lundi, juillet 31, 2006

Paul Revere

Q: When your first novel, WHITE BOY SHUFFLE was published, critics said you were the literary parodic counterpart to hip-hop and stand-up comedy as practiced by Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy. What do you think about this comparison?

A: All literature is framed by the societal zeitgeist in which it is written. In some ways saying my work is the "literary parodic counterpart to hip-hop and stand-up comedy" is an insult The general knee-jerk critical reaction that all African-American art is linked to pop culture in ways that white American art rarely is. I think that the races and artistic forms (pop or not) are all linked, especially in this, the information age. So I don't deny the links to music and comedy, but decry the short-sightedness that these are the only, or most important links, they are not. Richard Pryor is a genius. Who I admire for his vulnerability, fearlessness and insight. Eddie Murphy is not funny.* Hip-hop is a genre and like any genre is sometimes good, sometimes bad. It does not influence in anyway how or why I write. If it is part of an character's world or an appropriate metaphor, then it's there. For instance Tuffy listens to rap, occasionally recites rap lyrics but claims he doesn't like it, and hates being mistaken for anyone of the slew of overweight rap artists. Spencer Throckmorton the black rabbi is fan of easy listening music. And his music, Harry Chapin, Bread America, Simon and Garfunkel sets the tone for the book at least as much as hip hop, if not more so. Of course most people don't care because that's not "black."
Cited above, an interview with Paul Beatty circa Tuff. Good stuff.

* LOL but I do not concur.

vendredi, juillet 28, 2006

the original document

dimanche, juillet 23, 2006

"Don't be afraid of your stuff."

Some sage advice from Dr. Forbes encore une fois

I was gonna make this a bare bones post. Just the vid and the quasi contextualizing statement but I am compelled to expound (sort of). I'm not really one to have people be in any part of my business and this is most certainly my greatest weakness. My hamartia. Anyway I just sidestepped an opportunity that I want. I mean really want. The door was open. I didn't even glance in its direction. And I found myself distracted in the moments after but I masked it to those around me because if there is anything that I am scared of it is appearing weak even though I am everything but infallible. I cry at the drop of a hat but hardly ever in public (except for movie theatres cause ain't no shame in that). It's wierd. At this moment I can't identify the reasons why. I only like to share my success and happiness everything else is out of bounds. So I sit with it by myself. Bogged down it. Repulsed by it but too self aware to show any signs of this turmoil on the anything goes visage.
I walked by that door and never even glanced at what lied beyond. Not 'like I didn't care';I DIDN'T CARE and this persistent indifference has been the death of me at least that which exists outside of the analytical jokey part of me. I'm thinking back to advice from dear ones from high school, college...and I think that's when it stopped cause folk probably figured I wasn't ever gonna change. I saw 16 Blocks a few weeks ago. Cried especially hard. I would say why but I don't want to spoil the ending.
I am sincerely afraid that there won't be a open window up ahead. They say God only helps those who help themselves. Could God give up on me?

In retrospect: please excuse my flair for the dramatic but note, this is NOT an apology.

mercredi, juillet 19, 2006

“One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius” -Simone de Beauvoir

Y'all don't even know the half. Spelman College is a breeding ground for genius. Exhibit A: Moi. Exhibit B: L'Erin (in China right now) Exhibit C: Courtney. Exhibit D: Moya. The list goes on and on. If you got up orientation week in the twilight, sang the Spelman hymn 'til your vocal cords ached and declaimed your name in Sister's Chapel (or when it was being renovated: the Oval) you are evidence. Nathalie, Exhibit E, is running a tribute to Spelman women on her myspace page this week. And Ruha, Exhibit F, isn't mincing words on her blog. Witness.

Racism: A Local Bash

A good friend explained to me in a conversation we were having about his experience of being both voraciously desired & painfully cast aside, that yeah, its cool to be a Black man on Saturday night. This makes me think that the coolness of blackness distracts us from the rising temperature of Black Life...for the vast majority.

I am daily reminded of the conflicting tendencies in US culture whereby Black people are at once devoured and spitOut. If you are unclear, watch a commercial or two then immediately turn to your local news. In the first, its highly likely that the background ditty will be vocals, rap or sung, by some very hip Black Act. In the second, a chorus, the suspect is thought to be a Black man, is very likely the refrain.

Locally policed and virtually released. Our voice is the soundtrack for the bash, at which we are the mainCourse. Devoured and spitOut. This bulemic practice is the reason why I imagine some Black folks get soo irrrked when people who are not Black, munch on morsels of Black urban culture- speech, dress, hair, posture, etc. Ours is a confused reaction, however, since we are at once flattered, relieved, redempted, and pissed off, by this selective nibbling.

The very serious element about all this Black urban identification by beneton youth, the white urban chic, hip mulattos, and middle class folks of all stripes, is that cultural consumption has become the main entree... as if that could ever be the (main) course to racial justice and unity. While nibbling on style and clamouring about our common tastes, the backyard butchering of Black Life by the police state, poverty, and dis-ease goes unnoticed. "Hmm, hmm! That sho do smell gud shawty. Give me a slice of that ghetto chic, with a lil' hip hop on the side, pleeease."

Somehow, buying cds became an act of solidarity in support of Black Life. Somehow, inviting Black artists to perform at national celebrations (Stevie W at last nites DC 4th of July), makes up for an economic disenfranchisement that forces Black labor into low-end service work, yes-maaming the rest of us on these same holidays. Somehow, because the word bling is allowed into mainstream lingua, offensive social critique is supposed to shush up. "We've mastered your slang for goodness sake, what more could you want?" Somehow, because surburban school dances bump 50 Cent and Beyonce, we're not supposed to bring up the residential segregation that isolates Black city dwellers for the zoo-ish amusement of the rest of us. And somehow because interracial relationships are en vogue in some quarters, we think we've dealt adequately with the heart of the matter.

Especially now that commercial unity is all the rage, "eating the Other" becomes a delicious route to make believing our oneness.

Be wary, then, of anything served on a platter. When you get to the bash, check out whats cookin in the backyard. It'll probably make your stomach turn.

"Ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up a dull dish that is mainstream white culture." ~Eating The Other, bell hooks

mardi, juillet 18, 2006

Chicken & Beer*

I don't know too much more about the current strife in the mideast other than it's horrid. It's disheartening to hear of so much blood shed and so many families splintered, not to mention the widespread infrastructural damage. My pastor, the distinguished progressive Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes (who has got a new show on Air America), offered wise ecumenical commentary this past Sunday morning by applying "The Parable of the Weeds" to the most recent American invasion and occupation of Iraq & Israel's disproportionate assault on Hezbollah and, by extension, the Lebanese people (To listen to the sermon in its entirety click here.)
"The Parable of the Weeds", Matthew 13: 24-29

Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'" 'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "
He explains that there is good and evil in every thing so when we seek to forcefully weed out the bad we inevitably obliterate everything, good and bad.** In turn, when nation-states launch bombs and embark on offensives to weed out "terrorists" the innocent suffer as well. There is no either or (God bless the day we extricate ourselves from binary thinking.) This isn't to say that we as individuals or maybe even collectively as nation-states can't intervene when we encounter evil (defined by the current administration as contrary to the interests of a sliver of the moneyed elite) but certainly not through forceful means whether that be the uprooting of seeded earth or the attack and invasion of a sovereign land. I would recommend that you listen to the sermon. Dr. Forbes is much more gifted with the word than I. The WMA stream will only be up until next Sunday.

So at work today I listenened to podcasts of Democracy Now! from Friday and Monday. As expected, recent mideast conflict dominates both programs. While much remains with me from both programs, I had to stop and blog about one particular parallel made by The Nation's Chris Hedges in response to serious criticism of The Nation's editiorial on the Lebanon/Israel conflict (war) by fellow guest Dr. As’ad AbuKhalil of The Angry Arab News Service and visiting professor at UC Berkeley.

Hedges says,
"On the other hand, this has been a long process of severe repression in Gaza and the West Bank: a kind of Africanization of the Palestinian people reducing them to subsistence level. Gaza has become virtually a walled prison for 1.1 million Palestinians."
Wow. It's not only interesting that the point of reference for repression is Africa but how casually it's invoked. I'm not comfortable with this language at all. That's too much baggage to carry for a continent and in turn its diaspora not to mention it's shoddy, heavy, and doesn't belong to us.

*hyperbolic dissonance
** i'm very uncomfortable with these ideas, good and bad, and of course they are subjective. i know that a conditional asbolute (not oxymoronic) exists i just think few of us have access to it. i'm inclined to say good is Godly but then we are all of God although our actions suggest otherwise. in this instance i mean 'good' in terms of the opposite of real simple 'bads': murder, deceit, exploitation, etc.

dimanche, juillet 16, 2006

"Stephanie, please, sing my song!"

Of all the voices I heard growing up is among the best and Wingate Field is like Summerstage but better and black. It's honestly a different world at least from that chronicled by critics. They have got the best ambiance; Iquo spoke on that last week. Marty needs to go head and schedule Vesta for next summer.

Stephanie Mills
The Whispers
Melba Moore
Monday July 17, 2006, 7: 30 PM
Wingate Field

jeudi, juillet 13, 2006

"All you wonderful people out there in the dark."

This post is a mirror of one posted at f*cked up $hit.

Elvis Mitchell sat down with veteran screenwriter Wesley Strick for a recent episode of his KCRW radioshow The Treatment. They dicussed Strick's debut novel, Out There in the Dark, and in the course of the conversation they teased out the nature of Hollywood from the production and audience perspective and really spoke to the fraught American character.
I mean I think the mistake that everyone in the book makes is that they mistake the glittering images on the big screen for reality. Those images are more beguiling than real life. And just as Ronald Reagan ultimately conflated, and quite successfully, the roles he had played in Hollywood with his career to the point where I think most of the American public would assume that Reagan himself had been a war hero simply based on the fact that he made war pictures when he was here in Los Angeles during the forties. The fact is, and I discovered in researching the book, he never left Los Angeles. Not only did he not serve as an active member of the armed forces. He never left L.A. He didn't even go on a U.S.O. tour. He stayed in the boundaries of L.A. county for 4 years.

...Best of all having not even left L.A. during the war, he would talk in interviews after the war, "when I came back." He would say, "Jane and I had a hard time adjusting when I got back." Back from Culver City? Exactly what was he talking about. Back from Burbank?
Strick couldn't have better elucidated how the artifice of Hollywood and, by extension mass media entertainment, permeates and confuses identities and realities. It's not a game when activists protest, speak out, abstain from the consumption of Film, TV, Music, etc., or when organizations Boytcott networks that refuse to represent America in their programming. It's strategic, politically, and defensive, even a question of self-preservation, psychologically which leads me to this B.S.:
Jolie to play widow of journalist Daniel Pearl
Thu Jul 13, 2006 4:28 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Angelina Jolie will star in a movie as the widow of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, trade paper Daily Variety reported in its Thursday edition.

"A Mighty Heart," adapted from Mariane Pearl's memoir of the same name, will begin shooting within the next five weeks, the paper said. The book details Pearl's search for her husband, who was abducted and beheaded by militants in Pakistan in early 2002.

"I am delighted that Angelina Jolie will be playing my role in the adaptation of my book," Daily Variety quoted Pearl as saying. "I deeply admire her work and what she is committed to."

English filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, famed for such war-based films as "Welcome to Sarajevo" and "The Road to Guantanamo," will direct. Jolie's boyfriend, actor Brad Pitt, will serve as a producer of the project, which is set up at Paramount Vantage, the art-house arm of Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures.© Reuters 2006.
What better example of our (and by "our" I mean people of color) erasure from the big screen. I remembered seeing a picture of Ms. Pearl and recognized her to be a woman of color. I was a little aghast at her ecstatic reaction to Jolie's casting but figured she was undoubtedly flattered and honored that an actress with her box office draw would be playing her but after Googling her I can see why Pearl, according to the above report, is unconcerned that in a disturbing ahistoric turn a white woman is playing her colored behind.

With regards to ethnicity: her father was Dutch and her Cuban mother, Marita Van Neyenhoff's ethnicity is obliquely accounted for in this feature penned by Pearl for Glamour magazine,
"She grew up with a father who was a handsome mix of Cuban and Chinese, and who, one day, decided to stop talking altogether, although he wasn't mute. Her mother, meanwhile, was a hard-core gossiper who spent the entire day with rollers in her hair and loved nothing more than makeup, clothes and sexy jokes."
It is unlikely that Van Neyenhoff's father was the descendant of a mainland Chinese and a "Cuban". I suspect that he was the product of a Cuban of Chinese descent and a Cuban of African descent. Notice the decision to refer to race with regards to the non-Black lineage and nationality with regards to the Black lineage, a choice that obfuscates her own visibly dusky descendancy. I do not know if Pearl has discussed the Black part of her ethnic make-up and being that she is a French citizen with Latin American parentage it is understandable why she doesn't want to go there since both cultures, for decidedly unprogressive reasons, don't like to talk about Blackness. I honor the right of all people to honor and live in the fullness of their complex idenities but the diminishing of her Blackness is annoying if expected given enduring and virulent anti-Black racism. Maybe that is why she was so crunk upon having Angelina Jolie play her in an upcoming adaption of her memoir, A Mighty Heart. Wouldn't Thandi Newton be better suited? Salli Richardson, Carmen Ejogo, Michael Michele, or the host of talented bi-racial, black and Latina actresses of her complexion (and notably, in a number of the stated cases lighter with less kink in their hair) who can't get a job to save them from the black Church play circuit or a greasy Playboy spread? You think Eva Mendes would ever be cast as Nancy Reagan? What about Lucy Liu as Teresa Heinz-Kerry or Salli Richardson as Anna Wintour? Colorblind casting generally ensures people of color won't be in movies even to play characters of color. It scarcely works vice versa. Still if not for the few times a casting agent cast Don Cheadle for a role (as a cop or a crook) written for a White he'd barely break even. All the actors are White, all the movies are wack and some of us are dead tired of the whitewashing of our consciousnesses and imaginations. I can't wait for the day M. Night Shyamalan enacts his vision with American actors of South Asian descent but damnit noone, not even South Asian Americans, would probably watch. Folk wouldn't be so eager to pronounce his name correctly. He'd be comparatively broke. He woudn't be in American Express ads. I know he threw Sam Jack in Unbreakable and even underemployed Sarita Choudry in his new pic but the Sam Jack casting doesn't count on account of his horrible flat top wig.

dimanche, juillet 09, 2006

Against All Odds

Losing is important. I think. The disorientation. The distress. The ignominy. Not to romanticise valleys but negotiating them opens up the possibility of scaling peaks. I think that was the point of tonight's episode of The Simpsons. Lisa and Bart's school temporarily adopts single sex education. The girls school is a model of cooperation, relativism, positive reinforcement but (according to the narrative) lacks the competitive harshness needed to make Lisa the top math student. The boys school is vicious but knocks Lisa, Yentled as Jake Boyman, straight to the top of the little boy eat little boy world. In the end Lisa rebuilds her eroded character by being a girl again and all that entails (all that we are socialized to be). I don't know if that is a W or L. But if it's the latter, it might just clear away the clouds but that is no good weather guarantee. "We Gon' Make" it is a great chorus, a resilient mantra, but often belied by the rickety course of life.

I couldn't sit for the overtimes of today's game. I was wound up. I needed the delectably dusky Frenchmen to win. Zizou, Malouda (my love), Henry, Amidal, Vierra, even scrappy as fuck Ribéry (an unlikely Muslim with a severely scarred visage). And I didn't trip when Zizou succumbed to the provocation of Materazzi. The final OT was almost over. Yeah Zizou is a great penalty kicker but Trezeguet would likely have still kicked (he subbed for Ribéry-who I would have left in-but Domenech coached a great match) and he just blew it. He wasn't confident. And that's what you need at this level. Everybody in the world cup has skills. Some, like the elegant Henry and the subtle Zidane and the quick and powerful Cristiano Ronaldo are better than others but it comes down to confidence. Did you see Ronaldo at the end of Portugal's match against England smiling before he attemped and nailed the winning PK? Dude does not scare and is the hottest non-black boy on the planet. The hottest boy on the planet is (my love).

When the game concluded I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. I avoided the smirks of Italian fans and walked off the dissapointment. I'll be in South Africa in 2010.