jeudi, mars 29, 2007

drunk by myself


I stopped by Astor Wine & Spirits this evening to pick up another bottle of this lovely biodynamic French wine I tried last week but they were sold out so I picked up two Cabernet Sauvignons, an Australian and an Argentinian. The latter I uncorked earlier this evening since I'm trying to do a glass of red wine a few times a week for reasons of health but my tolerance is shot. One glass and I'm giggly. Two and I'm in a very bad way. It's embarassing. My roommate came home from a weeklong stretch in a swiss chalet (must be nice) and I laughed hysterically at her every phrase none of which were the least bit jokey. I am also quite certain that my voice was immodulated. Not a good look or a hood look: just wierd. I'm thinking a shot of wheatgrass in the morn might be a more appropriate course of action. Word 'em up. I heard 'em frontin'.

I should add that yesterday I wished some very bad things upon my new neighbor and her loud single digit spawn but by evening's end I had remorsefully chatted her up in the hallway and made goo goo faces at her child. We are now buds. I am a good person after all.

And Monday marks the beginning of my get right by my birthday diet. Good people, please do not tempt me.
My thoughts on Chris Rock's I Think I Love My Wife over here.

jeudi, mars 22, 2007

Such would astound you

"Some peep the exterior and think inferior..." -Mecca Star, "3 Tha Hard Way," Kollage

From Afro215's Flickr Photostream

I can't say that I believed in women rappers before Bahamadia. I certainly thought women capable but I hadn't heard anyone completely credible. This was '95 and although I was an avid fan, I was young and I'll admit my knowledge was limited. I had never heard of Sequence or Sha Rock, my knowledge of Sweet Tee was limited to "On the Smooth Tip" and to me Jazzy Joyce was just Digable Planets deejay. What I knew was the rotation of KCMU's Rap Attack, BET's Rap City, Yo! MTV Raps and whatever shit I stumbled upon at Orpheum or Tower on the ave when it was still populated by the homeless and runaways. So hearing Bahamadia completely blew my mind. She was opinionated, playful, witty, as or more lyrical than any of her contemporaries, boasted a distinctive smoky tone and was rocking over Premier beats. She was equally adept at party records and harder fare. I can't tell you how exciting it was to see a woman performing on that level. Up until then all of my favorite rappers were men so for me Bahamadia made hip hop co-ed. And she overcame some substantial hurdles: she had kids, she was older, she was not conventionally attractive, she wore her hair natural. Who could have predicted her temporary ascent?

I'm pretty sure I first heard Bahamadia on "Proceed III." An R-Kelly type record store clerk was fond of my best friend and regularly gave her cassette singles including The Roots' "Proceed." We actually used to sing "Proceed" on the way to school. It was incredibly well suited to the middle school commute. Anyway, her verse played on song titles from Nas and the Roots and concluded with a shout out to an up and coming fellow Philladelphian woman rapper whose career never had the opportunity to jump off, Shorty No Mas (who I interviewed at length for a brief profile a few years back).

Then there was "Respect the Architect" from Jazzmatazz Vol. II which convened some of my favorite people. I absolutely adored Gang Starr. Guru's verse on "Who's Gonna Take the Weight" was pivotal in my rap fandom and with regards to Premier, I'll just say that I shrieked when I encountered him outside SOB's a few years back. Ramsey Lewis who was featured on the record was the only jazz pianist of whom I'd heard primarily because he dibbled and dabbled in gospel, smooth jazz and soul. And "Respect the Architect" is my favorite song from the entire Jazzmatazz series. "Lifesaver" was piercing and "No Time to Play" cute and catchy but "Respect the Architect" singularly achieves the stated purpose of the Jazzmatazz experiment; it feels jazzy and hip hop. While Guru certainly held his own, Bahamadia was spectacular. The mp3 is still streaming on my XXL guest post and you can check out a pretty good transcription of the lyrics over at OHHLA but here's a little excerpt:
Never flip folklores, only realness
Coincide with the rhythm like I did with "Total Wreck"
Respect the Architect in this division
Rhymes written to be hitting like anti-proton collisions
Rap newest edition, bringing the feminine renditions
in rare form, defined as optimal for my pedigrees
in skill three like three-sixty degrees as in well-rounded
Leaving the competition dumb-founded
For when I catch wreck, I astound

1996 brought with it Bahamadia's full length debut, Kollage, a very good album that garnered three singles with videos and all. "Uknowhowwedo", the anthem which was first released as a 12" in 1995, "True Honey Bunz" a parable on fallen women in the familiar hip hop tradition and "3 Tha Hard Way" a sick display of skill by Bahamadia and two lesser known woman rappers, K-Swift and Mecca Star. Mecca Star, in particular, kills. Just take a look at the video:

Of course after Kollage, Bahamadia's record label folded so she kept herself occupied with a features, some radio work and who knows what else. She returned to a much dimmer spotlight with the Dwele'd out EP BB Queen in 2000. It's lead single (I believe) "Commonwealth" should have blown. She was/is so good at making real life shit rock. Like shopping at Nordstrom Rack or sporting a G-shock watch in lieu of an Audemars. In this interview with hip hop site The Elements in March 2001 she elaborated on the track:
'Commonwealth' represents the type of female that I am, an everyday chick, a person who's conscious of operating within the perimeters of a budget, juggling a lot of different things. Everybody's not flossy. It's just dedicated to females like me…It's not to knock anybody that's doing what they choose to, because that's their own personal preference. But as for me, I'm just a cheap chick, not cheap in morals and values but financially. I'm going to be that way even when my money starts to come in. I'm still always going to be conscious and always looking for a bargain because that's how I am.
Speak on it. (More anthems for cheap chicks and less songs name dropping expensive Swiss watches. "Red Velvet" anyone? "Got", even?) Bahamadia's values may not not be mainstream but she's always boasted a radio ready sound, which is much more than you can say for many of her peers. I've only seen her perform live once at an NYC Beat Society at the Knitting Factory. She was as gifted as ever but was clearly emotionally troubled on some Lauryn Hill crying on stage shit. She confessed a number of perceived moral failures and implored the audience to get right with God. I thought it as indicative of her unknown travails as it was of the burdens borne by some progressive women rappers. They seem to be uniquely guilt-ridden for having at times not lived up to what they spit. I just don't see any male rapper having a breakdown on that account. And I'm hoping this personal conflict has since been resolved because she remains an impressive talent.

Here are two tracks from Kollage:

Rugged Ruff
Word Play

Edit: Bahamadia's got a MySpace page with some more recent output, 2006's (Good Rap Music, which to my knowledge was never officially released stateside) and further evidence of her newfound religous devotion. Question: Anyone know if she was ever muslim or did she just play with islamic imagery, e.g., "Da Jawn."

This post was inpsired by a parenthetical dismissal of Bahamadia by Nikhil at Oh Word.

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lundi, mars 19, 2007

Les portes du souvenir


I am 23 years late with this but Oliver is a beast and salute to Sister Bisi for sharing this poem in writing workshop.

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Here, I could do without the flora and fauna (I find the portion from the first "meanwhile" to "again" rather blah). I’m from the Northwest, my mama lives in a neighborhood called Lake Forest Park, my dad lives in Shoreline, I grew up camping, I've hiked through Washington's Alpine Lake wilderness and along Hong Kong's Sai Kung Peninsula but natural imagery comes off contrived and bees and things and flowers still generally read white. Sugarcane, cotton, and indigo are an altogether different matter. In fact, I sent up a prayer 4 years ago today in remembrance of them (pictured above), in the Dominican Republic, as my shuttle drove through fields of azúcar de caña to get to our all inclusive hotel where white tourists mistook me and my half British cousin for Dominicans despite the Coach resort bags and Barney's hand crafted flip flops and the Dominicans mistook us for Dominicans because of the brown skin. My mother's stress at our ill-timed travel was only compounded by the sudden death of her older brother several continents away. So Ashé. For Uncle Ari and the ancestors.

Of a different sort, K. Anthony Appiah writes in this past weekend's New York Times magazine. The piece seems indulgent and unselfconsciously privileged until the end, which is abrubt, but it's worth it. And since we're talking about Africans and sugarcane, Les Nubians will be at SOB's on the 1st.
"Now let me tell you something. It's all about my own thing. Now I know what's sweet. Yeah, yeah. I know what is sweet as sugarcane."

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jeudi, mars 15, 2007

To the left, to the left

What does it really mean to be a Leftist in the early part of the twenty first century? What are we really talking about? And I can just be very candid with you. It means to have a certain kind of temperament, to make certain kind of political and ethical choices, and to exercise certain analytical focuses and targeting on the catastrophic and the monstrous, the scandalous, the traumatic that are often hidden and concealed in the deodorized and manicured discourses of the mainstream. That's what it means to be a Leftist. Let's just be clear about it. So that we're concerned about structural violence, if you're concerned about exploitation at the workplace, if you're concerned about institutionalized contempt against gay brothers and lesbian sisters, if you're concerned about organized hatred against peoples of color, if you're concerned about the subordination of women, that's not cheap pc chit chat, that is a calling that you're willing to fight against and try to understand the sources of that social misery at the structural and institutional level and at the existential and the personal level. That's what it means, in part, to be a leftist. That's why we choose to be certain kinds of human beings. That's why it's a calling not a career. It's a vocation not a profession.
~Cornel West addressing the Left Forum 2007 this past weekend in NYC

Let me start off by saying that I respect the process. Still, it's been funky journey trying to figure out how to be. From naive acceptance to blanket rejections, from enthusiasm to indifference, from selfishness to selflessness and back and somewhere in between I have meandered with no constant destination in sight. But what I know that I know that I know is that I believe in love and justice above all things and they move me interpersonally and professionally.

So listening to the Democracy Now! Podcast of Dr. Cornel West’s remarks at the Left Forum, which I would have attended if I knew it had existed, reminded me of a self, an identity consistent when all about changed. The anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-bad shit me. I guess, per West's definition, the Leftist me.
Think it is when it ain't all peaches and cream
that's why some are found floating face down in the main stream
~Outkast feat. Goodie Mob, "Mainstream"
It's a challenging stance. The oppositional and contrarian are hard positions to actively hold while maintaining a diversity of relationships. Don't get me wrong I have always been relatively fearless and I generally don't bite my tongue when compelled to speak and act out but I have practiced studied obliviousness when it got too hard. I'd just sort of insulate myself. I was unsuccessful although had a few events in my life gone different ways I could have quarantined the Leftist me and had a grand life.

I was talking to one of my best friends Wednesday night about an old mutual friend from college to whom I don't speak despite numerous overtures. She wanted to know why I had distanced myself and I had a hard time explaining so we just started talking about My Super Sweet Sixteen. But it came to me today (I really wish I was quickwitted). It's that there are certain people who I know that are more interested in me being normal than authentic, and I'm afraid of succumbing to their influence (or maybe it's that I'm invested in them thinking I'm mainstream.) It could be that I'm paranoid or maybe just too sensitive and sustained relationships with them are possible. Peer pressure is a dogged bitch.

One of my most significant memories is of witnessing a fellow Spelman Student Government Association officer describe herself as "serious" in an icebreaking exercise of our 2001 retreat. I had never heard anyone describe themselves as such. Serious seemed a more suitable response to the question: what's your greatest weakness? Neither endearing or enamoring, it's not something I imagined anyone would aspire to but stated with such casual confidence it forced a smile. I admired her independence of spirit and mind and envied her honesty. I wish I could have been an unshakeable then. Shit, I wish I was that unshakeable now.

But even as I get there, as I figure out how to be, I don't gain any increased clarity into what to do, now: how to manage interests and passions and concerns with responsibilities, how to best use skills and talents or how to simplify my purpose into an executable plan.

*This isn't much of a conclusion. I was going to connect this to "Irreplaceable" and Audre Lorde but I had a few too many sips of organic wine last night and my head hurts.

mardi, mars 13, 2007

Popcorn Revisited

J. Edward Keyes reviews the Roots and Lupe Fiasco at Nokia Theatre and apparently Lupe had a hell of a time.
It was a few minutes into his set at the Nokia Theatre Times Square Sunday night and Lupe Fiasco was having trouble. The Chicago MC was halfway through a performance of "The Instrumental," one of many great songs from his debut, when his microphone cut out, turning the song into, well, an instrumental. His attempt to rebound with a different number was stymied when his DJ likewise lost power.

Finally, with all problems apparently fixed, Fiasco started his third song. Halfway through its opening verse, the mike went out again.
But most significant is his assessment of the Roots live failing; they no longer play their own music. I want to say it incenses me that they don't perform they own shit in a nod to Shadow and Bleeks Mo' Better Blues exchange excerpted by the roots on an album intro but I'm less incensed than annoyed but my point is that since they long seem to have simultaneously thought themselves both lame and in the vanguard I can see why they might be drawn to unexpected or inventive covers or star studded features in attempts to highlight their musicianship and ecletic tastes or position themselves more in the mainstream. They are a band with an apparent inferiority complex, or maybe its just Quest. And in the past few years they don't seem all that comfortable with themselves or maybe that's just Quest. Obviously Quest is constantly thinking about the Roots legacy, which can be a hindrance and more and more Black Thought (best rap name ever as Toure noted in the 05 P&J), comes across exhausted and long winded. His flow was a lot more endearing, emotive and varied in his early work.
Like Fiasco, the Philadelphia group the Roots also question the values held by many of their contemporaries - in a Roots song, a drug dealer is more likely to end up dead than wealthy. Though they've been a band for 20 years, they have yet to release a bad record. Their most recent, "Game Theory," was a marvel of atmosphere and tone that at times conjured the same grim dystopia as Sly & the Family Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On."

So it was frustrating that headliners the Roots spent much of their time playing other people's songs. They made stop-offs at Bob Dylan, Rakim, Yung Joc and James Brown, all of which made their set feel cluttered and unfocused. When they finally swooped into their own "In the Music," it was breathtaking, a big, menacing number alive with twitching guitars and groaning brass. It was a fleeting moment, but welcome nonetheless.
I'm generally of the opinion that a band should always perform their hits. You ain't got to do all your old shit but you have to hit the stand outs. The Roots should always perform, "Silent Treatment", "What They Do", "You Got Me", "The Next Movement", "The Seed", umm "Clones," which was my shit, and whatever else had a video. What if you went to a Mary concert and she didn't sing "Be Happy" or you went to see Erykah and she didn't sing "Bag Lady?" I've seen the Roots a bunch, the last time on the off night of their hyped 2-night run at Radio City, when instead of drawing on their vast catalogue they let Rahzel beat box for damn near 1/3 of the show. I know there were special circumstances that night, featured performers not showing up, but I was baffled at the bands seeming indifference to the crowd. That was a 'spensive ass show. It was dissapointing.

And just because a list of my favorite Roots songs in loose chronological order (Ursula Rucker and Amiri Baraka joints excluded with a max of three songs from any one album) :

Silent Treatment (Black Thoughts 87 You And Yours Remix)
Dat Skat (slightly edged out "Lazy Afternoon")
What They Do
No Great Pretender (I miss Malik B)
Water (melacholic love letter to Malik B)
In The Music

It was hard not include "The Lesson Pt. 1" since Dice killed his verse but "Proceed", "Silent Treatment" and "Dat Skat" were better songs.

In related news: I recently inherited some money (well actually my Dad's sharing his share of the sale of my late Grandma Eloise' house with me, my mom and my sis), I've got a lot of shit to do and I'm pining for a lazy afternoon.

mercredi, mars 07, 2007

Nail it on the Wall

While listening to Amy Winehouse's version of "Moody's Mood for Love" I thought, 'I'd like to hear Amy Winehouse duet with Bilal.' If it does happen I'd like to hope they wouldn't dissapoint like D'Angelo and Lauryn or D'Angelo and Badu. Bilal boasts a better instrument and a boatload more training than Winehouse but they both have jazz chops and a wildness that seems like it would make for a perfect combination.

I'd also like to hear someone capable cover Donny Hathaway's "Little Ghetto Boy." I can almost hear Cody Chestnutt singing it. He's got such a heavenly voice. Anyway, there is no better time for that song than now. "Everything has got to get better."

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lundi, mars 05, 2007

This week in Jazz

Tomorrow, March 6th

Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa
LIU Brooklyn

RAW MATERIALS, featuring Pianist VIJAY IYER and alto saxophonist RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA, will perform as part of Long Island University's Jazz Clinic Series.

The campus is located at the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and Dekalb Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. It is accessible to all major bus and subway routes and Long Island Railroad.

The clinics are FREE and OPEN to the general public. They take place on various Tuesdays, from 4:00 - 6:00 PM, in room H-106 of the Humanities Building on Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus.

The series features musicians and music professionals with extraordinary links to jazz history in addition to being outstanding in their own right.

For further information about the clinics or the music department, call Robert Aquino at (718) 488-1668

Thursday, March 8th

Dan Morgenstern
Jazz Museum in Harlem's Harlem Speaks Series
The Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue & 104th St.
FREE, RSVP by calling the Jazz Museum in Harlem (212) 348-8300

Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University since 1976, Dan Morgenstern is a jazz historian and archivist, author, editor, and educator active in the jazz field since 1958. As head of the Institute of Jazz Studies, he is responsible for the largest collection of jazz-related materials anywhere.

Hear this recent NEA Jazz Master discuss his life and career in jazz on March 8th at the new location for Harlem Speaks, the Museum of the City of New York, located at 1220 Fifth Avenue, off 104th Street.

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem
104 East 126th Street
New York, NY 10035
212 348-8300

Thursday - Saturday

Rachelle Ferrell at the Blue Note

Edit 2: Per Black Voices Rachelle put it down. But I wouldn't expect less. Wish I could have been there. Still one more night. I am accepting donations

Edit: And I would be remiss if I didn't include my alma mater's Jazz ensemble who will hit Harlem NEXT week. (Thanks Tia for the reminder)

Monday, March 12th

Spelman Jazz Ensemble
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
7:00 PM

Organized in 1983 by Founder and Director Joe Jennings, the Spelman Jazz Ensemble has a devout following. The Ensemble is made up of vocalists, instrumentalists and a rhythm section. After 15 years of touring and three albums, Spelman Jazz Ensemble is still going strong. Tickets for individual concert dates: members, $18; non-members, $22.50. Series Tickets: members, $68; non-members, $86. For ticket charge, call The Schomburg Shop at (212)491-2206. Ticket charge hours, Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.

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This is absolutely heartbreaking...

Pic swiped from Boing Boing

This story has been posted by various blogs and venues but this story cannot be posted too much. This is unjust and disgusting. I'm trying not to cry listening to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales interview a 9 year old child (who I assume penned the above scanned letter) locked up with his family in Texas. The gov'mt is locking up children of asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. Honestly, I don't know what action to take. If anyone knows of any groups organizing around this issue let me know in the comments.

vendredi, mars 02, 2007

"It's Hard Out There for a Ho"

It's Hard Out There for a Ho: The puzzling sexual games of Black Snake Moan.
By Dana Stevens
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2007, at 6:31 PM ET

You only had to see the blaxploitation-style poster of Christina Ricci chained and kneeling at Samuel L. Jackson's feet to know that Black Snake Moan (Paramount Classics) was going to be a provocative rebel yell of a movie. A middle-aged black man in the South chains a young white woman to his radiator to cure her of nymphomania and succeeds: What a rich exploration of racial and sexual archetypes! What a daring challenge to viewers' expectations! Or maybe: What bullshit. (Speak on it- JB)

I guarantee that the words provocative, bold, and courageous will be bandied about in discussions of this movie, and they won't be entirely misplaced. Writer and director Craig Brewer, who made 2005's Hustle and Flow, has a fine sense of locale (here, the Tennessee countryside), a way of coaxing thrilling performances from actors, and terrific taste in music. But can we just start with something very basic here? Chaining someone to your radiator is wrong. Depriving a near-naked and recently assaulted stranger of the most basic physical liberty for days on end is a sick, perverse, and cruel thing to do. Black Snake Moan appears to be—or, worse, pretends to be—oblivious to that simple fact. And that obliviousness makes all of the movie's supposed risk-taking seem more like exploitation.

Before I get ahead of myself with analysis, let me go back and set up the movie. We open on a scene of Rae (Ricci) desperately banging her boyfriend (Justin Timberlake), who's Iraq-bound with the National Guard. Moments after seeing Ronnie off with a promise to be true, Rae is getting dirty with a burly black drug dealer. That same night, she gets high at a party, has semiconsensual sex on a football field, and is subsequently raped, beaten, and left for dead by Ronnie's best friend.

It's hard out there for a ho—until Rae meets Lazarus, the embittered farmer and former bluesman played by Samuel Jackson, who finds Rae by the side of the road and takes her in. Sprawled half-conscious on the couch inside Lazarus' country shack, Rae displays signs of "the sickness," a kind of erotic fever whose symptoms include writhing in panties and scratching at one's thighs. (Zing-JB) Lazarus, determined to drive out the demons from this suffering young woman, submerges her in an ice-cold bath (actually a terrible way to treat a fever, but let's hope no one is watching this movie for first-aid advice), reads to her from the Bible, and eventually padlocks her to the radiator with that large, clanking chain.

All this sounds like the setup for Saw or Hostel, a sadistic B-movie about sexual torture and humiliation. Instead, Black Snake Moan morphs into a wacky intergenerational bonding movie, something closer to Harold and Maude or The Karate Kid with a dusting of Southern grit. Lazarus and Rae, as it turns out, aren't a couple but twins: Stubborn, damaged, and lonely, they each need something from the other. She, I guess, needs to be chained, and he needs to chain someone, but just for a little while—until they both learn how to trust again. Bondage and captivity are this movie's meet-cute.

With the help of a folksy preacher (John Cothran Jr.) and a preternaturally nice pharmacist (S. Epatha Merkerson), Lazarus and Rae's relationship segues seamlessly from imprisonment into a cozy father-daughter bond. Toward the end, when a transformed Rae is seen wearing a gold belly chain, it's even suggested that the piece of jewelry represents the spiritual journey the two lost souls have taken together. But there's nothing symbolic about the large, heavy metal chain binding, and bruising, Ricci's impossibly tiny waist for the first part of this movie. I'm sorry, but in the age of Abu Ghraib and Alberto Gonzales torture memos, it seems important to say it again: Chaining people and holding them against their will is not the right thing to do. By that I don't mean, simplistically, that Jackson's character is "bad" and should be punished at the end of the film. I mean that the questions—ethical, sexual, racial, whatever—that are raised by this initial act of violence are never addressed.

Just as in Hustle and Flow, there's an unsubtle message here that race trumps gender. In that movie, Terrence Howard's character was meant to remain the focus of our attention and sympathy even after he threw one of his hookers out into the street with her baby as punishment for talking back. I never forgave the character for that act, and by the end of the movie, I couldn't have given a shit whether he achieved rap fame or not (with the "boo-hoo, I'm a pimp" song that he neither wrote nor sang by himself but ran around taking full credit for).

Black Snake Moan's misogyny is a little subtler than Hustle and Flow's, not least because of Christina Ricci's subtle and compassionate rendering of what could have been a one-note character. In interviews, Brewer makes it clear that "nymphomania" is a nonexistent condition, an invention of cultural fantasy. But you'd never know that from watching Black Snake Moan, which would rather indulge that fantasy than provide its own characters with credible motivations. Ricci's character spends days in nothing but a cut-off Confederate-flag T-shirt and white panties—the outfit in which Lazarus found her, raped and beaten, by the side of the road. If Lazarus is supposed to be so concerned with Rae's well-being, not to mention immune to her sexual appeal, wouldn't he insist she change into one of his clean shirts right away? Brewer stirs the pot with commendable bravado, but he seems curiously uninterested in thinking through the issues of race and gender that he himself raises. Rae and Lazarus—but particularly Rae—are archetypes one minute, characters the next, depending on the emotional reaction the movie needs from its audience in any given scene.

On a tangential note—or maybe not so tangential—it's sad to see Christina Ricci's barely covered skeleton offered up as an object of salacious contemplation. She's so thin her head looks like a lollipop on a stick. Ricci's lush physicality has always been of a piece with the offbeat roles she chooses to take on, a bodacious "fuck you" to Hollywood standards. I loved her curvy form in Buffalo 66, The Opposite of Sex, and Monster, those childlike bug-eyes contrasting with that voluptuous, womanly shape. But in Black Snake Moan (and in the ubiquitous press photos accompanying its rollout), Ricci has dieted herself into near-invisibility. Is this level of scrawniness even appropriate for the character? If the town slut in backwoods Tennessee can't have a little meat on her bones, who can?

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic. You can write her at
Annotations and embolded emphasis mine.

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Genuine Cultural Tensions

"When I leave work at night I am just riding on a subway car full of scary teenage people."
~Liz Lemon as played by Tina Fey

There is, like, nothing good on TV all week except for the Thursday night 9-10 timeslot. I used to watch CSI but abandoned it when 30 Rock came on (CSI reruns on like 3,000 channels at various times of the day anyway). I'm over Scrubs (The Office which precedes it has fallen off as well) but I am a new adherent of Grey's Anatomy. Is anyone else aghast at how old ass looking Ellen Pompeo is playing youngish Meredith? Ellen doesn't look a day under 40. She's frightfully skinny with saggy wrinkled skin but to her defense she nails her character's white girl helplessness despite looking middle aged). And no, I do not have DVR.

Last night's 30 Rock was hilarious as usual. Highly allusive. Cracked up at Tracy Jordan dressed up as Oprah channelling Dave "why do all Black male comedians have to crossdress for success" Chappelle on Oprah. Not to mention Lemon's subway joke (qtd. above), "the old leather pumpkin", Ridiculous holding Raven Symone over a balcony, and Donaghy recalling how Condi talked to the movie screen. I can't recall if they have a laugh track or not, which is a good thing. I generally find laugh tracks intrusive and patronizing but if a show is funny I don't notice them much, probably because I'm laughing. Anyway, Wayne "proudly still rocking an s-curl" Brady had the corny Black dude down pat but I suspect it's not much of a stretch. But where the hell was Twofer?

I should here note that I hated Tina Fey on SNL. She was NEVER funny but she flourishes in this context. I wish some of the other women from SNL could get some star vehicles, Cheri Oteri, in particular. I'm reminded here of Eddie Murphy's blueprint for success in distinction to the colored that preceded him, Garrett Morgan, and the generally shabby bunch that followed (Finesse Mitchell edging out the persistently unfunny Tim Meadows as the worst). Eddie wrote much of his own material. Fey is also a writer. They are of course on completely different levels. Despite my extreme disdain for Norbit I think Eddie is a comedic genius. Fey's good but not great, yet, at least. Still is/was their success as 'others' partially a result of their comedic writing prowess?