Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Living in a soundbite world

When was the last time you heard a speech that moved you, that made you sit up and brush the potato chip crumbs off your lap and watch? The last time you heard a speech that made your eyes well up? When was the last time anyone really got to you, really said something with substance that you will always keep with you?

Lately, I've been thinking about sound bites, and how we live in a sound bite society. It's all about the quick-hit quote. It's all about getting on ESPN or CNN or E! or BET.

Striving for our 15 Minutes drives us overboard, prompting us to say anything to get us noticed. And, nine times out of then, what is said is outrageous. Or hateful. Or mean. Or cynical. Just watch Sportscenter on any given night. You'll see. Or watch FOX News.

Wait. On second thought. Don't.

But there has to be something more to be said - about life, about people, about humanity, about the conditions of how we live - that isn't outrageous, hateful and cnynical. At least, I hope so. Then again, people have tended to call me Mr. Happy and accused me of being a male Pollyanna.

But, if you think about it, Jesse Jackson's "keep hope alive" message may have been trite, but it was a simple, yet powerful message. And very necessary. Surely, we can all relate to tough times, to needing to hear that all we needed was faith. Sure, we can have faith. But it makes us feel just a little bit better when someone comforts us with a few kind words to keep on going.

That's why Keep On Moving by Soul II Soul and Optimistic by The Sounds of Blackness are two of my favorate songs of all time.

Simple songs, but heck, sometimes it's all about simple, ain't it?

All about the sound bite.

All about the sound bite.

All about the sound bite.

Who moved you last? A preacher? A celebrity? A sibling? A parent? A friend?

Or do we just yap, yap, yap, hunkered down in our fixed positions and comfortable with staying there, oblivioius?

Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention last year really moved me. His passion about the perils of hate and importance of connecting was amazing. And, that's really what it's about: connecting. With our friends. With our family. With ourselves.

(Perhaps one could argue that Clinton's speech was somewhat "cynical" or "hateful", merely targeted at conservative republicans. Perhaps. But, for those 25 minutes. He had me. And everyone else. Fools could have run around bombing up a storm, and no one would have noticed. All eyes were on the tv and Clinton's speech.)

But, if you think about it, one doesn't have to be inspired by a celebrity silliquoy. It doesn't have to be some grandiose speech given in front of millions. A few small words from a friend or realtive can inspire you, make you realize we're not all hopeless.

My uncle reminding me of the importance of family a few months ago was just as moving as Clinton's speech. A co-worker telling me to take a step back and no overreact and handle something with class and dignity was equally moving.

Just seems that these days, when people open their mouths, all that come out are big, empty words. We're all so rushed from place to place, from gig to job, from here to there, that we don't really take the time to talk to each other, to connect with substance.

Confession: Oprah Winfrey's speech at the Oscars a few years ago also got me. Can't remember specifics, but it was one of her "you gotta believe!" speeches. You know how Oprah is. Always preaching. I was struck not so much by her message as I was by her tone and intensity. Half the time I can't stand Oprah. But no matter how you feel about her, the woman is passionate. And believes in her heart what she says.

Clinton's 1996 presidental speech was outstanding. Jesse Jackson's speech in (I think) 1992 was excellent, too.

A lot of people criticized Halle Berry for getting so emotional when she won the Oscar. I missed it, but saw the clips of it. Personally, i have no problem with getting so emotional. That's when the truth, the heart of a person, tends to come gushing out like a geyser.

When was the last time you were moved or touched by a few kinds words or a big, grand speech?

Or, is it simply:
All about the sound bite?
All about the sound bite?
All about the sound bite?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The N word

Lately, there's been a lot of talk about the N Word. Y'all know what I mean.


I can say that.
A lot of rednecks can't, which they resent, but that's another blog.

Anyway, my boy Aaron MacGruder, who draws the Boondocks comic strip, is making it into a cartoon. And, he wants to "keep it real" by allowing characters to use the N word. In a cartoon. This will apparently be seen late at night, on the Cartoon Network.

Is it necessary? There's been a lot of talk lately about this. I interviewed Aaron a couple of years ago, and he's a real cool cat, a "real" brother with no pretentions. Very down to earth. But I'm wondering what the cartoon is going to gain by using that word.

So, will MacGruder's messages go the way of John Singleton, who tries SO hard to "keep it real" that the gratitutious foul language often mucks up the deeper messages in his movies? And, what about the uncensored versions of the Chappele's Show, which apparently don't bleep it out? Does that take away from the insight of that show?

Ya'll know me. I'm all for keeping it real and for truth telling from the jump. I'm just tossing it out there whether Aaron really needs the "N" word in his cartoon. I find his comic strips hilarious and insightful, and they tend to be so without using that word.

So why is it necessary now?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Dumb TV

The talk last week of "Good Times" got me to thinking about my favorate shows, and the worst shows ever created.

Let's start with the worst. Here are the dumbest tv shows I have ever seen. Some of them are series. Some are specials. Some are current. Some are old school. All of them are ludicris as hell. I know i'm missing a lot, so feel free to add on.

Man vs Beast.
The premise: human beings square off in a round of olympic-like competitions against...animals.
My take: The world is going to hell when you turn on a tv and see a human being racing a giraffe in the 40 yard dash. Put it this way: I'm human. I EAT animals. I don't RACE against them. Who cares if a hyena can beat me in a sprint? I'm an evolved species that can think and do things.

The Secret Diary of Desmond Pheffier.
The premise: This was on UPN (that figures) about seven or so years ago. It's a a sitcom about - brace yourself - a slave in Abraham Lincoln's White House who records the various goings on in his lil diary.
My take: Triflin. Insulting. Dumb. What's funny is, this show tanked not because of the insulting premise, but because it was simply a horrible idea and wasn't funny.

Fear Factor
The premise: Human beings (you know, we evolved ones) eat rats and shove snakes down our underwear and stuff to win prizes.
My take: The true sign that mankind has lost it's mind. Who thought of this? Who thought it would be interesting to see people pick up a mouth full of roaches and move them to a jar?

Cop Rock
The premise: a musical cop show.
My take: An old school pick. Cops singing? WTF? The last thing I want to see is a cop twirling around on my tv screen. Go solve some damn crimes.

The premise: yet another black-orphan-adopted-by-rich-white-folks show. And it wasn't even funny on top of that.
My take: All I remember is, the mama in that show looked like a drag queen.

What's happeneing now
The premise: A remake of the old "What's Happening?" show.
My take: I don't care what's happening now. I cared about the show THEN. D was my girl, and this show didn't have D.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cell phone companies ain't sh--!!!!!!!

So my cell phone died. Cell phone companies ain't sh--, but we'll get to that. I go to the Cingular store during lunch, and I'm like, "my cell is messed up, what are my options?"

"Juan" informs me that my options are to get a new phone. Thanks Einstein.

So I ask what the price ranges are. I'm clueless about cell phones. I'm thinking I can get a top of the line one for about $100. Useless-ass "Juan" informs me that the bare bones cell phone, brand new, is $250. He then informs me that if I were three months away from the expiration of my contract, they could tear it up and renew it and I'd get a great cell phone on the cheap. My contract doesn't expire for another six months or so, so I'm screwed.

Here's my question: why are Cell Phone companies so triflin? I'm five mintues away from putting them on my Utility Shit List, right up there with cable companies. Why in the hell do they charge $5,0000 for a phone, but when they trying to lure you into a contract, they offer that same phone to you for $5 and, a pack of Now and Laters and a blunt?

A few people have told me I can go on ebay, bid on one at auction real cheap, and go that route. But I ain't got time for all that. Ebay takes patience, something a bruh don't have.

Oh, and then, when I asked "Juan" if they could transfer my numbers, he's like, "Maybe."
Then, a pause.
After 30 seconds, i'm like, "Maybe....what???"
He's like, "Well, we'd have to check to see if you have a sim card and then maybe we could transfer it depending on this and that, blah, blah, blah..."

So I asked him if he could check my phone right then?
This fool was like, "Naw, we don't have 'the machine' at this store."
Whatever the hell "the machine" is.

Oh, and peep this: a friend of mine told me of her experience with a cell phone company. She and her husband wanted to UPGRADE their plan, adding minutes, options, etc. The cell phone company told her, no, in order to do that, they would have to break the original contract (charging her a $200 fee) and start a new one.

The friend reminded the cell phone company that she wanted an UPGRADE, and was willing to spend more money. But they still said no. Pissed, when the friend's contract was up, she switched to another company.

What kind of dumb sh-- is that? She wanted to spend MORE MONEY, but the cell phone company woudn't let her. They was like, "naw, dawg, we good."

Normally, I love Cingular, and think it's the best cell phone company hands down, but today, all cell phone companies on my list.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Sick of Harry Potter

Damn, I'm sick of hearing about Harry Potter! Ok, so, those books have gotten kids to read. Good, but so damn what? Why are we treating the release of every book like the Second Coming? Why in the world are fools lining up at midnight to buy a book about a lil wizard and his lil powers?

I can understand that the books may be entertaining and suspenseful, but I'm sick of hearing about it. I mean, we got academics reviewing the latest book and writing disserations about the meaning of it and how the book has gotten darker and all that.

Fools running around acting like these books are installments of the Bible.

Forget Harry Potter. I want to hear about DeVante Potter and how he trying to survive Hogwarts High School in the fifth ward!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Church and the black man

Are Churches houses of worship, or fashion shows? Are attendants congregants or gang members? Why is there so much infighting in churches, especially within black churches?

This great opinion piece in the Washington Post - - has me thinking about spirituality and organized religion.

The author makes the point that the black church - and most churches in general - has somewhat ignored the needs of their communities, specificially the needs of black men. I thought it was interesting how the writer talked about his wife and kids going to church, but he stays home.

It was kind of a sad piece, since the guy is obviously very spiritual. He doesn't feel like he connects with organized religion anymore.

It's something I can somewhat relate to. I"m spiritual. I believe in God. I guess that makes me religious. But I haven't been to church in a minute, mainly because of all the things he mentioned: the infighting, the attitudes, the drama.

I remember being a kid, and going to church, and when we came home all my mamma and her friends talked about were how sistah so and so had on this ugly outfit, and brother this and that is messing around with one of the choir members, etc.

I remember all kinds of Church-related arguments breaking out, many of them turining nasty. I remember at one point some people stopped going to church because they felt that some good friends of theirs said the wrong thing.

It seems like every church has certain types:

1. The troublemaking deacon. This is that ONE deacon that's always into some stuff, that's always starting something and spreading rumors. This is the guy that's always up in everybody business, but don't want anybody in HIS business. That rumor about the pastor and the choir member? It was started by the Troublemaking Deacon.

2. The clueless preacher's wife. She smiles and grins and goes through the motions, not aware that her husband is doing 'ain't no telling with who knows who.

3. The Ambigiously Gay Choir Leader. He speaks in a high-pitched voice. He can sew a choir robe together in 5 minutes. He's always impeccably dressed, and can sing like Whitney and Aretha. He's gay. And everyone knows it. But no one says anything about it, which is one of the Great Ironies of the Black Church: can't stand gay folks, but got them in major leadership positions.

4. The Holy Ghost Woman. You know. She "gets happy" during EVERY song EVERY single Sunday. Hops around so fast her hat falls off. The urshers always have to "take her in the back" for a few minutes.

5. Ain't See Him Since Last Easter Man. I know several people like this. I have a cousin who, miraciously, only shows up on Easter Sunday, claiming that he's ready to join the church.

Anyway, read the Washington Post piece. It's good. He also talks about how Churches have failed to meet the needs of their communities.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Old-School TV

TV Land is having a "Good Times" marathon, which is the equivalent of telling me I just won the 4 digit for playing a number "in the box." As many know, Good Times is my S-H-I-T. I own the first four complete seasons. I know episodes by heart. I know how much the Evans' rent was ($125 per month). In know where Wilona worked and I know where Florida moved after she got married and abandoned her kids in the ghetto.

I love me some Good Times.

That got me to thinking about Old School TV. What is it about Old School TV shows that keeps us interested? All of the shows from the 70s - Good Times, The Jeffersons, All In the Family - dealth will real life issues that we still deal with today. Archie Bunker was racist as all get out, yet at the same time he was refreshingly blunt, and provoked discussion.

Here's my question: why is black-oriented tv so lame-ass today compared to the 70s and 80's? I mean, if you look at any random episode of The Jeffersons or Good Times or Sandford and Son, you will hear the black characters use the word "nigga" the way it's used today, and the way they DO NOT use it on tv now.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we should use that word on tv. Or at all. I'm merely asking: why is it that those shows seemed ahead of their time? Was it simply about the post-1960s black power movement?

Why are black shows today so...simple and clueless and message-less?
What are your favorate black old school shows?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

It's gettin hot in here

Random thoughts as this heat starts to kick my tail:

1) I'm glad New York didn't get the Olympics. I mean, I love NYC and all, but they acted as if they should get the games JUST because of 911. The same thing happened right after 911 during the World Series. Everybody and they mamma thought the Yankess should get it JUST because of 911. Sorry, it don't work like 'dat. The United States has had the games three times in 20 years. That's a lot.

2) You know how you go into the doctor, and wait in the examination room for the doctor, and there's another examination room right next to it? The walls between these examination rooms are usually paper thin. Well, today, I was at the doctor, and the doctor was meeting with a husband and wife in the next examination room. I couldn't overhear what it was about (and wasn't trying to listen, to be honest), but my doctor is LOUD AS HELL when he wanna be, and all of a sudden I hear him say, plain as day, "Ok, i'll get yall some viagra. Don't worry. I'ma hook yall up. I'll be right back with a prescription."
I didn't really need to hear all that!

3) This week's "What's all that fo?": The bombings in London are a trip. Here's my thing with all these terrorist attacks: What's the point? What do they gain by blowing shit up and killing people? Are they doing it for religious reasons, for their God? Even so, still, WHAT IS THE POINT! As Jemele said about the villians in the James Bond films: If you blow up the world, where YO ass gon live???

4) Overheard on the radio driving home today: "It's a high of 101 degress downtown..."
That's just wrong. Plain wrong.

5) I renewed my NABJ membership. They said it would take two weeks to process, and I'll get my stuff in the mail. Right after that, I registered for the convention. Here it is, nearly 3 weeks after I renewed my membership, and i haven't gotten envelope the first in the mail from NABJ. I bet my registration is going to arrive in the mail before my membership. I loves my people, but we cornered the market on triflin.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

'Lil Kim in a cellblock with Amazon beasts.

Weave billowing past her shoulders like bed sheets drying on a clothes line, Lil Kim stormed out of court, surrounded by shysters in black and fans flashing film. She apparently recieved one year in prison for perjury, lying under oath.

One wonders why Martha Stewart, who also essentially "lied", got only five months in jail and five months house arrest on her Dynasty-like estate.

Martha got a hookup in a minimal level halfway house, and Lil kim will probably get stuck in an OZ-like cellblock lockdown where they shoot you in the fo head if you talk too loud. How many movies have we seen that depicted what life is like in women's prisons where the inmates are barbarian beasts with breasts who will kill each other at will?

Double standard? Someone said that they think that jurors see 'Lil Kim is a rapper and were probably harder on her, that rapping is hard edged, which is something most (let's face it, white) jurors can't relate to.

And, even the judge admitted that he had to be careful not to sentence Kim too harshly for fear that people would see a racial double standard. But, still, why couldn't she get the same soft sentence Martha did? Will she get send to a similar facility?

Granted, Lil Kim SHOULD HAVE just admitted she saw her manager the day of the shooting and paid her damn taxes and called it a day, but still. This is about the sentence.

Either, way, though, this gives Lil kim some major street cred. You're not a REAL rapper until you've been to prison.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

MC Hammer. Michael Jackson. Fake-ass fads.

Confession: I used to have an MC Hammer hookup. Remember: the big-ass baloon pants, the oversized shirt. I had it in high school, back when I had no business wearing it, back when Hammer was da shit and was floating down from the sky in KFC commercials, looking like a clown in oversized gazelles.

And, remember the Michael Jackson "Beat It" jackets? With all the zippers? I had one. Got it in the 6th grade when I got a good report card. I remember back then that having one was all that. You would roll up in school with a Beat It jacket like you finna whoop somebody ass.

That got me to thinking about ridiculus, fake-ass fads. Why in the hell did we fall for them? Ok, ok, Michael Jackson was big back then (before he was sleeping with little boys), but when I look back on that horrible ass jacket I realize somebody should have shot me in the head for wearing that bullshit. I was home recently and was bullshitting with my brothers and sisters and we were going through old photographs and one with me in that jacket came up. What the fuck was I thinking? I think I wore that jacket twice my whole childhood. After a while, the coolness of being one of the few kids in school with a Beat It jacket fades and you become That Kid With All Those Damn Zippers.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Homeless hometown homies

So I'm walking to the rental office Saturday afternoon to pay my rent. It's 300 degress and I'm hoofing so I can get out of the mf heat. This homeless guy approaches me. No big deal, since I live in a downtown urban area and there are homeless people everywhere (I once had a homeless guy spot me on my balcony drinking a beer, then yelled up asking me if I had a beer or a quarter).

Anyway, homeless guy gives the standard I'm-a-good-homeless-person line: "Say, bru, I don't mean no harm. I'm not out to get you or anything."

I'm like, "Yeah, what's up?"

Homeless guy: "Look, bru, i'm not from around here, I just moved down here from Michigan."

Me: "Oh yeah? Where?"

Homeless guy: "Flint."

I'm sweating like an African slave by this point in the heat.

Me: "For real? I'm from Flint, too. What part you from?"

Homeless guy: "Northwest side."

Me: "For real? Me, too. What part?"

He then names some streets that are in the Northwest part of Flint. I have found, 1,500 miles from the city I grew up in, a homeless guy who grew up in the same city. I tell him what part of Flint I grew up in, and then he hits me with his pitch: "Say bru, would you happen to have some money so I can get a hamburger at McDonalds?"

I didn't have any money on me. I would have tried to hook him up if I had. Normally, I ignore more of the rude clowns that wander around my neighborhood, but, hell, I had to help out a Flintstone, right?

But I was wearing my workout shorts which didn't have any pockets. All I had was my $850 rent check. And it looked like he was eyeing that.

Me: "Sorry, bru, I don't have anything."

He said ok and huffed off. And I thought I heard him call me something.

Here's my question: when did homeless people get so rude? One time, this one homeless guy asked me for some change. I reached into my pocket and gave him all the change I had, which was like 90 cents. This clown was like, "Aw, man. That's all?" Another time this homeless guy approached me and asked me not for money, but for antifreeze.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"Can I impregnate you tonight?"

Let's talk about Bobby Brown for a minute. That brother has some serious issues, as we all know. And his wife is one step away from Crackville (oh wait, she just returned). He has a new tv reality show, being Bobby Brown. It's pretty...strange. Entertaining on one hand, and kind of dumb and twisted on the other.

For example, I never knew what a whiny bitch Whitney Houston was. All she did for both shows was whine about how she's sick of everyone wanting her autograph. Um, what did you expect when you became an international superstar? And, quite frankly, I really don't need to hear every five minutes about how they're having sex.

It's defintely a ghetto twist on the reality genre. It'll be interesing to see how far this goes. As Jemele said it's like watching a major car wreck about to happen.

The big question is: Who names their child LaPrincia?

Yep, I caved in.

I got a blog. Hell, what else did yall expect? For me to sit back and let everyone else have fun running off at the mouth about random shit? Don't think so. My turn. This is my spot. My place. Imagine a card table set up with four chairs, and people waiting their turn to play spades. Imagine yelling and screaming because your partner reneged, claining he could get four books when he could only pull three. Imagine tossing your cards down in disgust, yelling at your partner and getting up from the table to go take a pull of your beer.

That's what I want this blog to be about. I want it to feel like a long-ass spades game, where fools yell at each other one minute, high fiving the next, where decades-long friendships break up, then are repaired when yall pull a blind 6 out of nowhere.

This is my blog. This is my spot. We will have fun, yell scream, debate and chill.

Let the bidding begin.