A Sucker For

• Funky records • Hagler v. Hearns (one January I was in the 5th of a 6 mile run, when an electronics store had its display television playing this fight in the window. I stood there and watched the whle thing and caught a cold that lasted 5 weeks.) • Redbones (for the uninitiated, that's a light-skinned Black woman. Usually, the reddish undertones of their complexions sow through, hence the term.) Preferrably with that willowy mermaid build, like 'Scotch. • Women with natural hair, especially afros and cornrows w/just a peek of scalp • Used book & record stores • Gel pens, specifically the Pilot P700. I like to sketch with pens and that's just the best one out there, bar none. Every time I see a .7 mm pen, I try it out, but there's nothing out there that's in the league of the P700. • A crossover followed by a dunk (like KG did Wednesday night.) • Football (my mom has the NFL network ad I have watched it every day this week.) • Madden • Great MCs. • Organists who know how to make a B3 talk. • One-punch knockouts. Yeah, Roy got caught, but rmember, when he won the light-heavyweight title way back when he did it on a one-punch body blow . I had never heard of such a thing then and don't think I ever will again.

Random Notes From Illadelph, pt. 2

Note: I wrote all this on the 20th. I don't feel like post-dating it, though. I don't willingly drop 20 dollars on a CD, but in the case of Betty Davis' They Say I'm Strange, I had to do it. The first song, Shoo-B-Doop And Cop Him is the source of the sample in Ice Cube's Once Upon A Time In The Projects. I've been looking for this song for about 18 months, so I really didn’t have a choice. I don't know if I would say it's worth the whole 18.99, but there's a couple songs on here that will probably find their way into regular rotation. I also copped Debra Killings' album, Surrender. Ambra suggested it to me and I was very impressed. While I was in the Gospel section, I saw some old Milton Brunson records that my mom used to have. I'm still undecided on whether I'm gonna get them or not, but my I know Granny would be excited to hear some of those song, so I'm leaning towards yes. It depends on what else I get into today. Might fool around and get an MP3 player today, but I've been talking that foolishness for months. We'll see. … LaShawn wrote yesterday about the NAACP's suing of a county in MD over the number of Black kids who get put into remedial classes and whatnot. Overall, I agree with her opinion, but I think there's something to the assertion that Black kids, especially boys, tend to get a much shorter leash when it comes to disciplinary action. Truth is truth and as the kids get older, many new teachers , young and perhaps smaller than the kids, are just flat-out afraid. And it's not like the kids are doing anything exceptionally bad or terrifying; they're acting like kids, trying to see what they can get away with. Walter Williams has written about many teachers not coming from the most stringent of academic backgrounds. I don't know about all that; I majored in English. What I do know is that instead of that touchy-feely how-to-teach stuff they need to teach potential teachers how not to be punks. For the year I did teach, that was just about the only thing I had going for me where classroom control was concerned; I didn't know quite what I was doing and many times I lost control of the class, but they knew I wasn't a punk; it wasn't just gonna go down in my classroom without me saying anything and I wasn't gonna back down. I tried it the administration's at the beginning of the year, not touching the students and all that. That's when this little boy used to come into my classroom every day talking about, "Tooley, you a bitch." I'd tell him to leave, but he wasn't listening to me. Why would he, when he could walk from whatever class he was supposed to be in to my class, call me a bitch, and nothing would happen. For the longest time, I didn't even know his name. But then, he came in my room with that racket on the wrong day. I was already pissed off from hearing Butterscotch's mouth, and here he came. He didn't know I had coached seven wrestlers to the league finals a few months earlier. I snatched that fool up, showed him four of his pressure points, and chucked him out of my room. After that it was all good. He even protected my door against other would-be interlopers, one time plugging somebody in the lip. See, I think a lot of these teachers come in thinking it's gonna be like Dangerous Minds; the kids will be tough and mean-looking, but deep down, they all have hearts of gold and it's the teacher's job to bring that out…before Christmas break. It don't work that way. Now before I started teaching, my mom told me I would have to come in wearing my "gorilla suit." I heard her, but I didn't listen. I had my own ideas. I planned on being that cool teacher that wore jeans and gave the tough assignments that they would secretly like. (I had my own "Dangerous Minds" daydream.) Lesson #1 reiterated for the 100,000th time —listen to your mother. It's like dealing with a puppy—you have to let it know who's in charge right from the get-go. If you don't, you're in trouble. So I said all that to say that sometimes teachers recommend kids for behavioral special ed because they don't know how to "man up" in the classroom. Kids are gonna be kids and they're gonna test the limits. Repeatedly. Even when you think you've got it established, they're gonna test you. That's what kids do. That's what people of all ages do. Need teachers with some heart. You go to teach in the city, you ain't goin' back to the days when the worst thing that could happen was a kid might pop zer bubblegum. In city classrooms, it's for real. … Copped a couple Joe Tex records at the used shop. Joe Tex is underrated. I don't know how he fared on the charts, but he made solid records and albums. (I need to discipline myself to stop using those two interchangeably, since they're not really the same thing.) A couple weeks ago, I got the 45 for Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman), today I got the LP, Bumps & Bruises. I'll probably try to give it a spin when I get back to the crib.


Random Notes

I'm visiting my mom for a couple days. She has dial-up (got me back in 1997) and was waiting for a phone call, so no posting for me yesterday. Normally, it wouldn't make a difference, but yesterday was Malcom X's birthday. I'm usually surprised at how little attention it gets, even in Black circles, given his iconic status. Anyway, let's put it in some perspective: May 17th- Brown v. Topeka Board of Ed. May 19th- Malcom X's birthday May 28th- Soul Plane comes out. I'm sorry--Soul Plane? Are you kidding me? Instead of protesting the Nielsen Ratings, as you can read here at Booker Rising, (Al, you just got finished "running" for President, and your first move, the very first public thing that you do, is protest that Black people aren't adequately represented in idiot box surveys? Need to be protesting all that IB watching we do, but that's another post.) Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to be protesting that piece of trash. They've taken a perfectly good Robin Harris routine and ruined it. I can't wait until they jump on this waste of celluloid in The Boondocks. ... Looking to close out this hip-hop generation gap stuff, I looked at the Letters to the Editor in the new issue of XXL magazine. If those letters are any indication, the record-buying public has been totally duped by marketing and promotion. These jokers have no clue about what's important in a rhyme and what's not- or maybe I'm just getting old and grizzled. If so, I'm glad about it. One dude in the letters said that Scarface was better than BIggie, but Biggie got more attention because of a New York bias in the press. I'll admit the NY bias, and I'll admit that Scarface is better than I give him credit for being- his name never comes to mind whenever I'm making a top-whatever list, even though he deserves a passing thought, at minimum. Maybe I'll put some time in listening to Scarface and see what's what. Also, I just happened to be checking out the IB myself today (I can look once or twice a week.) and MTV had a list of the 22 greatest MCs. I wasn't surprised when 2pac came out to be number 1. The first rule is, always know your source's biases. After reading There's A God on the Mic, with Kool Moe Dee rating himself #5 all time, I had to reappraise his work. In the process, I ran up on a copy of his battle with Busy Bee in 1982. It's kinda hot now, but 20+ years ago? That thing had to be crazy. I guess that's why, when cats like Kane and Rakim (how was Kane not even on the MTV list? These kids are fools!) talk about who influenced them, his name keeps coming up. Or else, they're just pleased at their ratings (#4 and #2, respectively) in the book. ... Watched my first playoff game of the season. Timberwolves v. Kings. With Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber out there, I would've been happy no matter who won, but Butterscotch wanted the Kings to win, while I kind of wanted to see K.G. win another series. The TNT production is good and the song kind of reminds me of the NBA on NBC, so I could handle it. They even have Doug Collins calling the games. It's almost like going home, but not quite. (And K.G. is officially a beast. He was one already, but playing like that in a game 7? He's certified now. If he can do something against the Lakers...we'll hafta see what happens.)


Hip-Hop Generation Gap, II

Last time, I talked about the monetary aspect of the hip-hop generation gap, which I think is the primary divider. If it weren't for the tremendous sums of money to be made, there would probably be much more diversity within hip-hop—or at least a more recognizable diversity. Cobb linked to the post and mentioned the party rap of the early 90's, groups like Kid & Play and whatnot. To be honest, I hadn't even thought about them, but that's an important point. Back in the day, there were all kinds of rappers with all kinds of topics. Now, again, because the gangsta/hustler stuff is what moves units, that's almost all you hear. So I think ultimately, it all goes back to the bottom line, which is that if we (hip-hop consumers) want to hear something different, then we have to support the artists that are putting out good product, and not just download it or burn a copy or whatever. Now, one thing that I'm noting is that lots of people try to talk about hip-hops "value system," as if it's different from the prevailing worldview in the US. Before I even start, I need to point out that I'm not arguing that much of what's being said in records is right or legitimate, but I do get bothered when somebody points a finger at hip-hop like it's the source of a particular ideology instead of just being another messenger. If anything, what you see and hear in hip-hop is a naked reflection of what Americans really value—not ideologically, but what we value in terms of what we will spend our money on. Hip-hop caricatures the emperor based on what he's really wearing, not what he thinks he's wearing, and not the clothes laying across the bed that he plans to wear. The principal difference between the rap of today and yesteryear, aside from the degree and frequency of cussing, is the decline of quality MCing. There's a difference between a rapper and an MC. Fred and Barney rapped on a Fruity Pebbles commercial. Cookie Monster rapped on Sesame Street (and yes I did like that song, "Healthy Food."), wearing a big gold chain and a Godfather hat, like Run-DMC. That don't make him an MC. A rapper can spit rhymes, but an MC crafts lyrics. So to go to one of my favorite examples, I think 2Pac was probably the best rapper ever, but I don't know if he's in my top 20 MCs. At some point, I might break down a rubric for evaluating rhymes so we have a common standard by which to judge. Of course it's gonna be subjective, but I think that with some tweaking, we can make something that may be of some use down the road. Maybe I shouldn't say that there's a decline in quality MCing, but there's a decline in there's a decline in the visibility of quality MCs. Even Jay-Z says,
I dumbed down my lyrics to double my dollars They criticize me for it, yet they all yell "holla!" If skills sold, truth be told, I would prob'ly be Lyrically—Talib Kweli.
One of the areas where this is easiest to see is in the battle. Back in the day, the battle was always, always, always about lyrics. In There's A God On The Mic, Kool Moe Dee's version of the top 50 MCs of all time, he breaks down some battle laws. Law number one is, "On wax, the best rhyme wins. Many emcees forget that a battle, first and foremost, is about lyrical skills." This is important. Back in the day, even when there was violent content, it was understood in a lyrical context. To get mad and turn to a physical confrontation was to concede defeat. Once people started acting 'hard' and proving how 'real' they were, the battle dynamic started to change with the rest of it. For instance, one of the most famous battles was between LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee. It spanned at least three albums per artist and even more songs. While the mode of dissing ranged from physical appearance to general "you-can't-rhyme" material, the only violence was figurative. Peep Kool Moe
…Make him feel the wrath/beat him down and laugh/and when I'm finished, then I'm gonna ask him who is the best/and if he don't say Moe Dee/I'll take my whip and make him call himself Toby.
Only somebody with absolutely no understanding of the battle paradigm would take something like that literally. An important thing to note, however, is that Moe Dee's regular content was not violent, so it was easy to distinguish between lines he meant to be literal and those he meant to be figurative. On the other end of the battling spectrum was the beef between Tupac and Biggie, which unfortunately grew off wax. Although Biggie's Who Shot Ya? was ostensibly about Tupac, there's no conclusive proof. Tupac came back with Hit 'Em Up, which was unquestionably about Biggie. Lyrically, there's no comparison. Hit 'Em Up was trash. It basically amounts to a recorded threat with some rhymes thrown in. The most substantial "lyric" was "I fucked your wife, you fat bitch." Ooooh, he must've really worked a long time to come up with that one. Contrast that with Biggies, "your heartbeat sound like Sasquatch feet/thunderous, shaking the concrete." Probably not his best lyric, but the metaphor and details are solid. But even at that, there's a line in there that keeps it centered in the rap realm—"Niggas know, the lyrical molesting is takin' place." Unfortunately, it's not about lyrical anything anymore. It wasn't, at least. In Jay-Z's battle with Nas, on the notorious Supa Ugly, he raps, "…don't let the nine, homey/put you out your mind, homey/just rhyme, homey." Wish people would just do that…and stop making all these doggone strip club records.


Dag, Roy!

Never thought it couldn't happen, but I didn't think it would.



I got 99 problems...you know the rest.

Just For Fun

This is a little pop culture quiz I made up at my job last year. Most of these are things you could know if you paid attention, but some are pretty obscure. Enjoy. In what city does "That's My Mama" take place? a. Oakland b. New York c. Washington, DC d. Los Angeles On what movie is "What's Happenin'" Based? What sitcom actor wrote a hit song for the Jackson 5? a. Mike Evans b. Fred Berry c. Hal Williams d. Clifton Davis Who painted the artwork on Good Times? What was Laurence Fishburne's first movie? Who was Cleopatra Jones? Who was Carmen Jones? In "Friday," what was Craig's last name? The title of "A Raisin In the Sun" is taken from a poem by what author? Who wrote "Go Tell It On The Mountain?" What was the name of Alex Haley's first American-born ancestor? Who recorded "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised?" Who invented the gas mask? Who was the first Black regular on Saturday Night Live? How much did Miss Mary Mack pay to see the elephant jump the fence? When did Aunt Jemima get her perm? What's on the wall in the kitchen in every hood? On what TV show did the character "Benson" first appear? On Good Times, who played Penny's abusive mother? Which Temptation died a crack addict? What is the common theme on all Ohio Players album covers? *bonus—What is the theme on all the Westbound Records album covers? Who was the first Black woman in space? Who discovered blood plasma? What's Muhammad Ali's given name? What's Tina Turner's given name? What's Whoopi Goldberg's given name? What jazz artist is credited with first calling people "cats?" What kind of flower did Billie Holiday wear in her hair? What was Greg Nice's favorite cartoon? What's the name of Jimi Hendrix's recording studio? Name a fast food chain that was started by a Black man. What sport did Arthur Ashe play? True or false: Joe Louis got that name fighting under that name in a boxing tournament. The net weight of a 40 oz is _____lbs ____oz. Who made the famous "Chickens Come Home To Roost" speech? True or False: There is such a place as Soul City, South Carolina


Biggie Brief

In the process of writing a follow-up to the hip-hop generation gap jawn (because I'm from Philly), I listened to some CDs I burned a while ago. Man, listen: I said it before and I'll say it again: I don't know why everybody's all on Tupac's jock like he was the best thing since sliced bread. He was good, but he wasn't great. Really, if you take away his two or three songs praising women, his body of work kind of resembles Ice Cube's. The only difference is that Tupac got more into the gangsta/thug lifestyle as he got older, while Cube matured and diversified. What's more, the only reason to link 'Pac and Biggie is situational. In a discussion of skills, it's no comparison. I was listening to Niggas Bleed today and that joint is amazing. I've seen movies that don't give that degree of detail and characterization. And then the fact that he managed to end it with a clever hook, that's some writing. Then I listened to Warning, which is another of my favorite Biggie songs. Similar to the situation with Kobe, I wasn't too much of a Biggie fan when he first came out. I was mad at him for taking all of Craig Mack's little shine, and I didn't (still don't) like the fact that he had no advanced conversation; it was all "money, clothes and hoes." Once I really listened, though, I had to step back and recognize. Biggie was the truth. I don't know if he's in my all-time top 5, but if he's not, he's close.


Missing the boat

It's all coming into such clear focus now. I've long believed that some brothers and sisters can't see past the rhetoric to recognize whats really going on. Now I have proof. If you go to some sites "of interest to the Af Am. community," they're quick to dismiss Dr. Condoleeza Rice as a lackey for the Bush administration who has no interest in the betterment of the Black community. WRONG! First, look at Crispus' post, Condi's Secret Agenda. Then consider this, which I got from espn.com: When Condoleeza Rice was at Stanford, she was instrumental in the hiring of two of the most successful Black Division 1A college football coaches ever, Dennis Green and Tyrone Willingham. Seems to me that if there were more Condoleeza Rices around, all those silly lawsuits trying to get Black folks hired as pro coaches would be unnecessary. Read the article to look at her overall talent assessment of some big-name coaches who interviewed at Stanford when she was on the panel, but this just goes to show that giving a brother a chance doesn't have to mean sacrificing quality. I will say that I'd rather see Dr. Rice running for President in 2008 than running the NFL, although either would be nice. (Picture Hillary's name even coming up in a discussion about running the League.)

Hip Hop Generation Gap

Once upon a time not long ago When people wore adidas and lived life slow When laws were stern and justice stood And people were behaving like hip-hop was good… -Mos Def, Children's Story Hip-Hop ain't what it used to be. That's a funny thing to say, considering that rap as a recorded genre hasn't even existed for 30 years. Putting it into a larger perspective, rock music between '55 and '85 changed dramatically too, so it's not like change is endemic to rap or hip-hop. Still, even though it's the same genre, what these kids today are growing up with is very different than the hip-hop I grew up loving. I think there are a few crucial elements that typify the change, although they're not necessarily as distinct as I make them here. First, there's the money. I'm not thrilled with the materialistic tangent that much hip-hop has taken, but that's not even my main concern. Brand-dropping has always been a part of hip-hop, although it's become an entirely different monster with the high-ticket items being mentioned. It was one thing when Run-DMC sang My Adidas, or when Chuck D rapped about his Oldsmobile 98 on You're Gonna Get Yours. Those were affordable. Now we've gone from 98 Oldsmobiles to Bentleys. And again, I'm not thrilled with this change, but this is not the problem. It's not the consumerism; it's the money the rappers actually "get." (If you know anything about the way recording artists are paid, you know why I put that in quotation marks.) It used to be understood that a rap record would go gold (500k units) if only Black people bought the album. Everything after gold was the result of other consumers getting in on the action. As a result, gold was the standard. The first platinum rap act was the Beastie Boys. That was '86. Nobody was all pressed to go platinum then. Even as of the early 90's, when Hammer moved many, many units, gold was still looked at as a measure of authenticity. In order for somebody to go platinum, they had to sell out. Now, Public Enemy was going platinum all through there, but the terms 'PE' and 'sellout' are mutually exclusive. Ironically, PE's engagement of the non-Black audience set the stage for what would follow. Much has been written about how for many people, the teen years represent the opportunity to rebel against the values and expectations of the preceding generation. A white teenager can't get too much more rebellious than pro-Black. Until… The next major, major rap album was NWA's Straight Outta Compton, which started the commercial rise of 'gangsta' rap. At this point, rap records were doing a million, maybe 2 if it was really popular. Interestingly, as NWA's sales rose, PE's sales started to show a gradual decline. If the idea about everything after gold being non-Black, then this makes sense. While pro-Black radical politics are certainly counter-cultural for the average white teenager, it's not necessarily all that much fun. NWA offered some minor social critiques (when Ice Cube was there, at least) but for the most part, it was just saying stuff for the sake of saying it. To use cussing as an example, people had cussed on records before Straight Outta Compton. People have been cussing on records for a long, long time. Funkadelic's "Get Off Your Ass and Jam" was recorded when Cube was still wearing Osh-Kosh B'gosh. Even in rap records before SOC, there was cussing, albeit one word at a time, dropped judiciously. In the late 80's, they still beeped them out. (Think BDP's "My Philosophy") When NWA came on the scene, they cussed because they could. I remember the first time I heard "A Bitch Iz A Bitch," I was stunned. I had heard people cuss a lot at school (mostly myself), but never on a record. I think, then, that NWA offered the listeners who wanted a chance to dip off into another culture for a while a much easier alternative than PE. Whereas being down with PE required thinking and some kind of political consciousness, being down with NWA was all about shock value. Even at that, SOC comes across as mild today. To me, Straight Outta Compton is like "Rocky" where Efil4ziggan is "Rocky II." That is, the fight scene in Rocky was a slightly exaggerated representation of a real heavyweight fight. Even when Apollo was jabbing Rocky back to 3rd grade, the action was relatively slow, as one would expect to see with heavyweights. In Rocky II, the action was ratcheted up to an unbelievable pace. It's more fun to watch, but that's just beyond the physical capabilities for a real heavyweight fight. Likewise, SOC was real. The violence consisted primarily of threats against over-aggressive police officers and butt-kickings. The guys even got dissed by girls because they were six-deep in a car, trying to holler. Every dude knows about that. But then, when Niggaz comes out, somebody dies on just about every record. And you know what? Niggas moved more units than SOC. If somebody wants a visceral vicarious experience, then why stop at a beat-down? After Niggas came The Chronic, which kicked open the doors of possibility for sales on rap units. I forget the actual numbers, but I know Dr. Dre outsold Sting (who's 10 Summoner's Tales is a very good album) and several other mainstream artists. The marketability of gangsta rap meant two things: a) rap albums could sell a whooole lotta copies, and b) "keeping it real" became the predominant paradigm. Now, "reality" has long been a critical element of the hip-hop aesthetic. As far back as The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, it was important to tell the story from "our" side. However, for most of the time, it wasn't all about reality, it was about Skills. It wasn't just about the story, but how you told it-- could you flip a phrase? What kind of rhyme patterns could you create? Could you flow or was your delivery swift? Any good punch lines? Certain things, like biting (taking ideas, styles, or rhymes, aka plagiarism) were not permissible. With the onset of gangsta rap, however, "reality" became as important as Skills, and would gradually become more. I put reality in quotes because the reality many of the rappers describe is the same reality that Hollywood puts forth: the solution to every problem is sex, drugs, money, violence, or some combination of the four. That formula had been generating movie revenue for a long time, and then it started to take over hip-hop. As the sales increased, so did the artists' status in mainstream media. Back when Skills was the most important thing, hardly anybody who didn't listen to rap knew anything about it. If you weren't into hip-hop, you wouldn't have known who in the world Rakim was or how to say his name. With the onset of "reality" rap, the media started to get involved, always in a negative sense. When NWA dropped Fuck Tha Police, the FBI started to keep tabs on them. Later was Body Count's Cop Killer. (And before I say another word, anybody who counts this among rap records, even John McWhorter, whom I like, is either crazy, or so ideologically focused that they're unwilling to differentiate between genres. It's not a rap record just because Ice-T made it. When Garth Brooks took on the pseudonym Chris….whateverhisnamewas, that didn't make it a country record. Amazing Grace wasn't an R & B record, even though that was Aretha's primary genre, so just stop it. Cop Killer is a rock record, speed metal (I think) at that. Whatever it is, it's not rap!) Then, just as Doggystyle dropped, Snoop got charged with murder, making the cover of Newsweek. With one of his songs being entitled "Murder Was the Case," the press had a field day. While the attention may have had a negative tone, there's a saying that no publicity is bad publicity. Particularly when the whole image is based on being a gangsta. That just proves how "real" he is. Of course, this just pushed the sales figures higher. And so with the influx of cash, record companies sought to capitalize on the trend, which glutted the market with gangsta rap. I think that The Chronic, or maybe Doggystyle represented the end of the first generation (second generation, if you go back to the days of Melle Mel and Kool Moe Dee). After that came Biggie and Tupac. Now, Biggie was a throwback. He would have done well at any time because he could flat-out write. He was like Ice Cube in that sense. I don't think it's a stretch to imagine Biggie at 30 or so starting to write movies. His visuals and attention to detail were clear like that. He had magnificent storytelling prowess. Tupac, on the other hand, benefited from being where he was when he was. Tupac came to personify that gangsta lifestyle and "keeping it real" as his life began become indistinguishable from his songs. Only thing was, his skills weren't there. Don't get me wrong, Tupac was nice, but he wasn't like that. His popularity was a combination of media attention, persona, and looks. Put it like this—do you think 'Pac would have as many fans if he looked like Biggie? I don't. Biggie had skills. 'Pac had personality and attention. To put it another way, nobody was talking about Tupac being the greatest rapper of all time when he was alive. He wasn't even top 10. Once Biggie and 2Pac came on the scene, the Skills paradigm was relegated to the Underground. Mainstream artists were all about the aforementioned Hollywood values, and it became a vicious circle. Gangsta rappers (or hustlers, if they're from the East Coast) were the ones making money, so that's what the record companies signed, which is what got most media attention, which makes more money. Now, almost all rappers present some element of a gangsta or hustler image, even if that's not what they're primarily about. Remember Nas started calling himself Nas Escobar? Jay-Z's whole rap persona is based on his days as a hustler. (Eazy-E started Ruthless Records the same way, but you didn't hear him talking about that all the time.) Now, all this time, there has been and there will always be an element of hip-hop that is entirely unconcerned with the commercial aspects. That is, they want to sell records, of course, but they are more interested in putting out quality, thought-provoking content. The difference between now and before is that there's so much money to be made and the money is concentrated in so few hands that there's almost no chance for the "conscious" hip-hoppers to get any attention. From a record company's perspective, it's all about the bottom line. If Mos Def went double-platinum, he'd be on the radio 50 times a day and the record companies would be trying to find carbon copies. Instead, because dudes like Li'l John are moving units with that foolishness they put out, they get all the radio play and attention. Making matters worse is the fact that radio stations play the same songs over and over and over until the listener starts to think the song is good, even when he knows it's wack. Even more bothersome to me than the historical elements of hip-hop's decline is the fact that young kids today don't know nothin' and don't wanna know nothin'. I know kids that don't even know who Rakim is and swear up and down that Tupac was the greatest MC ever. Maybe I'm getting old, but it used to be better than this. Still, there's hope on the horizon. With cats like Kanye West, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, there's always the chance that people with something to say might start moving units. Here's to hope.



For my own enrichment & edification, I think I may start putting some of this fiction I write on here. Maybe we'll start with a piece of a piece and see how that goes. Not gon' do it just now, though. Let finals pass, and let me get back to Illadelph for a week to kick it...or not. Don't know if I'm gonna post it here or put it on the other website and link to it. We'll see.

Whas'nEVER I Play, It's Got To Be FUNKY!

  • Night Time Is The Right Time - Ray Charles
  • The World Is Yours - Nas
  • Gotta Learn How To Dance - Fatback Band
  • Stakes Is High (remix)- De La Soul, ft. Mos Def & Truth Enola
  • Little Green Apples - Stanley Turrentine
  • Chameleon - Herbie Hancock
  • I Got To Have It - Ed OG and Da Bulldogs
  • Synthetic Substitution - Melvin Bliss
  • Whiskey Drinkin' Woman - Willie Dixon
  • Little Red Rooster - Sam Cooke

White Privilege

A couple months ago, Parableman did a series of posts on race relations. In his post on Normative Whiteness, he briefly touched on the concept that some people refer to as white privilege. While perusing the net today, I came across this article at the Enemy Board. What's most interesting to me here is the list of things the author, Peggy McIntosh, associates with white privilege. Now I'm not necessarily questioning whether white privilege exists. I'll just say that it probably does and leave it at that. If there's any case to be made against it, then this list, ironically, helps to prove it.
. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. 2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me. 3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live. 4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me. 5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed. 6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented. 7. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is. 8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race. 9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege. 10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race. 11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person's voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race. 12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair. 13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability. 14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them. 15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 16. I can be pretty sure that my children's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes toward their race. 17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color. 18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race. 19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial. 20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race. 21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group. 22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion. 23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider. 24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my race. 25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race. 26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children's magazines featuring people of my race. 27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared. 28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine. 29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me. 30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have. 31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices. 32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races. 33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race. 34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking. 35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race. 36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones. 37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally. 38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do. 39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race. 40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen. 41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me. 42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race. 43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem. 44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race. 45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race. 46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin. 47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us. 48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household. 49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership. 50. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.
Now this comes from an unedited version of McIntosh's article, White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack. I notice that the posting at the EB had cut down on the list. It seems to be fairly exhaustive, but the overwhelming majority of the items here can be done by anybody. Even if certain experiences don't go well, it's not necessarily about race. They may just not like you. None of which is to say that racism doesn't exist. It most certainly does, and I think that anybody who doesn't know is ignorant by choice. However I think that the words "racist" and "racism" have been tossed around so much and so liberally (no pun intended, but I knew it was there) that they have no currency. When I get around to it, i'll handle that more extensively. (One time, my mom gave me a circle of paper with the word "Tuit" written across it. She was like, "There. Now you have a round tuit.")


One Step Closer to "Done Seen Everything"

The Chicago Sun-Times' Mary Mitchell writes about something that's just baffling to me. There are parents who are actually out there attacking kids who aren't their own. As everybody knows, back in the day a friend's parents had the right to lay it on you, if they caught you messing up too, but this ain't that. One of the examples she cites is that of a boy who lost a fight on day 1. On day 2, Butt-Kicked comes back to school with his parents. When Nice with His Hands comes in, Butt-Kicked jumps on him. Then Butt-Kicked's Mom jumps in while the pop watches. Now that's just crazy. Here are some problems I have with this-- and these are some initial reactions: 1. What was the teacher doing during all this? Could be that the pop was holding the teacher back, but that's problematic in either case 2. Are they intentionally raising a punk? Is his mom gonna come around when he gets his butt kicked in high school, when the boys are bigger than her? 3. How immature is the mom, that she has to physically accost a 13-year old? 4. Is Nice With His Hands' mom gonna look for Butt-Kicked's mom? If she does, is it a lock that NWHH's mom will beat BK's mom? 5. How old are these parents? I'm thinking that many parenting difficulties arise because of the chronological proximity of parent to child. I believe that this manifests itself in a variety of forms, but it's very visible at school. Young parents are less likely to do well in school, and therefore less likely to hold education in high esteem. (I recognize the chicken-egg conundrum there) Not valuing education themselves, the probably don't stress the importance of education to their own children, who make fools of themselves and make learning difficult for other students. Same thing goes for actual content. If the mama can't multiply and don't care that she can't, it's likely that the baby ain't gon' be able to multiply either. 6. Paternal involvement means nothing if he's a jackass.

Things Done Changed

They're reopening the Emmett Till Murder Case. In times past, I probably would have been really excited about this, but at this point, I'm not sure what there is to be gained. I don't know that there's a political motive at work, but the timing seems to be awfully convenient. I would imagine that Black folks are supposed to be happy that an attempt is being made to right a monumental historic wrong, but I think we've got bigger fish to fry. Nowadays, it's not some renegade rednecks Emmett would have to look out for (or maybe he just wouldn't have to be as concerned), it's those cats in the 'hood. Like Biggie said, things done changed.

New Look

This is an accident. I wasn't really meaning to change the template, I just wanted to see what another one would look like. After all that, though, I don't think it's all that bad. I'm just trying to make sure everything that's supposed to be here is here. At any rate, this is finals week, so I may or may not have too much going on. If I do get some writing done, here are some potential topics: - The offense of the gospel - New Paradigm, pt 2 - hip-hop generation gap - misogyny in hip-hop (I keep putting it off, but I need to do it.)


I'll Always Love My Mama

I was thinking about writing this elegy to my mother, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Between these two pictures our relationship, past and present, is basically summed up.


Not Quite What I Had Planned

I was initially planning to try to put the last show of Friends into some sort of sitcom context. I don't think Friends was all that great of a show; it had its moments. More than anything, I think it was sort of a Paris Hilton of a show—it was famous for being famous. I can't front, there were some episodes that I thought were pretty funny, but aside from that, it was solid. If Friends were a player on Madden, I would put it somewhere in the 80-85 range. Frasier, I think, is a much better show. Neither of them can fade Cheers, which is the original Thursday night, 9 o'clock, no-Black characters show on NBC. While I was writing that piece, "Assembly Line" by the Commodores came on. The song itself is interesting. Its basic premise is that we are "manufactured" to be the way we are; that society has roles for us and we fit into them without much evaluation of the validity of those roles. There's something for me to talk about in there, but this is not the time for that. What got me about "Assembly Line" yesterday, and every time I've ever heard it, was the drum break at 4:10. (It's the drum sample used by NWA's "Straight Outta Compton.") That piece is ferocious. The drum beat is sickening. Boom Boom BAP bap (bap) Boom BAP, onomatopoetically speaking. But then, throughout the second half of the song, the band is in the background yelling Hut – 2-3-4. During the drum solo, they only say HUT! (on the one, of course.) That joint is hot. So, while I'm thinking about it, here are some of the hottest drum solos I know…or that I have on my laptop, at least. Maybe when I get back from visiting my mom, I'll have a chance to sit down at the desktop and see if there are some records I missed. But anyway… Hot Drum Solos (In the order I think of them) -(with the time that the drum solo appears in parentheses) [Prominent sampling song in brackets.] I guess I should note, while many of these breaks have been sampled, at least one of them has not. The sampling of a beat has no impact on whether I think it's hot or not. Sometimes a beat is good for the song it's in, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's funky all by itself. On the other hand, some solos, even though they're not particularly suitable for sampling, are just funkified. • Assembly Line – The Commodores (4:09) Just talked about this one. [Straight Outta Compton, NWA] • Funky Drummer – James Brown (5:22) – This is the one. There were drum breaks on records before this, but to my mind, if you can't feel this one, you just ain't got no soul. Clyde Stubblefield killed it. And the craziest part about it is that it's not a wild show-me-everything-you-got solo. In fact, right before the break, James goes, "You don't hafta do no soloin' brother, just keep wha'chu got. Don't turn it loose, cuz it's a mutha." And it is. It's THE Mother. (By the way, one of these days, I will get to part 2 of that James Brown joint.) [Too many songs to mention] • James Brown – Cold Sweat (4:21) - Most notable because the phrase "Give the drummer some" originated here. • James Brown – Cold Sweat (live in Dallas) (5:57) Two drummers killing it, mixing the drums from "Cold Sweat" and "Tighten It Up," with one of the most sickening dismounts ever. Un-believable. In-credible. Mag-nificent. • Kool & The Gang – Give It Up (1:37) Brutal. [Check the Technique- Gangstarr] • Ohio Players – Never Had a Dream Come True (4:36) [some other record] • Bill Withers – When I'm Kissing My Love (0:01) [Hola Hovito]

Prescription Drugs

The prescription drug industry is a racket. I thought that was the case before, but now that I actually need prescription medicine, I know it for sure. I'm diabetic. I take insulin. On my way up to Philly to see my mom, I guess I dropped my insulin pen, maybe on the Metro, maybe on Amtrak. I don't know. What I do know is that when I got here, I didn't have it. So to use the junkie term, I'm ass out. Fortunately, I had a prescription in my pocket. Only thing is, my doctor in MD wrote the 'scrip for vials of insulin, instead of the form I take, which is the pen. Well fool me, I figured I might be able to just tell the people in the pharmacy I wanted it in the pen and that would be cool. No go. So I tried calling the doctor. Closed on Fridays. (what?!) "If this is a medical emergency—call 911." What?! Okay, so I went to a hospital, thinking that one of the doctors in the endocrinology department might be able to take my vial prescription and switch me out for the pen. No haps. They're like, since none of the doctors sees me, they couldn't document a reason for writing me a prescription. Now I'm at my old doctor, hoping I can get some help from here. Now, of course it's on me that I didn't keep up with my pen like I should have, but somehow it seems to me that certain medications are overregulated. Insulin is not addictive, it doesn’t have any euphoric effects, nothing. What's more, it's not an optional medication. I need that stuff, as does anybody else who takes it. My beef with the insurance companies is on two levels: first, when the medication is life-sustaining, why do people have to get new prescriptions? Diabetes doesn't just go away, and if a person needs less, they'll let their doctor know. I've heard that some people may abuse it, but I don’t see how. I don't know what benefit a non-diabetic can get from it. But second, I don't think there's really any incentive for the insurance companies to develop a cure to diabetes. This type of thinking is atypically cynical for me, but I'm fairly convinced. There's much more money to be made by having people continuously on insulin than by creating something that would get the pancreas working again.


Just Wondering

Watching Rocky IV for the Nth time (150th? 200th?) looking at the scene before Apollo fights Drago and the question just came to me: what would a relationship between Adrian and Apollo have been like? Because on the one hand, there's Adrian, who's all low-key and quiet, where Apollo is all outgoing and mouthy. I think it would be interesting. And that's before you include any racial elements. Part of the dynamic between Adrian and Rocky was the fact that neither of them had anything. Like Rocky explained to Paulie, they each had gaps. Rocky's main gap was his lack of intelligence. That was certainly not Apollo's problem. He was by far the smartest man in all the movies in which he appeared. In saying that, I'm not sure what would have held them together, but I think it would be interesting to see how those two would bounce off each other.

Maybe It's Time for a New Paradigm, pt.1

LaShawn beat me to the punch, writing about this yesterday. She provides a very nuanced discussion of the case and questions the basis on which it was decided, while not necessarily questioning its outcome. I definitely recommend that you check it out, but before you go, relax your brain so you can really take in what she's saying before you start trying to formulate an opinion. This month is the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed., the case that rendered state-mandated segregation illegal in schools, and by extension just about everywhere else. It was, and still is a landmark decision. At the time it was handed down, separate was necessarily unequal; not just on the basis of outcome, but by intent. In some other places, it was the same story, but there was no overt attempt to make it so; no publicly known overt attempt, at least. Fast forward to 2004, and a lot of writers are commemorating the anniversary. Some stories are about the first Black student to desegrate such-and-such school; I'm sure there will be some stories about Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock 9. Then some other stories look at schools as they are currently and say that they are more segregated now than they were when there was legal segregation. I can't say that I've been reading all the articles, but looking at the titles and the blurbs, I know the general direction they're headed. My problem is this: why is segregation necessarily a bad thing? More often than not, integration is used as a proxy for Black folks having access to quality schools. I know that. And I know that some of the worst schools tend to be concentrated in urban areas, where they service poorer students (in whatever sense of poorer you want to use). Because of that, I suppose integration is an adequate variable to capture those elements. But is integration really an adequate measure of school quality? This is not 1954, 64, or even '74. Before Brown and for some time after, Black folks had no access to political power. Nowadays, we may still be in bad schools, but it's not just because "they" are holding us down. We have plenty of political representation and enough Black folks sit in positions of authority, particularly on the local level, where school politics are really handled, that there's no extra-scholastic reason for the schools to be where they are. Brown was about removing those obstacles that came from without. Now the trouble is from within. I think that in looking at school performance through a racial lens, we miss a whole lot. For one thing, even though I tend to cast a skeptical eye on people who like to talk about how "good" things were before integration, it's inarguable that many Black institutions were much stronger. Black schools frequently did not have all the same material advantages that other schools had, but they had teachers who cared and expected the best from each student. That makes a lot of difference, as does having parents for whom education is of penultimate importance, right behind having a right relationship with God. I'll be the first one to say that the degree of cohesiveness the Black community lost post-integration is significant, but that the increase in political access and power made it worthwhile. (Whether what we're doing with that access and power makes it worthwhile, however, is debatable.) The problem with using integration as a performance indicator is that we're too dispersed for that. Black folks are everywhere. I probably shouldn't be, but when I meet brothers and sisters from places like Kansas or Oklahoma, I'm really impressed. (Still haven't met any Blacks from Idaho, though.) Not only are we dispersed on a national level, were dispersed on a regional level. Even though there may not necessarily be high percentages, there are Black folks in just about every suburb of every major city in the country. There are, in fact, some suburbs with Black majorities. (gasp!) Moreover, physical integration means nothing except that people from different "racial" groups live next to each other. (I put racial in quotes because even though everybody knows what the term means, I think that race as a concept is the color of water—it looks like whatever surrounds it.) It represents a greater opportunity for people of different groups to get together, but that certainly doesn't mean that they will, for any number of reasons. I think that integration is nice, but it's not necessary. People like to be near people with whom they have something in common. Sometimes it's intellectual, sometimes it's athletic, sometimes it's linguistic, sometimes it's racial. I mean, believe it or not, there are some Black people who, having the ability to live anywhere they want, choose to live with other Black folks. That might be a radical thought for some people, but it's true. The same holds true for white folks, although there is a slight difference, because Black folks have never self-segregated in order to withhold power to other groups, as was sometimes the case with white folks. Even bearing that in mind, I don't think the emphasis on integration is valid. Back to schools, I don’t think there's any question that many of the raisin-in-yogurt (where a Black kid looks like a raisin in a cup of yogurt) schools have excellent programs and test scores and goodies like that, but the question shouldn't be "how can we take the kids out there?" The question should be "how can we make the inner-city schools like those?" In this case, I think that race provides a superficial means of looking at a much more serious and complex issue. I mean, if parents thought their kids could get good educations at schools in the city, a healthy percentage of them would probably stay there, reducing the degree of segregation. Lots of people talk about "white flight," when white families began to head to the suburbs as schools began to integrate, but I don't know if that's quite what's going happening now. Quiet is kept, there's been a lot of Black flight too. So what does that mean? It means that, for one thing, schools in cities tend to be bad. Next time (assuming I ever get back to this) we'll see if this tactic of playing it like it's still the 60's is applicable to any other situation (you know it is) and maybe what some appropriate remedies might be.


It's That Y Chromosome

Line of the day: "Young girls thick, righteousness is narrow" - Common Not to sound politically incorrect or whatever, but I don't see how gay guys can do it. Man, women are amazing! I've been just sitting around different places on campus writing, and it's like, every time I lift my eyes from the screen, I'm just like...wow. How them dudes can look around all these gorgeous women and think that being with some ole ashy-kneed dude is where it's at...no matter what calculator I use, that just don't add up. I'm the first one looking at bodies and everything, but it's really amazing to think about the diversity there is within the human body. Pick a part. No two are alike -- and that's just on the same person. It's like, they're all alike, but they're not the same. Just looking at that makes you think about how infinite God's intelligence is. Not only are there unlimited variations on the appearance of body parts, there are also unlimited variations of opinion on what's good. There's something for everybody-- on purpose. Wow.


Hope Not

Somehow I doubt she is, but I hope she ain't Black.

Basketball Jones

I used to love this time of year. The weather gets warm, women start dressing better, the semester's almost over, and the NBA playoffs are in full swing. Only, for the past couple years, I haven't enjoyed the playoffs as much…as in at all. The biggest problem I have is with the Disney corporation's presentation of the games. I know ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports and all that, but they don't know what to do with the League. Right after NBC lost the contract, one of the first questions my friends and I had was whether ABC would keep the John Tesh theme that NBC used. As soon as I found out that the answer was no, I knew it would be corny. And I was right. The opening music stinks and the production sucks. I don't even care anymore. The quality of the basketball is not so hot either, but even then, I would at least care that a game was coming on. Now, it's just like…I'd almost rather wash dishes than watch a game on ABC. The irony is that ABC has the best football package. Maybe it's all about the theme for me. One of the last things I told my kids when I taught was that Kobe Bryant would average a triple-double wthin five years. The kids used to try on a daily basis to convince me that Allen Iverson was better than Kobe. I told them they were crazy then, and I hope they have seen the error of their ways since. I used to think that if AI had Kobe's size AI would be better, but I’m not so sure any more. They're both terminally hardheaded, although I think Kobe is marginally more coachable than Iverson. (Then again, that ain't hard to be.) Three years later, I'm pretty sure that there's no shot of Kobe averaging anywhere close to double digits in assists. I mean, with Shaq in the post, it's hard to imagine a player of Kobe's caliber not getting 10+ assists at least once a week. He's never fully developed that unselfish aspect of his game, though. He occasionally shows flashes, but more often than not, it's all about number 8. This is me lamenting, because I've gone almost completely circular on Kobe. When he first came into the league, I was a Hater. Capital H. I didn't like it that he came straight out of high school, and I sure didn't like it that he forced the Hornets to trade him to the Lakers. I thought he was overrated and purely egotistical. I crowed at those early playoff failures, when he airballed the Lakers home in Utah. But even that was nothing compared to the animus I felt for him when the Lakers traded Eddie Jones principally because Kobe had to start at the 2. Oooh I hated him. When the Lakers went out again, I was satisfied once more. But in the meanwhile, I saw something that made me respect him, even if I didn't like him: he dunked on Dream. I remember that play clearly. The Lakers were in the playoffs against Houston, maybe the first round or something, and Kobe did a tip dunk right on Hakeem Olajuwon's head. At that point, I started to be like, "he's a punk, but he got game." Then came the 2000 conference finals. It was the Knicks v. Pacers and the Lakers v. Blazers. (I remember a friend and I were joking that the League wanted NY v. LA but they were going to get the Used Car finals.) Of course, the Lakers stole game 7 and went to the finals, and then in one of the even-numbered games, I'm pretty sure it was game 4, Shaq fouled out and Kobe just took over the game. At that point, he started winning me over and I considered myself a fan. (Even though I did crack up when the Lakers played the Knicks late in the season and Chris Childs stole on Kobe. Even funnier was Butterscotch's reaction. She was like, "He's a HATER!" I fell out.) At that point, and with every ridiculous basket, with every head-slapping assist, with every make-you-stand-up-and-do-a-dance dunk on somebody's head, I started to think that Phil Jackson might've gotten Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen rolled into one. Ability-wise, I think Kobe still has that potential, only in the key element of the ability to make his teammates better, he's more Pippen than Jordan. (And with this case and assorted other off-court distractions, he's Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman rolled into one.)


Gettin' In The Way Again.

Politics, man! Everything's political. Now there are people out there claiming that the emphasis on reducing obesity is an atempt to create an out-group among Black and Hispanic women because they tend to have higher BMIs than women from other groups. Come on, now! This is just what I was talking about last week. Can cutting the percentage of obesity be about health? Does it always have to be about somebody trying to keep somebody down?

Keepin' it Real

Butterscotch wrecked my head last weekend. We were having dinner at the mall, chewin' the fat, both figuratively and literally, when she jumped out the cake and asked me if I was on the DL. I gave her the "are you crazy" look and asked her if she was crazy, just to make sure she didn't misinterpret the look. I'm not gay, I don't commit homosexual acts, and I don't have tendencies. Still, there are probably a lot of sisters out there who wish they had asked their man about that. Given the amount of media attention that this phenomenon of brothers "on the down-low" is receiving, I guess I shouldn't be altogether surprised that she asked me. If it comes on Oprah, I'm liable to hear about it sooner or later. Two points at the outset to frame my thoughts. First, I'm not homophobic. I'm not scared of gay dudes, I don't think it makes me gay to associate with them, and I don't worry that they're gonna try to "convert" me. To quote Jigga, I'm "straight as Indian hair," so there ain't no guy whose rap is so strong that it could make me question myself. With that in mind, I learned a lot from my wrestling "old man," who greeted the gay dudes he knew with the same pound and bearhug that he greeted the rest of his friends with. When I asked him about it, he told me about some guys he knew in college who were always talking about gays and acting all disgusted and everything, but then one night he saw them in a car gettin' it on with other dudes. Kinda like the boyfriend's dad on "American Beauty." Interestingly, Coach doesn't think of gay dudes as men, but he is adamant about recognizing their personhood. That's what I think. No matter what else they've got going on, they're still just people and should be treated as such. I might even use the term "rump wranglers" or somethin' like that, but when it comes down to it, if I see the flamingest dude I know on the street, I'll shout him out just like I would do anybody else. Second, just because I accept the fact that some people I know are gay doesn't mean I think it's a legitimate lifestyle. Like I said before, I have yet to see enough quality evidence to convince me that homosexuality is genetic. I haven't seen enough quality evidence to convince me that it can't be genetic, either. The case for the "nature" origin is inconclusive and the "nurture" argument seems specious as well. I've seen authors who claim that most homosexuals have some type of abuse in their backgrounds, as well as incomplete formation of their male identities. I haven't looked at the data so I can't speak on the validity of those studies, but the findings seem awfully convenient given the worldview and political orientation of the authors who quote them. I said all that to say that there's just not enough pure evidence to support either claim. Basically, then, I think there may be a genetic component; a predisposition if you will, towards the gay lifestyle, but I think that a person actively chooses whether or not to engage in that behavior, the same as anybody else. Since I believe that homosexuality is by choice and is not entirely genetically predetermined, my beliefs on the legitimacy of that lifestyle are based on the Bible. And yeah, the Bible has been used as justification for the abuse and subjugation of many groups of people throughout history, but the fact that people have misused the Bible in the past doesn’t negate its authority. Now. This whole situation about brothers on the "DL" stinks, and not just because Butterscotch actually fixed her lips to ask me something crazy like that. First of all, it's a problem because you got jokers out there playing semantics—and losing. There's brothers out there having sex with dudes on a regular basis, yet they don't consider themselves to be gay. What? This ain't art. The fact that a person draws doesn't necessarily make him an artist, but engaging in homosexual activity does make you a homosexual. These aren't dudes getting raped, these are dudes who seek out gay encounters. If a man looks for a chance to lay down with another man, he's gay. Period. I'm a firm believer in recognizing subtleties and nuance, but sometimes it's just a question of "is you is or is you ain't." A man getting with a man, whether pitching or catching, is gay. No questions. In some of the commentary I have seen on this topic, I see a lot of talk about how difficult it is for a Black man to come "out" because the Black community does not accept gay men. This plays out in the man's inability to accept his own sexuality; he's obviously gay because he's sleeping with men but he refuses to identify himself as such because he doesn’t think he fits in with the stereotypes about what a gay man is or does. I guess that dude figures that if he wouldn’t fit in on "Will & Grace" or "Queer Eye" he's not really gay. Moreover, I think that for some of these guys, there's this idea that if they don’t want to have a relationship with the other man, they're not really gay. Like it's okay to engage in sexual acts with another man (the definition of homosexual) just as long as it's just to get some booty and not engage in some type of relationship. Not to mention that the question of manhood. The DL dude still thinks of himself as a man when he knows that there are lots of people who, like my head coach, would not regard him as such. My biggest problem with these characters is not that they're confused, it's that they're totally not confused, they're just being deceptive. Some of the gay dudes I know swear up and down they were born gay and that they're powerless to change it. As a result, they think that any biblical injunction against homosexuality is actually just some men being repressive and fearful of something they don't understand. That's confused. They think the truth is a lie. These other cats, however, they don't even think they're gay. They don't think they were born that way, they don't think the larger power structure is out to keep them down, they don't question the heterosexual "hegemony," none of that. They just want to mess around with guys and keep their status in the regular community, too. Really, I guess it's just a natural extension of good ole American hedonism. (Because after all, like one attempt at justifying homosexuality I read suggested, if you're gonna go anal, you couldn't tell the difference blindfolded, anyway. I don't know about all that, but that's what they say. I guess one'a them DL cats could really substantiate that claim.) With homosexuality becoming less taboo, I guess I shouldn't be totally surprised. Looking at the breakdown in Romans 1:19-29, it's right in there as a result of people's apathy towards God. And if you look past the "men with men working that which is unseemly" part (and I hafta admit that I'm still surprised when I see people try to argue that that it's not talking about homosexuality right there), there's a lot more guilt and blame to pass around. However, right now today, I'm talkin' about them down-low so-called brothers. I guess the way I see it is, if a dude's gonna be gay, he should just go 'head and be gay. There's no reason for him to bring his woman in on the experience unless she knowingly and willingly decides to participate. At that point, it's all on her. Now, you'll notice I haven't said anything about it being right. Like I said earlier, I don't think it's right under any set of circumstances, but everybody doesn't share that compunction. I think that even the most pro-gay person out there would recommend that the male in question be up front with his lady. Second, and even more important, are all these dudes allergic to latex or something? This is one thing I've never quite figured out: if you got your lady on one hand, and then somebody else on the other hand (don't really matter which gender) wouldn't you want to make sure you didn't bring anything home? It's bad enough that they're doing it at all, but they're passing on AIDS to their women on top of it. That's bad news. But then, it shouldn't be surprising. The same group that has the highest rate of AIDS infection is at or near the top on pregnancy, too. Just demonstrates that the same people don't use condoms, no matter what their situation. Abstinence is the best policy, but somebody better figure out that it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. If you're gonna go out of the house, might as well protect yourself as best you can. It's ridiculous. Of course, the real solution would be for the dude to go to the Lord and ask for His help with the situation. Sometimes I'm amused by the "The Bible is a work of oppression" bunch, who like to try to juxtapose their belief that they were born gay with what's in the Bible, like genes trump the Bible. That's like saying that because I may have a genetic predisposition toward women, the biblical prohibitions against regular fornication shouldn't apply to me. Whether I would like them to or not, they do apply, so the question then reverts to it's rubber-meets-the-road essence: Wha'chu gon' do now? The fact that some people don't spend as much time speaking against straight fornication as they do harping on gays means nothing. I always refer back to that passage in Romans and ask, "Are you on the list?" Everybody's on there, some genetically, some purely as a matter of will, and some as a combination. What that means is, really, we're all Eve-n-Steven…or Adam-n-Steven, whatever the case may be. Nobody gets off free.