Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Saddened...but not shocked...

Many people will hate me for this post. Consider this news byte from almost a year ago: "Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed early Monday when his white stretch Hummer was sprayed by bullets after a nightclub dispute following a New Year's Eve party.
Police have no motive and no indication the 24-year-old player was targeted in the drive-by shooting of the limousine. The burst of violence occurred hours after the
Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention.
'All of us are devastated by this tragedy,' Broncos owner
Pat Bowlen said in a statement. 'To lose a young player, and more important, a great young man such as Darrent Williams, is incomprehensible. To lose him in such a senseless manner as this is beyond words.'"

Yep...it's happened again. I won't go into the details of Sean Taylor's death, and nor, thanks to the Darrent Williams shooting, do I need to rehash statements on the AP wire from Joe Gibbs, he of a different solar system than Sean's, or from Dan Synder, owner from Hell and the spoiled brat who plays fantasy football with real people. Pat Bowlen voiced the usual heartfelt and quasi-heartfelt PR flack-scribed statments last January. Skins fans are talking, gossiping...a few are weeping. Many in the DC area are shaking their heads as with ay pointless death, and then go about their business. So many pointless deaths, really. Or else they couldn't give a crap, or don't even understand "American fute-bol." I will, however, paraphrase something I heard Mike Wilbon of the Washington Post say this morning as I rolled up US29 in Silver Spring, escorting my wife to our baby-making check-up. Yep...life goes on. I'm a big fan of Wilbon's--he's one of the few faces of color in a newsroom, period, not to mention in print sportswriting. We run in the same bourgies-coming-of-age in the 80s circles/former "Gold Coast" 16th Street NW kiddies/Jack and Jill prisoners-of-war though he never seems to come to my book signings. Too busy I guess. Wilbon said he was saddened by what happened to Sean. His chest was sinking as he spoke, I could hear it in his voice. But then he said he wasn't "shocked." He was devasted, shocked, when Lenny Bias died. I recall that tragedy vividly, and Jerry Bias, Len's cousin whom Len treated as a little brother, was friends with my own brother. Somehow, to both Wilbon and I, and literally millions of folks, Lenny's death was a shock. As a Terrapin, Lenny gave no indication of drug use or abuse. He grew up in silent pain, but not in an atmosphere of violence. As for Sean, well...

...I'll get to the point, and channel Wilbon. This was no "random burglary." Repeat: this was no random burglary. Every cop or fed I knew from my USDOJ days says something smells wrong. Housebreaking is usually not a crime of violence--even in South Freaking Florida. Either it's a crackhead who runs scared, or a professional who doesn't want a confrontation. Or...someone who knows you, or knows of you through your "boys." Or has a beef with you. Pedro Taylor, Sean's dad was once police chief of Florida City. Settling a beef with Pedro? Unh-unh. Something less cliche, and sadder. Example. I knew a police detective captain in Detroit who's son and nephew ran with the same thugs he was trying to jail. My fellow Princetonian and PG County States Attorney Glenn Ivey has lamented how many criminals and "the game" or"the life" wannabee fools his office prosecutes are from two-parent households where both parents hold down salaries that will ensure at least a roof and a somewhat comfortable life. You see where I'm going? You see where Wilbon was headed? Sean was immature, Sean could be trouble. Sean was in indeed in trouble, many times. He couldn't keep a gun for protection because of the knuckleheaded things he did. He didn't have a home alarm despite having a child sleeping in the house (I guess you could call it a mansion). Sean appeared to like to hang, a la Ray Lewis (pre-stabbing) with the wrong people, past people, feeding off the supposed energy of da fellaz, of their rides, of bravado and money and fathering kids out of wedlock with golddigging girls hardly more mature than little girls, and chasing that false high that comes from indirectly sticking it in Mr. Charlie's eye. The same Mr. Charlie who wants you to play football for his prep school, then his college, but doesn't want you around his daughter, and definitely doesn't a young black man admitted to those schools based on grades and scores and race, rather than running the 40 in lightening speed or featuring a Spider Man-like six foot verticial jump. That kind of affirmative action's cool with the majority, right? And God forbid anyone like Sean or a young black man with the scores and education own a football team. Never mind whiteboy affirmative action, right? I mean, look at at Dan Snyder. Or the President of the United States...
...pardon the digression. I'm saddened. Not shocked. But saddened. I digress when I'm sad. Sean Taylor was just as much a victim of a mindset, an outlook, as he was a bullet. He wasn't a thug or a criminal. But such were the asteroids in his small solar system, and you can't just say it's a Florida thing. A year ago Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker said the same of his murdered teammate. Murdered like so many of our young men and so no, we aren't shocked anymore, let alone outraged. I know the details will come out sooner or later and prove me right. I think men of Joe Gibbs' archaic mindset will utterly misunderstand it. Men of Snyder's ilk will utterly spin and then punt it. That's sad. Deeply, oppressively sad.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hype-o-potamus Rex

My fanboys and girls seem to have my number. Yes, a common thread of Cloverfield, Bumpy Johnson and Flags of Our Fathers is hype. Sort of. Or perhaps it's "monsters:" literally the monster in JJ Abrams' digital/home video style rendering of some monster biting the head off the Statue of Liberty and various super-sized pubic lice falling off the creature's johnson to attack hapless gentrifiers, "bridge and tunnel" folks and cops and soldiers? (note, you never see regular minorities and po' folk torn up when bombs, creatures, earthquakes or meteor impact-induced tsunamis strike a US city). Or a figurative monster, like Bumpy (as reflected with Robin Hood irony in the person of his protege Frank Lucas in "American Gangster?" Or the metaphorical monster of war in Flags of Our Fathers? The carnivorous beast that eats bodies and spirits...and the fact that in order to feed it you have to exploit a simple flag raising and lie about who's in a photo, just to sell war bonds to pay for the green and navy-blue dungaree and camie and khaki-clad cattle before sending them off to the slaughter? Okay, you got me figured out. Or do you?

The Net hype over Cloverfield's rivaled only by the bullcrap over Snakes on a Plane. Imagine if Blair Witch was coming out in 2008...there was no YouTube or Blogsphere back then. Abrams astutely injected this concept of Blair Witch meets Godzilla meets 9/11 mania into the digital grapevine, a milieu unfettered by journalistic rules or art/literary critical analysis. Who needs all that shit? Lemme get the news fast, lemme make shit up or embellish. Lemme get back to Assassin's Creed before Lost comes on. Who needs Lost--we have brain candy like Dancing With the Stars. Assassin's Creed's too thoughtful anyway. Hey, so's Lost. Hey, there better not be any thought in Cloverfield, else I'll spend my mortgage money elsewhere. Well, that's the worst case scenario thought process Abrams is hoping to break. I'm more interested in seeing how the brainless sheep respond to I am Legend. Yes, to appease the marketing monster Will Smith--superstar Safe Negro/clown--has been castas Neville (the role Charleton Heston played in "Omega Man"). To get intelligent folks and thoughtful gamers and lovers of lit in the seats, the rest of the story's going to have go beyond of bunch full or quasi-vampires running amok. I think the tightrope walk's going to be short lived and Will will tumble on the side of hype and stupidity and least-common denominator pandering. Can Abrams' monster keep out of"Bee Movie" whoring? Lost is a cutting-edge good show only when compared to the garbage and low expectations (creatively) of our times. I'd say Rod Sterling and a bunch of folks blew it away 40 years ago on network TV.

So we come to Karen Quinones Miller, fellow author who's books transcend "Nigglature" and actually tell fresh, visceral stories--whilst tilting a tiny bit at the street and black chick lit windmill just for effect. She and Bumpy Johnson's widow are telling the real story of this man, of Harlem, of joints and jezebels and murder and drugs and booze and the policy (numbers). Trouble is, the big publishing houses don't pay what they should for narrative nonfiction of this impact. Trouble is, they want to give amateurs and convicts and churchladies to the megaphone. Impart more brain candy. Why scribe something truthful when you can give the brothers and sistas mythical entertainment, simplistic/cliche plots and brain numbing formulas? Well, because that's all we seem to demand. Sadder still--all we need is some ebonics and some cursing and thongs...or a wayward pastor...as indicia of verissimilitude. Note the shifting demos when BET reports ratings for its own limited documentary series "American Gangster," with Ving Rhames doing his best work as narrator, versus almost every other show on the network. The skew toward folks with better educations, home owners, etc. is amazing. No, it actually cannot be explained by age or gender. It's explained by OUTLOOK. Something the giddy whitefolks in charge just don't want to hear. Bravo for Karen in deciding to bypass this machinery, and the thug lit-ocracy and present--not hype or market--this work directly "our kinda folk." I predicted this in my YouTube interview and I think you will see the silent majority of thoughtful folk eat it up: the people who pay to see This Christmas because frankly, there's nothing else to watch that's a cut above Tyler Perry. How's that for honesty?
Such honesty was lacking in the Spring of 1945. Yes, Hitler and Eva were getting married and taking poison in the Fuhrerbunker as Stalin's hordes scrambled on the bombed out streets above. Yet across the planet in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, the future makers of your favorite Toyotas and Hondas and computer games were still dug in or coming down in kamikaze dives. America was a nation sinking into debt to fund this march to Tokyo whilst also assuring milkshakes and baseball for a population on the cusp of the first big consumer orgy of the 20th century. Now, I bet Dick Cheney, Dubya et al read from this 60 odd year old playbook engineered after a journalist snapped a photo of a couple of grunts lifting a metal pole with a flag attached. Oh, there are the Pat Tillman analogies you could argue with a straight face when you survey the exploitation of the Iwo Jima flag Marines, but I'll admit it's a question of apples and apple orchards (not oranges). The orchard being our current War on Terror.
Americans haven't a clue about that reality and history are two different things, and that heroes are manufactured...like the folks in NBC's Heroes, and yeah, Abrams' Lost. Interestingly, Clint Eastwood, the supposed patriotic white man's man (who gave us the decidely un-NASCAR dad Bird with a young Forrest Whittaker and of course The Unforgiven and the flip side of Flags: Letters from Iwo Jima), is the author of this piece of Bumpy Johnson saga narrative nonfiction. It tells the truth about hype and myth and consumerism and how all is subordinate to those gods, without hyping itself. It does so in the guise of the Indian character, Ira Hayes, who suffers the physical effects of th deception, the hype, the marketing beast--all on top of the mental toll taken by the carnage on Iwo. I doubt these young bucks in their dress blues tossing rifles over in Arlington and beneath the statue know this. Indeed, they aren't supposed to. Lest it upset the monster. Look, if the Wizard of Oz had some verissimilitude, the Wizard would've concluded a secret pact with the Witch to kill Dorothy. Pulling the curtain away from him as a 1000 times more detrimental than anything those damn flying monkeys could've done to the Emerald City.

I again tug all of this yarn not because I love to grumble. No, it's a warning. The peril's here; it's not theoretical. Stupidity, mythology reign. Rather than facing reality, facing truth, embracing the healing power of real art and literature and robust discourse, the Roman Empire in the west retreated into greed, hyper-religious dogma, myth. Look what happened. The Empire in the east fared better only because it embraced reality. Even then, it couldn't last. We're on that cusp. So look, if you don't agree with all of my weird connections and tied thread, at last you've taken the time to sit and ruminate on them. Once you do, you can pick apart the hype inother venues. For instance, in a truly enlightened, non-hyped society, there'd be no Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Fox News, Jesse, Sr. or black books like Thong on Fire. That's Rome, before the Fall. So let's spin more string in '08, shall we?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cloverfield, Books and Flags of Our Fathers

Yes, I tie it all together. The strands: The "Cloverfield" monster (a sneak peek below based on the clues...if correct, sue me, JJ Abrams--Lost is a TERRIBLE show!). This could be the "Blair Witch Project" of the new century...or more hype bullshit like "Snakes on A Plane." More book news, including Karen Quinones Miller's decision to self-publish her biopic of Harlem proto-gangster "Bumpy" Johnson (based on Johnson's widow's collaboration). I guess street lit authors and the big publishers would rather deal with cartoon gangstas and hoes, rather than real ones. Luckily I have the comics medium. Oh, and lest we not forget, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, currently playing on HBO; it's an allegory for the current political perfidity of Bush-Cheney. Don't I always tie it together? See how tomorrow...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday Blackness

1. Wretched Excess post Turkey-Day musings...

Have you joined the rest of the NASCAR Dads, insipid housewives, rim-spinnin' bamma baby-mamma's, trailer tarts, Hannah Montana-addled tweens and other miscreants in line at the Malls pre-dawn? If you not, according to Dubya you are NOT a patriot. You must spend spend spend to keep our economy strong. Spend for gas to get the malls to keep Big Oil and Dick Cheney happy. Spend at lunch to keep Big Fast Food happy...on top of the greazy crap you shovelled into your mouths Thursday (and get sick to keep Big Pharma happy in the process?). And spend, of course, to keep Wall Street happy because after all, you aren't keeping our economy strong.

Thing is, when you arrive at JC Penny at 4am to buy a leather jacket of which Tim Guinn would lisp "Oh my...that is hideous!" marked down from $250 to $40, that means it's really only worth $20. Why? Because it was stitched in Indonesia. The new all-American widget-gadget-ratchet and photo-hanging and butt scratching support the troops poster you got? Well, it's made in China. When it breaks down, you have to call customer service in India. Of course, China and India and Saudi Arabia own the cheap debt that Dubya and the VP and GOP always seem to charge up on the national credit card rather than raising taxes. Assorted other nations (including ones NASCAR Dads would consider Hadji or sand-nigger) have also cashed in on the American Garage sale; I wonder who actaully now owns the paper to your 5K sq ft McMansion now (the one with no books, no true art or learning implements unless you consider X-Box with all 3 HALOs as such...and DVDs of the last WWE Smackdown extravaganza as learning implements)?

What's even worse...black folks buying into this madness. Folk who need to keep up with the Jones (and Mr. Charlies and Missy Annes) buying educational tools, laptops, SAT prep courses, tutortin, networking assistance...saving money for letters of credit or operations credit lines for entrepreneurship. Nope, not them. They're too busy hanging in their own McMansions chock full of mattresses, leather sofas, 72 inch LCD flat screens--and no other furniture. Worst: folks who can't even afford that...who live off a lead-paint blustered stairwell in the Hood or down in da dirrty, shotgun-shack style, yet seem to have a ginormous SUV or late model Lexus...or 25 years old with three kids already...and the latest baby needs a box of Pampers yet they're the caregivers, in line at 5am to buy a Wii or that pair of faux-leather, guuuuuurrrrrlll...gotta have'em...

Stop buying garbage. Stop wallowing in it. Life's too short and this nation can't afford the Annual Percentage Rate and hidden fees.

2. The Quill Awards

Yep, Lit awards on NBC?! An announced by literati Tiki Barber and Natalie Morales on that erudite and urbane "Today" show? Okay...one...ONE African American book/author was nominated. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah in the Debut Fiction category. That's it. Not even in the Romance category. And hmmm...to their credit, however, they have't Soweto-ized us into an African American Literature category. But day-um! What's this say about the work product being featured? Yet another indictment of "street lit," "sex books," "church lady fiction?" Not even Eric Jerome Dickey can fly in like Superman, braids trailing in the slip-stream, and save us? ;-) Look, in a previous post I highlighted the winners of the 2007 Hurston-Wright legacy Awards (where I presented the award in Fiction to Edward P. Jones). Is it sad that we have to keep coming back to Ed again and again? I think it is. Note also, as did my truly erudite commenter Sunrunner that few black AMERICAN writers were really in the mix this year. Sure, H-W needs to be jazzed up; it has some parochial, mom n' poppish tendencies that scream for adjustment. Fact is, however, it remains the rosetta stone for interpreting and lauding contemporary black literature, non ficiton and now poetry (to the exclusion, notice, of "commercial fiction" for the first time). And as Sunrunner elucidates, black authors can't catch a break. Are we not there? Hell yes we are, as Martha Southgate said in the NYTimes, perhaps in too much of a muted tone. Ignore us at your peril.

3. NEA Study on reading

As I sit here in my bathrobe watching the live-action version of the cartoon Ben-10 for the ninth time (it debuted Wednesday night, clever Cartoon Network!) with you-know-who & co., I am thankful that at least I'm not being subjected to the Hannah Montana Thanksgiving Marathon. Ben's turned into "Wildmutt" thanks to the DNA of the Omintrix, so that means, mercifully, the show is almost over. Then we dress and go to the Mall with the other bozos (see above) and shop and then spend a wad on "Beowulf." Anyway, I'm musing about ignoring us at society's peril...and along with this CN movie and Mall invasion, comes the peril of the latest NEA study. Percolate on this. The NEA's latest study on reading shows that once kids exit elementary school, reading literature, reading for pleasure plummets. I mean plummets like the Ravens' season. Do youreally need a study for that? Anecdotally you can see what's happening, even when you factor in reading "online" (other than Wikipedia, sports and porn). Kids aren't reading anything. It's mindless TV dramas and reality shows...a diet of mental junk food tantamount to what their parents are consuming. The implications for society? Well, it's not just the GOP and Big Anything (Oil, Retail, Food...etc.) who likes this state of affairs. And gamers, where the f**k do you think all of the themes, images, characters and flavors which fuel your product come from? Literature. Hell, even creative narrative non-fiction. Imagination fuels a free society, nothing more. Kill that, you murder freedom. You get the movie Idiocracy, which is the natural 25th Century extension of Office Space. Ponder it, if you're abel. If that sounds elitist, I apologize. I'm off to Macy's and Game Stop anyway...then back on the highway with the other shlubs. Oh and my niece is recommending the latest Carl Webber book. Being a hypocrite is fine during the holidays. I can always go back to my fighting trim after New Years, right? well...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coming Tomorrow!

My conveyances of thanks, hope and joy for Thanksgiving...NOT!
Stay tuned.
Oh, and an older person claiming to be my father wanted to know why the themes to "Bonanza" and "77 Sunset Strip" and "Dragnet" and "Peter Gunn" weren't among the final nominees in the TV show poll. While the Peter Gunn theme, Bonanza and arguably the first eight notes of Dragnet are iconic, the songs needed at least three votes from my blue ribbon nomination panel (the panel did NOT vote in the final poll, by the way) and the songs didn't make it to the final dozen or so. Would it have made any difference? The bruhs and nubian queens loved Good Times!
And so...all you denizens of the former Cabrini Green--sing a-long:

Just lookin' outta the window
Watchin' the asphalt grow
Thinkin' how it all looks hand-me-down

Keepin' your head above water
Makin' a wave when you can
Temporary lay offs Good Times
Easy credit rip-offs Good Times
Scratchin' and survivin' Good Times
Standin' in the chow line Good Times
Ain't we lucky we got 'em?

Good Times

Seems pretty timely, still eh? I heard this was Dick Cheney's favorite song, too...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Funnies: My favorite public figure shows his crib...

Yeeaaaaah...I have a "chill-laxin'" room, too, complete with my Ethan Allen leather lounger. Happy Friday-before-Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cannibals, All...

So black people think "whitefolks' scandals" are boring, eh? And authors and publishers spawn yawns? Unh-unh. Forget mega Attorney and Brothaman Willie Geary showing his true bamma roots by knocking up some Atlanta skeezer and paying her $28K in child support every month. Forget my favorite loony author and African American version of Sylvia Plath Terry MacMillan blowing up Karen Hunter as the sultana of sleaze and for ghettofying black literature. And I don't wanna hear another word about Kanye West, his mother and Dr. Jan Adams. No, all that is trivial compared to this stuff involving Rudy Giuliani , Fox News and Bernie Kerik. If you are a Republican, it's enough to make you want to be a Romney supporter, or pray John McCain reverts to his old self of the 2000 campaign. If you are a normal American, it's enough to make you puke. If you are smart, it should make you shudder...
It lays bare to all but the most ignorant NASCAR Dad or insidiously corrupt pol that Fox News Network, it's Papa Roger Ailes and star scum Sean Hannity...and of course Big Papa Rupert Murdoch of News Corp....are Hell yes partisan tools, nee, manipulators who would make Josef Goebbels scratch his head and say "Day-um--how come I didn't think of that stuff?" ;-)
As you know, fallen-from-grace 9/11 mythic hero /former NYPD top cop Bernie Kerik's demise (bad mojo for Bush and Rudy G) has taken a tabloid turn. Yes he's on trial and disgraced and yes this fool could have been your and my Homeland Security Reichsfurher but for his corrupt streak. Severely under-reported on Fox. Better to pillory John Edwards' smarmy grin or quote Nas on the n-word or dig up Mike Nifong's corpse and show it. Oh but now my world, the book world, has injected itself. Remember Judith Regan--once the wonder woman of publishing celebrity memoirs ad other such crap--dumped by Rupert Murdoch over OJ's If I Did It (the same Murdoch who's companies make millions "reporting" on OJ, tabloid-style)? Hypocrisy ruled, as the book was ressurrected and turned into a cash cow for the Goldman Family (Nicole Brown's family was horrified). But that's another rant--check my Nat's old Posts, fanboys & girls.

Seems Judy might have some evidence showing that she was told by the poohbahs and News Corp., in league with Fox News, to keep her mouth shut regarding embarassing info about Bernie, and thus protect Rudy. Of course, wingnut Talk Radio and blog-trolls have battered fish to fry, like our glorious victories in Iraq, how to win a war wih Iran, or debunking global warming or predicting the Rapture. Accordingly folks--stick with Nat Turner for the real deal.
See, post 9/11 some rich clown donated use of an NYC apartment to the city, so relief workers and recovery volunteers clean up or rest after their horrific shifts at Ground Zero. Our patriot Bernie used it to bone a lot of women, including Judy Regan. Bernie was married at the time, of course. Regan dumped him when--get this--she found a note to yet another ho in the place (a city employee of course). Judy now alleges, with some proof, that Bernie then stalked her and members of her family. Hey, I did that crap after all of my break-ups. Shows Bernie's a normal man, and not just a Republican.

Speaking of Republicans, as we all know, the second biggest meglomaniacal fraud in politics behind Bill and Hillary Clinton, is Rudolph Giuliani.He is running for President, hoping to replace the THIRD biggest fraud, our current retard-in-chief George W. Bush. Concomittantly, GOP booster Rupert Murdoch owns News Corp. which owns Fox News. Fox is run by one Roger Ailes, a known pal of Rudy's (helped his mayoral campaign and, shades of Clarence Thomas and Rush Limbaugh, Rudy officiated Ailes' wedding). Sean Hannity is all up Rudy's butt on Fox; ironically the only person not biting cheese on this is O'Reilley. Murdoch's publications seem to declare Rudy the next Thomas Jefferson.
Along comes book diva Judy Regan. She's suing Murdoch for firing her over the OJ book. She now says "higher up" asked her to lie to the Feds about bone-fests with Kerik after Rudy convinced Dubya to nominate Bernie has Homeland Security chief. Judy spells out in her complaint that Murdoch, Ailes et al were out to watch Giuliani's back (and, of course, the Bush Administration).
I worked for the Justice Department for three years. My nephew is eight years old only knows of DOJ because his "Flat Stanley" visited the building. Yet it was he, not me, who said (likely from reading too many Marvel "civil war" comic book issues) "Uncle Chris, that's off-struction of justice when tell somebody to lie to the police!" This boy should be Attorney General, not Mukasey.
Judy claims to have evidence of this and hey, even if the Congress or a grand jury subpoenas her you won't hear of it on Fox. Hillary's too corrupt to use it as a weapon, and Barack's too much of a lightweight to run with it. My only hope is that my former hero John McCain will grow a pair and stop his pandering to the loonies and cudgel Rudy with it in the primaries. Or Mitt'll do it? Hey why not--Mormons can be big assholes. None of the other Democrat weenies are saying what needs to be said; they are biting around it like little mice. Shame on you Mrs. Pelosi. And you're a tough East Baltimore girl, supposedly. Your daddy Mayor Tommy D's rolling in his grave. Call your fellow goomba Rudy out and take a nice pee-pee on Murdoch and Ailes!

Ah well, stay tunedfanboys and girls. What could be next--Triple Crown publisher-author Teri Woods naming John Edwards as her baby daddy? Revelations that Barack ghost-wrote a "street lit" novel with C-Murder called The Gangsta Pussy Chronicles? Hey, it's "relevant and speaks to young hip readers," so maybe that's a positive campaign move. ;-) And you thought authors and publishing were boring? Thanks for raising our profile, Judy Regan!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gentrification Panel Discussion: Nathan McCall

Today I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion on the hot-button urban issue of gentrification. It was held at ground zero of the same in D.C., Busboys & Poets restaurant and world bookstore. The inspiration for the panel was author-journalist Nathan McCall's debut novel--cleverly titled Them. The setting is the "Old Fourth Ward" of Atlanta, Martin Luther King, Jr's neighborhood, once an elegant black middle class community. Decades later it becomes "The Hood," with all of the attendant problems. When the protagonist, a black man, wants to buy the old house he's been renting, along comes the white professionals eager for an old Victorian home without the commute. Can the developers with their chain stores and condos be far behind?Included on the panel were Prof. Tony Samara of George Mason University, attorney and candidate for D.C. City Council Dee Hunter, Rick Lee, owner of Lee's Flower and Card Shop, one of the oldest small businesses in the Nation's Capital, and Nathan McCall. As you know, Nathan is the author of the New York Times bestselling and iconic memoir, Makes Me Wanna Holler, chronicling his life in the projects of Portsmouth, Virginia and his escape from a life of crime to the newsroom of the Washington Post. Nathan is now a professor at Emory University. We share the best literary agent in the world...Faith Childs!
So--what are your thoughts on "gentrification" and how it may encompass race, class, the utter greed or sainthood of developers and local politicians, be you in Brooklyn or Baltimore. Or what about the effects on the burbs? Tell me...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Funnies: Uncle Ruckus as The Exorcist

From the Boondocks (ten minute segment, and turn down your sound if you're at work). Satire--you have to be fairly intelligent to "get it." Stinkmeaner's evil spirit invade Tom DuBois' body. Tom then attacks granddad's house. Granddad bears an uncanny resemblence to my father...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When I Was a Little Chris...

My mother's funeral was three years ago yesterday. I recall a Fall Dance a LONG time ago...her driving me to a party because I was nowhere close to being old enough to drive. And this song was playing when I got there. Lawd this was real music. I repeat...this was REAL MUSIC. The way Donald Goines and Ernest Tidyman blow away anything originating out of Triple Crown Publishing and other ghetto lit writers (or Karen Hunter) these days...

Monday, November 05, 2007

With friends like these...

Remember Saddam Hussein? Yep, this dead evildoer was once an ally (courted by Ronny Reagan, Daddy Bush). Or General Zia? You probably don't remember that piece of shit; he's Musharraf's mentor in Pakistan. He staged a coup supported by, who else, Reagan's boys and Daddy Bush. He hung the democratically-elected Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (Benazir's father). Now what did this stalwart ally of good and righteousness do upon taking over? He "Islamisized" Pakistan and empowered Muslim extremists. He singlehandly armed what would become the Taliban...whilst turning a blind eye to the THOUSANDS of acres of HEROIN poppies cultivated on land under his control. Indeed, one of his proteges fighting the Russians in Afghanistan was also recipient of much, much CIA cash and American largesse: Osama Bin Laden. Oh Lordy Lordy, whenever you point this stuff out to right wing clowns who see the world as a Biblical crusade or Saturday morning cartoon version of right and wrong, they suddenly get all Henry Kissinger on you and huff, "Oh, you don't understand the complexity of strategic thought." Or better yet, they wax as our president or various vacuous GOP candidates (sadly I'll stamp Barack and Hillary with the "vacuous" moniker, too):"You aren't a patriot, and you're endangering our freedom." So as we pay $3 and choke our bodies and brains commuting and pay big Oil and big Pharma and Big Developer and Big Collection Agency/Bank/Insurance/Wal Mart their pints of blood and cheer for Sean Hannity, I guess all we can do is just blindly trust in our leader's judgment again. Okay, so they assured us that these men were our pals, but Jesus is on our side and he'll make it right!

I recall the words of Jack Crabbe ("Little Big Man") musing about the treaties broken with the Sioux and Cheyenne in 1875-76. This land is yours, says Uncle Sam, so long as the grass is green, the sky is blue and the wind blows. "Well sometimes the grass ain't green, the sky ain't blue, and the wind don't blow..."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Refuge at Hurston-Wright

Tonight at the National Press Club here in DC, I'm presenting a fiction award (can't tell you to whom but check the site and C-SPAN later). It's the Annual Hurston-Wright Foundation's Gala. Much moolah to deserving writers and poets, both famous and unrecognized. Tonight will be an escape not from Dog Chapman, but the fools who enable or excuse this kind of behavior. Then again, the National Press Club's a spit and a skip from the White House, and there's a photo of Sean Hannity up there. At least the latter's tiny compared the one of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow...


addendum 11/04/07
Category Winners: Edward P Jones, Fiction (Pulitzer Prize Winner), Wangari Maathai, NonFiction (Nobel Peace Prize winner), Patricia Smith, Poetry, Aminatta Forna, Debut Fiction
North Star Award: Sonia Sanchez
Madame CJ Walker Award: Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstores
Got to converse with Zora Neale Hurston's niece, a professor, at the presenters' table. Very interesting. Nope, didn't see Karen Hunter there, nor any of her pornstar or video vixen authors, nor the whole Triple Crown paddock, nor Eric Dickey and Travis and Earl, et al. You might say it's insightful cutting edge non fiction's and literary black fiction's Alamo. Sad? Not when you think about how many Mexicans got shot-up before they stormed the place. So take heed, "Santa Ana" Hunter...