Thursday, April 30, 2009

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Did Condelezza Rice say what I think she just said? (See video below.) When confronted by Stanford students on the subjects of waterboarding and torture, Rice states:

"The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture."

If I may offer a paraphrase here, she basically states that if the president says its legal, that makes it say. I’ll just forego the convenient references to Nixon and say simply, bullshit.

I’m almost beginning to feel sorry for those individuals who seemingly authorized torture. It seems as though they are on pins and needles just waiting to for the other shoe to drop. They must be sleeping very lightly these days. However, the person I feel the most empathy now is President Obama.

On the day the United States invaded Iraq, I was a TA in graduate school. I forget what was on the syllabus that day, but the class wanted to talk about the invasion, so I capitulated.

Some of them were frightened, but most of them were concerned. They were concerned that the country was headed into war for reasons other than those stated by our leadership. Before they left I attempted to assuage their concerns by assuring them that our government would not lead the country into war without good reason. I told them that in their naivety they failed to realize the seriousness of war, and that the leadership knew that if the nation were to go to war on false pretenses, there would be hell to pay in the end. It appears that I was the one who was naïve.

Since then the truth has come out; it turns out that they were lying to us all the time. And then on top of that, it seems that they turned to torture to coerce captives into corroborating their story. Ain’t that some shit? Torture. That’s where we are now.

We now know that our country’s leadership ordered the torture of individuals we held. Can you think of anything more egregious and against everything this country is supposed to stand for? Torture. Well, I’ll be damnd.

And now our current leadership is attempting to decide whether we should prosecute those involved.

I believe that those persons involved should, at the very least, go to jail. In fact, jail is too good for them. They should be severely punished for their actions. They should be tortured. Take away all their money, and force them to live hand to mouth. But I can understand the administrations hesitation to pursue those ends.

The country is already in crisis, and the republicans are not helping with their obstinate opposition even in the face of their obvious lack of viable alternatives. Every move President Obama makes is contested. So what do you think will happen if the Justice Department moves to prosecute Bush administration officials for their role in torture?

It would simply become fodder for an impotent republican fire. It would be absolute anarchy. Attention and energy needed to pass President Obama’s agenda would instead go into following every detail of the proceedings. It would be like the OJ Simpson trial on steroids. You know how we do things.

Furthermore, we would become a country divided; the left would be out crying for blood, while the right would certainly be decrying the politicization of it all.

In a word, it would quickly become one big clusterfuck.

So then, that’s what President Obama and his leadership team are facing at this moment. They are facing the less of two evils. Unless President Obama is able to perform some political magic, he is facing a lose-lose situation. Now is when he really begins earning his money.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Last night as I was preparing my one hundredth day of President Obama’s presidency post, I got the news. And by now I know you have heard. And on the ninety ninth day, during the administration of Obama, Arlen Specter left the house of the republicans and was welcomed into the house of the democrats.

On the surface this is good news; however, I’m going to put off the celebration for minute because my first inclination is that this is just some ol’ opportunistic bullshit.

Specter’s defection does mean that democrats are now sixty strong in the senate, the supposed magic number. Yet that just means that there are now sixty people claiming affiliation with the Democratic Party; Specter’s net worth will be proven when it’s time to vote. If I may quote my favorite uncle, I just don’t trust that motherfucker right dar. I hope that whatever deal was cut to get him to jump ship will work toward the president and the Democratic Party’s favor.

About President Obama’s first one hundred days, I think he has acquitted himself quite well. He has made some decisions I don’t fully understand or agree with, but in the same instance, I can see the political exigencies driving those decisions. His poll numbers continue to be quite high, but the first one hundred days are wholly inadequate in judging his success or failure; his success or failure rests on the ability of people to go back to work and be able to pay their bills

As we move forward, I do so with great anticipation and just a bit of skepticism. And I’ll have my eye on that Arlen Specter character.

Where is...Rodney Allen Rippy

Every now and then I glance up, and a member of the tribe is missing. So I have to send out a search party to bring them on back. During my Good Times marathon watching this Saturday, I heard a reference to Rodney Allen Rippy. I recall that he was somewhat of a big deal in the 1970’s though all I can remember him ever doing was the commercial below.

Do you remember now? Well, I haven’t heard anything from him since the 1970’s, so I decided to see if I could find him and bring him in from the cold. If you are interested, this is his offical website.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cover Blown

I was over at The Undercover Black Man yesterday as he celebrated his 2,000th post. That's quite some feat. I've been blogging only a short time, and I know how difficult it is to get something up everyday, especially something substantial. But he manages to do it day in and day out, sometimes several times a day.

Also, he used this occassion to announce that he was going to discontinue blogging altogether. That's not something I, and perhaps a number of other loyal followers, want to hear. For a while, checking the UBM blog frequently has been part of my daily routine. I was partly inspired to blog by UBM.

However, all good things must come to an end. Thanks for the good music and clips and clever observations. soulbrother v.2 would like to take the opportunity to wish UBM good luck and godspeed. We'll certainly miss you.

P.S. Are you simply setting us up for a comeback, UBM?

The Quixotic Enterprise of the Republican Party

I was listening to a lecture given by a prominient rabbi recently, and he stated that the solution to the Israel/Palestine problem must necessarily be a political solution reached through a rationalist dialogue. He went on to state that a solution never could be reached if religious issues came into play because if they did, neither side would be able to compromise because compromise would imply the fallibility of their beliefs and/or their respective diety.

Last take a second and make the necessary extrapolations. If we are to reach a solution to the problems this country faces, that solution must necessarily be a political solution; as long as religious or moral issues come to bear, we will simply remain at an impasse.

I think, for the most part, the country sees that now. The election of Barack Obama and the victories of the democrats in the last election perhaps confirm that. Bush’s ascension to the presidency was aided by playing to the far right and using these religious and moral issues to turn out the conservative base. However, the Bush administration in its abject ineptitude then unwittingly exposed the ugly truth about such issues; they might fire up the crowd, but the real issues a government leader faces require rational, reasoned judgement. Religious and moral issues are based primarily on emotion and abstract expressions of faith; emotion and abstract expressions of faith are not necessarily commensurable with reason.

But while most of the country sees that, the republicans cannot. In fact, if I am to believe this article over at Politico, the loyal republican base is becoming even more conservative and desires a leadership that is even more conservative as well. Do they not get it?

Reason requires constant introspection. Reason requires that when the rational human being is confronted with something that contradicts their views, they weigh this new information and adjust their views accordingly. However, it appears that when republicans in general and conservatives in particular are confronted with new information that might challenge their views, they do no stop to adjust their views but become even more obstinate and obdurate in their thinking.

I believe this signals absolute doom for the Republican Party. On the one hand, if they give in to their base and become more conservative, they risk becoming a marginal party. However,if they don't give in to their base, the conservative right just might form a third political party, thereby taking much of the republican base with them. What a conundrum they face. But if you live by religious and moral fervor, you die by religious and moral fervor.

I believe that in order for effective political dialogue to take place, there must necessarily be more than one political view represented. However, at the rate the Republican Party is going, they are going to conservative themselves right out of relevancy. They will become modern day Don Quixotes, jousting against the windmills of reason.

Monday, April 27, 2009

This little piggie went to market. This little piggie started a major pandemic.

Okay, what gives?

Now, I’m not one to easily panic; I pride myself on being able to keep my cool regardless of the situation. But this whole swine flu thing has me a little off kilter.

I’m getting mixed signals. This from

"President Barack Obama said Monday the threat of spreading swine flu infections was a concern but "not a cause for alarm," while customs agents began checking people coming into the United States by land and air."

Not cause for alarm, but you’re shaking folk down at the border for the flu bug. And then the little white lady from the CDC came on CNN last night and all but said, “Panic now bitches and beat the rush.” The president has declared a state of emergency. The EU has warned Europeans not to even visit the U.S. and Mexico. What about all those people walking around with masks on that I keep seeing on the news and in the paper?

Right now we’re being told the best that we can do to keep ourselves safe and healthy is wash our hands frequently and stay away from work or other public places if we happen to feel ill. That’s all well and good, but what if by the very nature of your job, you are around a bunch of nasty motherfuckers who can’t afford to miss a day of work all day. We are in a recession after all. What then?

My mother seems to think that it’s a sign of the end. You know, worldwide pestilence and all that. I don’t know what it’s the sign of. Maybe it’s a sign that I should not spend so much time online and watching news shows and scaring my own black ass.

Hometown Boy Makes Good

I first heard about this brother during a NPR broadcast of “All Things Considered.” Since Michael Oher is from Memphis, my hometown, it caught my attention. It’s a story with a simply horrible beginning but seemingly ends well.

It seems that Oher, one of thirteen children, was headed for a broken life. His father was murdered and his mother a crackhead. As a teenager, he was caught in the revolving door of the foster care system, and for all intents and purposes, he was raising himself in the streets of Memphis.

However, he came to the attention of a suburban family who took him in, saw to it that his immediate needs were met, and made sure he got a good education. Eventually they adopted him.

During high school he tried out for the football team and turned out to be an absolute beast on the gridiron. He went on to graduate from high school and attend Ole Miss where he was a four year starter on the Rebel football team, and in his senior year, Oher earned All SEC and All American honors. And to top it all off, Saturday the 6’6”, 310 pound Oher was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the NFL draft with the 23rd pick. His future looks bright indeed.

I feel a special kinship with Oher because I onced walked the same streets he did. Though my story is not nearly as rough, I knew a lot of Michael Ohers who did not make it out. I know what the end of his story could have been. So, Michael Oher, I salute you and hope you only the very best.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Great Chicken Riot of 2009

Hold up! Stop the damn presses!

I was just getting ready to shut it down for the night. So I decided to check out my blogroll while I wound down. Then I found this gem over on What Would Thembi Do?, and I knew I had to say something before I went to bed.

It seems that Popeye's Chicken offered a nationwide special for Earth Day, yet a franchise in Minnesota decided not to participate in the promotion. So what happened? The Minnesotan negroes went bezerk, that's what. I shit you not. There was damn near a riot. Over fried chicken? IN THE AGE OF OBAMA?

I'm at a loss for words. If I had not seen it for myself, I would not have believed it. Where do we go from here people?

Please God, Just Take Me Now!

Sometimes I get so caught up in myself that I make egregious errors in judgement. Sometimes I place so much confidence in my self-confidence, my supposed strength, that I forget to empathize with others; I forget that I, too, am subject to the viccisitudes of being. But I have been appropriately chastened.

During practically every funeral I’ve attended, there has always been at least one person to hurl themselves at the deceased’s casket and yell out, “Please God, just take me now!”. They wail. They scream out. They make a spectacle of themselves as they are hualed away by attendants.

Perhaps you’ve witnessed such a moment. I've witnessed a number of them. And usually I’ve tsk-tsk’d my way through such displays, writing them off as simple theatrics—drama. Smugly, I've decried the moaner for sullying the "dignity" of the moment and ceremony.

But recently I faced the death of a family member who I loved with all my heart. My much beloved grandmother passed away at the age of eighty-five. And the moment I received news of her death, I begin to understand the “Please God, take me now!” moment.

At that moment, at the very moment, the pain is so great, the hurt is so severe, that you cannot imagine yourself living another minute, another second, like this. The pain and hurt is so great, so severe, that nothing else matters. You simply want to slump down in a ball on the floor and weep, no wail. You want to scream out; you want to do whatever it takes to ameliorate your suffering at that very moment.

And people attempt to comfort you by telling you that eventually the hurt will fade, eventually the pain will subside. But it does not. The hurt and pain seemingly goes away for a bit, then at the most unexpected moment, it awakes again. And for a brief moment you clutch your chest, you choke back sobs, and you think to yourself, "Please God, just take me now!".

So to those people who I’ve looked down my nose at in the past, please forgive me. I, too, now know your grief, your sadness. I, too, now share in your sense of loss.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Questioning the Dyn-o-mite Dynamics of Good Times

I’m into about hour sixteen of a twenty-four hour Good Times marathon on TV-One. It’s been fun. I’ve had some laughs. I’ve reminisced. It took me back. But suddenly I’m beginning to question the whole premise on which the show is built.

You see, Good Times is based on a black family living in the projects; the hilarity grows from their efforts to overcome the chaos that surrounds them and the forces which keep them there. And it is hilarious. Until you think of the implications.

Over the five or six seasons or so this show was on the air, the family remained firmly ensconced in the projects. Every plan they conceive of to escape their conditions falls through. The father, James Evans, Sr., is killed when he goes south to pursue a better job. JJ has tremendous talent and potential as an artist, but he can’t seem to catch a break. Thelma’s husband the NFL prospect breaks his leg and doesn’t get the million dollar contract he was expecting, and the younger son Michael is not able to go off to college as he has planned his whole life because he has to stay and help out the family.

If you think about it, this is perhaps the most hapless family I’ve ever saw, and suddenly the show becomes just damn depressing. The shit suddenly ain’t so funny anymore.

But if you think about it, the show could play out no other way. If the family is finally able to progress and get out the projects, the narrative of poverty is broken, and the show no longer functions as a sitcom; perhaps, negroes succeeding just doesn’t seem so funny. Or at least it was not so funny at the time (Remember the shows staff of mostly white writers).

But wait. Another episode is coming to an end. It seems that at the end of this episode, JJ finally signs a lucrative contract with an animation studio and is finally able to move out. Thelma’s husband finally gets an NFL contract, and he and Thelma move out taking the mother with them. And Michael is finally able to go to college. It seems like their luck has changed!

It turns out that this is the last episode recorded; it is the farewell show. Now TV-One is starting over again with the initial episode. The cycle begins anew.

Ha! Seems my theory is correct.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Meshell!

You know, when I heard Meshell Ndegeocello for the first time several years ago, I got excited! Coincidentally, I caught the video for her jam “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” on BET (I don’t know why I was even watching BET), and later I happened upon the CD, Plantation Lullabies, in the store (serendipity?). After I checked it out, I ran back to the store and bought everything by Meshell I could find.

And over the years, she has not failed to deliver. Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape got me through graduate school. In fact, it appeared on a syllabus or two in a couple of classes I taught.

I have yet to catch her live in concert, though. But it’s certainly on my things to do as soon as possible list. Anyway, here’s a recent interview I found on the web.

And while you are here, check out the video that started it all for me, plus I got all hyped and threw in a short funk piece. Damn, she bad!

Stuff White People Do

Can I ask you a question? Why would you show up at a festival dressed as a wizard and then get butt-assed naked? It simply makes no sense. Yet, the self-proclaimed wizard in the clip below did just that.

However, that’s probably only the beginning of the zany madcaps contained here. The police seem absolutely perplexed by the task of arresting a butt-naked man without actually coming in contact with the butt-nakedness. So what do they do? They tase him. And they tase him. And then they tase him some more.

If you have a certain disdain for naked white people, do not look at this clip!

Naked Wizard Tased By Reality from Tracy Anderson on Vimeo

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Where is Gil Scott Heron (and Where Was He When We Needed Him the Most)

I was going through my CDs recently, searching for just the right CD to fit my mood for the moment, when I ran across my collection of Gil Scott Heron CDs. It’s been a while since I last grooved with Gil, so I threw it in and sat back.

I forgot what an absolute beast Gil was. Gil’s shit was always on the money. And what’s so amazing, it’s still relevant even now. Substitute Bush for Nixon and Cheney for Agnew, and all of a sudden, it’s a contemporary piece. It looks like republicans have been up to the same all shit for some time now.

Most people have heard “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” But Gil’s contribution is much greater than that. For a time, he was our griot, our mouthpiece. He stayed in Ronald Reagan’s ass. Poems like “H2O Gate Blues,” “Bicentennial Blues,” “B-Movie” and “Pardon the Analysis” tackled the hypocrisy and other extraneous foolishness in Washington through several administrations. If I might quote poet Etheridge Knight, “He had been our Destroyer,/ the doer of things. We dreamed of doing but could not bring ourselves to do.” He said the shit we wanted to day; he was the voice of our frustrations and misgivings.

The Bush administration might have been more bearable had we had the voice of Gil Scott Heron been available. Check out my Gil Scott Heron playlist below. It contains a couple of the poems mentioned above as well as two of my favorites.

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I know that he got in a little trouble, but after he did his penance, I fully expected him to return to the stage and the studio. However, I have heard very little from him except a set at SOB’s in New York City which is embedded below. Come on back Gil; we need you more than ever.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

TV-One: The Anti-BET

As I’ve written before, I am not a fan of television. Television sucks.

However, today I was pleasantly surprised. For the last few weeks, my wife and children have pretty much kept the television tuned to TV-One. I didn’t pay much attention, though. I caught an episode of Good Times here, an episode of Sanford and Son there. But today I got up and watched a little early morning television as I had my morning coffee. I tuned in just in time for an episode of The PJ’s, and I ended up staying for the rest of the day. Check out this classic PJ's clip embedded below.

Right before TV-One debuted, I heard the company’s president being interviewed on NPR. I was skeptical; I honestly expected another BET clone. And another BET is the last thing this world needs. But checking out the schedule, it appears that TV-One is completely antithetical to BET.

The line-up features a number of old African American themed sitcoms such as Good Times, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons, plus a number of African American themed movies. I caught a movie today, Out of the Darkness, starring Diana Ross that I hadn’t heard of. It was pretty good.

Besides reality shows, there does not seem to be much original programming, but TV-One is a pleasant alternative to other offerings on television.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blazing Saddles, Washington Style

There is this scene from Mel Brooks’ hilarious 1974 movie Blazing Saddles that I really absolutely love. This western town is in the midst of chaos. Crime abounds. Banks are being plundered. The women folk are being raped. Absolute chaos. So the townspeople petition the territory governor for assistance, and he hires a sheriff.

So the day the sheriff is due to arrive, the whole town turns out. There is a marching band. Politicians are giving speeches, the whole nine. Enter the late Cleavon Little as the sheriff. As the town spots him from afar on the horizon, a cheer goes up. But then as he draws closer, the townspeople get a better view, and much to their chagrin, realize the sheriff is black. “The sheriff’s a neeg--,” someone shouts, not quite able to get the complete word out before the scene changes.

That’s how I see the current scene in Washington. Bush and his administration proved so utterly incompetent and left things in such shambles, that the nation cried out for change. And on the scene steps Barack Obama.

President Obama won the campaign far and square. He articulated a message of change that everyone seemed to me looking for. It seemed that his message seemed to overshadow his race. That’s not to say the nation did not recognize that he was black. But that is to say that given the dire circumstances of the time and the McCain/Palin ticket’s grievious missteps and inadequacies, the fact that he was black seemed not to matter so much.

Now reality sets in. It’s as if someone stared into the horizon, only to discover that the president is a neeg--! Perhaps its just me, but in the discussions of President’s Obama’s performance thus far, it seems I’m not hearing, “How is this president doing?”, but “How is this black man doing as president?”.

Let’s face it. We’re in uncharted territory here. The question is not so much can the president succeed, but can a black man in this position be successful.

What’s my second favorite scene from Blazing Saddles? It’s when Cleavon Little’s character and another black character infiltrate a Klu Klux Klan rally. Their race is hidden underneath the hoods, but suddenly someone spots their hands sticking out and then snatches the hoods from their heads. There is a moment of silence when everyone tries to figure out what to do next. Suddenly, the sheriff flashes a pearly white smile and asks the klan members in attendance, “Where’s the white women?” A chase ensues.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Obama Wins over the Klan

Evidently, this was running during the campaign. It’s old, but funny nonetheless.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Things White People Do

Sometimes I’m baffled by the things white people do. Take for instance this lady at a German zoo. She jumped into the polar bear enclosure and swam toward them. She then seemed genuinely shocked that the polar bears would attack her.

The question is why. Why would someone… Oh, never mind. Just check out the clip below.

A Quick Easter Thought

I’m somewhat of a melancholy mood this morning. Today is Easter. But we are not going to church. My wife and I discussed going. However, it seemed somewhat sacrilegious that we go. After all, we haven’t gone all year. In fact, we haven’t gone for quite a while. So, what’s the use of showing up today?

And the guilt is setting in. I grew up in the church. In fact, I come from a family of preachers. Both my step-father and my father are ministers. I have several uncles who are ministers. I even have several family members who are high in the echelon of the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) church.

I wonder why I am denying my family the rich experience that I was a part of growing up in the church. I have some ideas. For one, I’d like to blame my reluctance to attend church on Christians. Christians and their actions have given Christianity a bad name. I believe that they have ceased acting like Christ, but have instead become smug and self-righteous, confident of their own infallibility.

Could it be the acquisition of knowledge? Early in grad school I found myself questioning the very existence of a god. My father told me that this is natural. Out of this questioning, my faith would grow even stronger.

There are a number of other reasons (or excuses) I could give, but none seem sufficient.

But a few minutes ago my son told me some joke he heard a comedian make about Easter. It was wholly inappropriate, and I reproved him for even repeating such a thing. However, I really don’t think I have the right to admonish him so severely. After all, he hasn’t been taught to respect the religious experience. He has not been taught the value of spirituality. I have taught him many things, and he has proven himself intellectually gifted; however, I have not served him well spiritually.

So, I guess what has come of this Easter is that I realize I have a responsibility to my family that I have not met. Maybe there is an afternoon service somewhere.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Anonymous Blogger Outed

In my local paper this morning I found an article that intrigues me. It is the case of a blogger and a very powerful local institution.

Let me give you the back story before I relate the event. The very powerful local institution that I am speaking of is a local Baptist church. The church is perhaps the largest in the community and very conservative, and additionally, it has long been charged by members of the community that the church holds undue sway over the political process in the city. I once even heard someone comment that the mayor and city council made no major decision unless they first consulted the church. But that’s just insinuation. Let me get to the story at hand.

It seems that a long-time member became more than a bit perturbed with the church’s new pastor. In the main, he was upset by the pastor’s preaching style as well as his $300,000 per year salary. What did he do? He set up a blog, an anonymous blog, to voice his criticism. The emphasis is on the word anonymous.

Well anyway, it seems that after a while the church and its pastor took umbrage at this faithful servant’s criticism and turned to a member of the pastor’s security detail. Incidentally, this member of the pastor’s security detail also happened to be a detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office who, citing “an ongoing Internet incident that has possible criminal overtones," initiated an investigation. Google was subpoenaed and asked to provide all available information about the blogger in question as well as two other bloggers.

Off course the charges were unsubstantiated, but in the meantime, the name of the blogger was turned over to the church, and the blogger was effectively excommunicated.

There appears to be wrong-doing on so many levels, mainly the abuse of power as well as the suppression of the right of free speech. But what I am most struck by is the church’s reaction to dissension. It immediately took steps to stamp it out. Is this a conservative trait? I can recall the Bush administrations ongoing attempts to squelch dissent by any means necessary.

James Baldwin once wrote something to the effect that if a person loved something, not only was it that person’s right to offer criticism should that entity be in danger of harming itself, it was that person’s duty.

At this time, the blogger in question has filled a grievance with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department, but no new information has emerged. I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Review (Television): The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

You know I’m not a big fan of television. Practically each and every time I turn it on, I am reminded of why it is sometimes referred to as an “idiot box.” But HBO is an exception; I’ve always set aside time for the HBO Sunday night line-up. And over the years, HBO has aired a pretty consistent quality Sunday night line-up (if you discount that minstrel-like buffoonery that was Def Comedy Jam).

It looks like the latest made for HBO series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency follows this same tradition of excellence. My wife, who is much more of a critic than I, concurs. And if she likes it, it must be something to it. However, my wife accuses me of enjoying the series only because it stars Jill Scott, and I am a huge Jill Scott fan. And she might be right (I love’em pretty and thick). But there are many other reasons for giving this one a chance.

Thus far in the series, the storylines have been simple but entertaining. The head lady detective, Jill Scott’s character Precious Ramotswe, stumbles into about three cases, and she solves them using simply her guile and wits. According to HBO, “Precious Ramotswe exemplifies the courageous efforts by real-life Africans to improve the quality of their lives while preserving their culture.”

There are hints that there is a deeper back story; circumstances in her past have pushed her to where she is now. The death of her father seems to figure prominently. Also, there appears as if heartbreak played a role. Bits and pieces of her background are revealed each episode. Also, the whole of the series is shot on location in Botswana, Africa, which leads to breathtaking scenes of the African countryside.

Only two episodes have been shown so far, and the show still seems to be building a relationship with the audience, but this one definitely looks promising. It airs each Sunday at 8 pm EST and again at 10. Check out the clip below.

Also, following The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, HBO has just begun another new series, Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices. BNV chronicles the journey of groups of youths from several cities throughout the United States as they compete to represent their cities at the July 2008 Brave New Voices Spoken Word Festival in Washington, DC. Stay to check this one out as well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I’m Getting Soft Y’all

In my old age I’m getting soft and used to my necessary comforts.

Take for instance this afternoon. After getting out of a meeting, I got in my car and turned the ignition. Nothing. Not a sound. I tried again. Again nothing. The third time did not prove to be the charm either.

So what did I do? I simply got out, whipped out my blackberry to call AAA, and headed for the air-conditioned comfort of the building. Before I was halfway there and as I was waiting for AAA to pick up (must have been a number of other lazy knuckleheads out there today), an image of my dad shaking his head and tsk-tsk-tsk-ing popped into my head. Negro, at least shake the battery cable. Do something before you give in the voice chided me.

So, back to my car I went. I popped the hood and guess what? A cable was loose. I’m puzzled as to how it got loose, but it was loose nonetheless. I got back in, turned the key, and the car started right up. My point?

Back in the day it would have not gone down like this. First of all, even if cell phones were available, I would not have been able to afford one. And I certainly would not have had AAA. Hell, I didn’t even have car insurance. I just drove around with my fingers crossed. So, I would have gotten out and done whatever it took to get my car started and get on down the road.

I don’t know. Maybe this is progress. Maybe I should be grateful that I’m blessed to have a back-up plan. Maybe I’m just too old to still be living by my wits as I was then. But still, I should have at least tried first. My dad would have. My uncles would have. And at one time, I would have.

I’m just glad my son was not there to witness my foolishness.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Desperate Plea for Help

Dammit. It happened again. Again I've wasted most of my day on Facebook.

After yesterday, I thought I'd learned my lesson. So this morning I got up with a schedule designed to make up for the time I lost yesterday. I got up really early and planned to work really late.

Everything started out okay. I got up early. I got my coffee. I sat down at my computer. But before I got started, I decided to just check my Facebook page. I knew it was the wrong thing to do.

First, a message from an old friend. I had to answer back. Actually, I was excited to see it. Before I could finish answering the message, I got an instant message from an old classmate. So, I got caught in a long back and forth. I checked out a couple photo albums and surprised a few people on their walls. Then I checked my clock. Shit. Time wasted. Back to square one.

Now what? I'm behind and running out of time. I thought I was more responsible. I thought I had more self-control. Help!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

All Caught up in a Craze

Call me snobbish, but I usually frown on adults who get caught up in crazes. I have a thirty-five year old nephew who spends much of his free time playing video games. And take for instance this Facebook thing, which my wife insists that it’s a lot like my blogging, but that’s another argument for another day. But anyway, I know quite a few adults who seem to invest an inordinate amount of time on this whole Facebook “experience,” and it seems, or seemed, like a big waste of time.

Well, it’s about four in the afternoon on a Saturday. I find myself behind on my honey-do and gotta do lists. You see, I’ve spent the last four hours or so absolutely engrossed in Facebook. And I feel so utterly and absolutely ashamed of myself.

I set up a Facebook account a few weeks back to simply to keep track of my teenage children. After months of them begging me to get a Facebook account, I finally acquiesced. Anyway, some old friends that I haven’t seen in years “found” my Facebook page. And then a friend from high school found my page and suggested that I join my high school’s alumni Facebook group. That led to this morning when I awoke to find messages from several high school friends. So to make a long story short, I’ve spend most of my day catching up and trading pictures.

Now my wife is pissed because the lawn still looks a mess. I’m pissed because I haven’t gotten anything done that I wanted to get done today. And my children are really pissed because they have a feeling that I’ll renege on my promise to take them to the mall.

So, I’m not really sure if Facebook is a waste of time or not. In a strange sort of way, I enjoyed myself today. I was able to chat with some old friends and take a stroll down memory lane. I even had a laugh or two. But those things I really should have been accomplishing seem to fall by the wayside. But one thing I’m still sure about. Grown men spending hours and hours playing video games is some silly shit. Maybe I’ll try it one day.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Reefer Madness

Do me a favor, please. If you ever sparked the leaf, raise your hand. You know, burned one. Chiefed. Smoked a phatty.

Some of you are not being very honest. I should see more hands than that. I’m almost certain of it. But I understand. Some of you have professional and personal concerns that prevent your complete honesty. Me? Well, I have professional and personal concerns that prevent me from being completely honest (mostly professional).

Let’s just say I do not partake at this time. However, it seems to me there are a number of persons around me who do and who do on a very regular basis. And it’s not like I hang out with a bunch of degenerates or low-lifes. I’m talking about doctors, lawyers, professors, businessmen—respected professionals.

But let me get to my point. I don’t have a scientific survey to back up my hypothesis, but I suspect that the number of marijuana users has remained constant over the years, if not increased. But the laws making marijuana illegal have not changed. Why?

It has been suggested that marijuana laws simply cost us more than they are worth. And as we found out during prohibition, even the most well meant laws sometimes have devastating results. Out of the effort to rid the country of that demon alcohol, a whole new criminal enterprise was born.

Furthermore, given our current economic situation, can we still afford to not legalize marijuana? Just think of the tax revenue legalizing marijuana would bring. Just think of the number of criminals who would be put out of business, the number of persons we don’t have to feed and cloth and house in that enormous corporate entity we call the prison system.

But marijuana is a gateway drug. If we legalize it, we make it easier for kids to get. Is it not easy for them to procure marijuana now? Don’t fool yourself. If kids want to get it, that will get it. When you were underage, did you not manage to purchase alcohol? Even though marijuana was and has always been illegal, as a teenager, were you not able to purchase marijuana?

I am not an anarchist. But I do believe that we must go back and re-evaluate this law. Again, I am not a marijuana fan. I don’t even use marijuana. But to not legalize marijuana at this point is not very smart. It is simply madness, reefer madness.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where is Tavis?

A few years back, Tavis Smiley seemed ubiquitous. I mean, he was on TV. He was on the radio. He had one or two books out. Then suddenly during the last presidential election, he seemed to disappear. Not that I was a big Tavis Smiley fan, mind you. I think my attitude toward him could best be summed up as one of indifference at best. But for a while, he seemed to be the voice of African America, and then just as quickly, I heard nothing else from him. What gives?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Where's the Beef?: Toward a Definition of African American Literature

Today I walked into my favorite chain bookstore (I mostly frequent used bookstores or independents), and I was immediately greeted by the manager who informed me that the store had greatly expanded its African American literature section. I had previously complained to him about the paucity of African American literature.

Let’s just say I was somewhat taken aback by what I saw. Indeed, the store has expanded its collection of African American literature. However, this expansion was predominated by what is commonly referred to as urban literature. Titles such as Thug Misses, In My Hood, and Thug Matrimony stood out from the shelves. In fact, every title seemed to have either the words “thug” or “‘hood” in it. They even had rap artist Fifty Cents’ G-Unit collection. I didn't even know he had a book collection.

They did have the old stand-bys available, you know Frederick Douglas, Toni Morrison, the classics. But as I said, the bulk of the collection was made up of urban literature.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m perhaps not as bourgeois as you think. As a young man, I read Iceberg Slim and the entire Donald Goines collection. And after each reading, for a few minutes I was gangsta’, but then reality set in and I went back to my ordinary, everyday busta’ self. Even now, from time to time I'll pick up some absolute foolishness.

But my question is if African American literature is supposed to reflect the African American experience, what does mainstream America define that experience to be?

I believe that the African American experience is varied and all facets of this experience should be represented, but what happens when only one facet becomes representative of the whole experience?

Perhaps, I am being a bit snobbish about this. Maybe I should be glad that more African Americans are writing and more African Americans are reading, regardless of what they write and read. But in the same instance, I recall the old Wendy's commercial when the old lady demands, "Where's the beef?" So, I am asking, "Where's the substance?"

Antislavery Literature Project

I got word about this project this morning from a listserv that I subscribe to. I took a brief stroll through the site and was impressed. Here is all the information as it was relayed to me:

The Antislavery Literature Project has opened three new collections.

The Legacies collection is co-edited by Holly Kent (Lehigh University), Joe Lockard (Arizona State), and Zoe Trodd (Harvard). This collection explores the intellectual and political contributions of the abolitionist movement until World War I and historical appreciations of abolitionists. A video by Zoe Trodd links these abolitionist memories to the emergence ofthe mid-twentieth-century Civil Rights Movement.

The John Brown Poetry collection presents an annotated selection of the hundreds of poems published between 1859-1920 that provide representations of John Brown and Harpers Ferry. Interpretive podcasts and poetry translations accompany the collection.

A Frederick Douglass Translations collection examines the translation history of the writings of Frederick Douglass in the context of early African American literature translations. The Project historicizes these translations and provides podcast readings of Douglass in such languages as French, Hebrew, and Spanish.

The Antislavery Literature Project, established in 2003, undertakes public scholarship by providing free, accessible digital editions of the literatures of slavery and the antislavery movement in the United States. It is based in the English Department of Arizona State University and works in collaboration with the EServer at Iowa State University. A community of scholars supports the Project efforts.
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