Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The First Black Superhero

I want to thank all the fanboys and girls for their many comments, calls, both supportive and rabid, on my three word quote in today Washington Post re: Obama and Rev. Wright. Huh? That's news? What Obama and Rev. Wright issue? hahahaha. Precisely. The Daily Show put the satirical icing on that cake--thank god for John Stewart. We've seen the distruction, the utter craven whoredom, of a once venerated US television news universe. As you watch Glen Beck or The Today Show, or George Forman as pundit yearning to "eat" Jeremiah Wright on Fox News, you can hear Edward R Murrow weeping if you put your ear to ground.
So I wonder if Barack, as our putative hero--as contemplative as Batman when he was running against The Penguin for mayor of Gotham City, could channel heroes of the past for strength? No not Douglass or King. Superheroes. Who was the most powerful, the most pervasive? Fanboys and geeks will argue, duel, slap each other, cajole. But I know who was and is mine. He came about in at a time when riot-scarred neighborhoods still smouldered. When any notion of diversity was still scoffed at--especially on TV. Yeah, he wasn't a comic book hero. Indeed, he was likely een by more Caucasian eyes than the powers-that-had-been would have liked. He didn't have a name like "Luke Cage," or "Black Lightening," or "Falcon," or "Storm" or "T'Chala."
No, his very name meant action. Literally. And he changed the world when I was a kid. We beheld someone who looked like us, who taught us, who made us proud! And thousands of white children who'd never had never imagined such a hero or a world saw him too...much to their parents' dismay or puzzlement...


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Miley Cyrus is a "whore..."

...and yet aren't we all these days? Disney is full of it. Miley is full of it. Vanity Fair is cagey...but Annie Lebovitz, one of the last few photographic artists in America, is full of it for "apologizing." Look at these photos--not the VF shoot, but the ones below: Her supposedly going all Lolita (could it be Miley's decided to toss the pretense and say hey world, this is the real me. Emotionally and intellectually immature yet fecund and almost sweet-16?). Then the Kid's Choice Awards outfit. Now look to the left at Annie's rendition and be honest. Which is "worse?" Nuff said.
Nevertheless, allow me to elaborate for you "shocked" parents of 10 year old girls (and my nieces are rabid fans, best believe!) and middle America morons. Miley is not a person. Miley is "product." That is not my cynical term--it is the term that media companies and producers use. Yes, product. Like black folks were no more than five or six generations ago. Product to sell. Product to deliver demos to advertisers. In turn, this silly story becomes product that pundits and morning show tweety birds tweet upon to certain other demos (target audiences) so they can sell more ads.
Miley herself? Well, if her daddy's mullet and tight jeans from the late 80s-early 90s weren't whoreish enough, she has taken the genetic cue and ran with it. Role model? She's the star of a kiddie show for godssakes! Are you all retarded? If she were some random little white girl who raised money to go to Darfur and feed/clothe/protect other 15 year old girls from rape and murder... would you care? If she started a movement to get other girls to put down the mobile phones which you morons (yes, you parents who are whining about this stupid photo based on the soap opera-wired media's bombardment) purchased for them and stop texting and said time to increase literacy and writing skills and cyber-bullying...would you care?
Likely not. Look, Brooke Shields was doing stuff that makes this photo shoot look tame and there wasn't this outcry, but the media and stars/handlers weren't as whorish back then. The 70s--NOT whorish? You gotta get with the new-school definition of "whore," pal. It encompasses the pervasiveness of technology. The triumph of, as the Washington Post expounded upon, "belief over truth."
So yeah, Miley's a whore. And so am I for planting this post. We are all on the stroll together. Not you whining parents, though...or even your kids. You are the tricks. The pimps? They don't have names like Bishop Magic Don Juan or feature $500 rims. They have names like Google, VIACOM, Time-Warner, Fox/News Corp, etc. This battle between Disney and VF, blah blah is just another game of dozens at the Player's Ball...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wish they were alive today

Today, we have shrill voices attached to folks who are not the righteous debaters they claim to be. Rather they appear to be opposite sides of the same crusty coin. Tails: The ones who churn the Reverend Wright and Barack Obama as a Muslim/a black nightmare/how dare he?/anti-patriot who can't get old Jews and white women to back him... a racist carnival hawking that the life of these United States would be extinguished if he took the oath of office...Heads: the ones who leap from the shadows to bleat like so many stirred goats over the acquittal of the cops who killed Sean Bell outside a neighborhood scumhole stripclub in NYC. Yes railing against cops who indeed ripped a father from his wife and child forever... and yet these bleaters don't seem to find as tall as soapbox or convenient a villian when so many other black fathers, wives, children are murdered in Philly, or Chicago( the latter two being the most outstandingly awful examples)--by other rampaging black folks. A while ago in the Washington Post , author Susan Jacoby opined on the death of intellectualism in politics, in culture, in the media. She also added a work on the death of rationalism, from the Bush White House to our homes, hearts, minds. We've lost the ability to reconcile two seemingly opposite, inapt notions and study them together, talk about them as if we had the decency our grandmothers taught us. Gone is the skill and the will to find commonality...even co-sanguinity. We now have a press, indeed a media universe, that feeds this ignorance and lack of rationalism by makng information a reality show, game show, or soap opera...all with vapid, passive target audiences. Of course, we have no one to blame but ourselves as those vapid fools, but hey--H.L. Mencken, Ida Tarbell, Ed Murrow never gave up on saving us from ourselves. I take heart in the following vignette, taped together from letters, telegrams...dreams...
Over a 100 years ago, on a park bench, high on a wooded hill not far from Cedar Hill across the Anacostia River in Washington DC, a 60-ish white man runs into a even older, grayed and gruff black man. The two have been admirers of each other yet told no one of that, as rationality was at premium back then yet shrouded in outward hatred; ironic because both men think technology and education will spread rationality's maxims. Funny thing: the white man is wearing his signature white linen; the black man, despite the DC mugginess, keeps on his dark coat.
They take to conversation, and the white man tells the black man of his impending bankruptcy if his new book, a slapdash effort called Pudd'nhead Wilson, doesn't sell.
The black man chuckles and says, "You think you got problems...I might not live out this coming year. And my people are up against it far less comically than in your novels, sir."
When they get to the meat of race and history the white man declares, cigar chomped firmly in his yellow choopers, "I've boiled and rendered the fat down to this: In the South, we as whites hate the Negro as a race, but we befriend and value individual Negroes. In the North, whites tolerate and even laud the Negro as a race, yet cannot even bring themselves to greet the same Negroes they see on the street or farm down the lane every day. "
The older black man shrugs, troubles the white man to blow his cigar smoke in another direction and then posits with wrinkles growing wrinkles, "Why is this nettlesome for you, sir? Seems I'm the one who's both 'tolerated' or reviled roundly, and that cannot hold."
The white man sighs. "Because despite all, you and I must share this park bench, for it's the only one with such a magnificent view of our swampy capital...swampy and dismal sight, narrow and uncomfortable bench...but it's ours together, and what else are we to do?"
"True," says the black man, not mentioning that so many benches are for blacks or whites only even in this federal city, "but you seem to want to take more of this bench than I with your feet up, so. And I'm an old man and can't push you off." The old man suddenly softens his chiseled face. He's grinning! He leans over to the what man, whispering, "Then again, I don't need much room."
"Sad," the white man whispers in reply. "But such'll be our secret, eh?"
They take in the rest of a hot but bright day and a hazy vista, and in an hour or so they stand up with creaks and grunts of age, smile, shake and bid each other well. Each knows they don't have all the answers. But they're trying.
When the older black man dies the white man is in Paris trying to drum up foreign booksales (the only people who seemed to like his stuff, he mumbles); he's struggling to come up with the pithy newspaper articles everyone seems to demand. They hate it when he's serious, analytical. He's in a bar when he receives a telegram of the black man's death; several Americans with him, including newspapermen, shrug and wonder aloud why this is such a loss. The white man chastises them. Surprised, they ask if this Negro was a friend. The white man says no, not at all. "But when I go back to that muddy Babylon, that pint-sized Rome called Washington City, there's a bench I shall have to keep clean and tidy--and mind not to put my feet up in his corner."
Just a parable, for perspective...and to chill out the shrill noises.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday not-so-funny

Full disclosure: often I'll watch the wingnut/gun nut shows on the Military Channel, History Channel and the like (hell even the bass fishing and duck hunting stuff). And Barack is right, sorry to say: it is a distraction and a tonic for white boys who cannot bring themselves--lest they destroy the social contract--to blame OTHER WHITE PEOPLE for so many ills...and it's amusing. Case in point, check this out. Straight from the 1980s GI Joe versus Cobra crap. Of course, it's enough to make any Sean Hannity fan cream in his draws, but come on. Nevermind the fact that Chinese likely already have the plans (sold by one of our defense contractors). The more traditional Bush-Cheney like adversaries like random Jihadis on a rooftop in Pakistan, or throwback Taliban in the hills or Syrian guard atop a guardtower or FARC guerillas high on cocaine in the bush are going to see this coming and say What the F***k?! And then blow this dude out of the air. Pentagon as themepark. Why not?
We can't provide decent health coverage for folks. Affordable housing. Clean and renewable energy...but this is what gets us hard...this is proper use of tax dollars? Hell even the Blackwater folks would blush. Then again, I heard our 11 year old prez, Dubya, refers to the president of Iran as "Destro." Yo Joe!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"One of these things is not like the other/One of these things, doesn't belong..."

Remember that song and game from Sesame Street? Well, before class tonight at Hoya-town and watching these interesting Pa. Primary returns, I stopped off at Borders...or was it Barnes & Noble...or was it Target? Yes, to fetch another copy of Mat Johnson's graphic novel Incognegro (buy it also on the right) for my sister's boyfriend. Imagine my surprise when I told the store employee I couldn't find it! Not in fantasy or especially the huge comic/graphic novel section. Nope, she says, "Oh, we put it in the black section." Oh. Oooooooooh, yeah. I was also looking for Native Son. Guess where I found it? Classic American fiction? No. Oooooooooooh, yeah, in the black section. Next to Terri Woods and such. Ghetto lit. Street & sex/thug and ho/soap opera section. Hoped to get my wife a copy of another edition of Dorothy West's The Wedding. Mrs. Nat's is all dog-earred and ragged--as a book should be!
But guess what? Had to push through the urban fiction again. Yeah, sandwiched in the W's with Miz Terri's stuff and all kinds of bamma pablum. On a whim, I said surely Edwidge Danticat ain't in here. The name--sounds so foreign. The artsy covers? Nah, the employees or book store pigeonholing won't catch Ms. Danticat.
Oooooooooh. Not so. There she was, in the Ds. in the black section. Next to a handful of Eric Jerome Dickey titles. And even he ain't "urban." Jamaica Kincaid...oooooooooh, yeah. In that handy, one-stop literary Soweto, Jim Crow corral called the black section...
Now, many of us laud this condition. They say why not! Give the average brotha 'n sista what they want. Make my stuff front and center 'cause ain't nobody got no time for Richard Wright [even though on bookfest panels they'll invoke his name in a heartbeat hahahaha] Don't make 'em dig for it...we should rejoice that they're even walking into a bookstore! that statement we have more allegory for what's wrong with us. Perhaps the efforts of groups like RingShout, et al should not be aimed at publishers after all, and exhortations in this area always fall on deaf or hostile ears when it comes to fans, bookclubs and certainly other authors. As music journalist Mike Gonzales exhorts, the thrust should be at the booksellers. A Powerpoint presentation utilizing Sesame Street might be a good first step.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wisdom for Writers, McCain, Clinton, Obama, Rihanna, Rightwing bloggers and Fired Knicks Coaches

Here are some nuggets from one of my favorite writers--sad to say a roll model--Charles Bukowski (who was immortalized by Matt Dillion of all people in the film Factotum). Any and all are applicable to whatever floats your boat:

“Sex is interesting, but it's not totally important. I mean it's not even as important (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.”

“Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them.”

“There is a time to stop reading, there is a time to STOP trying to WRITE, there is a time to kick the whole bloated sensation of ART out on its whore-ass.”

“Bad taste creates many more millionaires than good taste.”

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”

Hope you all had a nice weekend. More Bukowski tidbits to come. This may be too much for many of you...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

And yet another mirror...Bill Maher?

Bill Maher is a douchebag(or is it scumbag?), but at least he admits it. And sometimes, not often, he hits things right on the nose. This is from his HBO show this week. Now, if you want to annotate this hilarious solo with a socio-economic-political history of the US from the Revolution to the election of 1800 (Jefferson becomes Prez over Adams...also on HBO!), to Jackson, to the rise of the Know-Nothings to 1860 to the death of Recontruction to the pre-emption of the Populists to the death of the Frontier and the election of 1898 to on and on...whew...go back to college. But, for the quick and dirty as of 2008, regard (and advance to about 2 minutes in if you want the bare, nitty gritty):

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ocho Cinco as a not so distant mirror

My profound apologies to irreplaceable historian Barbara Tuchman for this title. Those of you who are NOT sports/American football fans, by all means do the Google or Wiki thing on my boy Chad Johnson then come back and comment. I love Chad. He is a Swiss Army Knife of metaphor (how's that for stacking?)...okay...full blown allegory, for everything that is wrong with (take your pick): professional sports, sports journalism and coverage, journalism in general, punditry, television, black folks, black males, literature, black literature, white people, Ohio, Cincinnati Ohio, our expectations of role models, our expectations-period, marketing, our kids, our kids in school, schools, life... even ABC's Democratic Candidate "debate" the other night. The Onion laid the satirical smackdown on that carnival...and The Situation Room, and any show on Fox News, by re-posting a photo of Hillary Clinton giving the thumbs up, and the caption: new Poll: Americans list "Bullshit"as the Number One issue most important to them. And doesn't Chad just encapsulate our love affair with spurious, specious bullshit and not reality? He's made it his medium. Chad, as the mirror. Ain't he pretty?
(n.b. for you non-sports folk, Chad minted the moniker "Ocho Cinco" as well, that's the number on his jersey, and of course the silly-ass "sports press corps" from talk radio to ESPN has perpetuated because it sounds so cool to the average moronic fan! Lovely!)
Before you declare me a lunatic, be sure you understand what metaphor and allegory truly mean. Nothing remotely literal. In the saga of the Ocho Cinco, one can find connections and flavors (or foul tastes) of just about every ailment in our current culture. Back down to the concrete and literal, Chad now he wishes to leave Cincinnati. I'm scared, you see, because there is a rumor around the Nation's Capital that he may end up here, with the Redskins. And the metaphors just'll keep on comin'. Happy Halloween...(cryptic and allegorical conclusion)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Holy Father--Welcome to America

Your Holiness, when you were John Paul's right-wing, right hand man, you thought you knew all there was to know about us. A memo from Opus Dei, a telegram from Ronald Reagan, a letter from an archdiocese about some renegade ghetto priest blessing the Sandanistas, gay marriages and condoms. And I'm sure Dubya, Laura & Dick have given you the Disney level tour. Yes, you make the normally nightmarish commute in and around D.C. something like Mordor in The Lord of Rings, but we're used to that in this town. However...this clip should give you the truth about the D.C. area specifically, and America. Daniel Day-Lewis even mentions you (not you, technically) a few choice times.

You see, Holy Father, we are a nation of tribes. Now more than ever. Martin Luther warred against the corruption of the Holy Mother Church and birthed Protestantism, and when Henry VIII took advantage of Vatican political scheming and hypocrisy to justify his own horniness and meglomania to give my family the Episcopal Church. These are familiar metaphors which give you a taste of the conficting and contradictory forces that churn in this country every day. We are beholden to marketing and dumbing down of all forms of information and entertainment. You've only recently spoken on that, yet you still wish to convince us that homosexuality equals pedophilia, and millions of undocumented aliens are the best practicing Catholics out there because they don't use abortion as birth control and have kids at a young age. You shake the hand of our president, yet he often orients himself with people excoriate any religion other than evangelical Christianity and any Jews who can help bring about the Rapture. Indeed, a you preach respect for Muslims as a religion of Abraham, while they are Christian Taliban who think the earth is 10,000 years old and just two generations ago equated Catholicism with anarchy and death. I don't think you're huge fan of Islam or real science, but you haven't gone that far. Neither did John Paul. You preach against our pernicious, self-righteous and self-destructive lurches that resulted in a war in Iraq which profits only a few. But do you force the issue? No. You keep it as close to the vest as your predecessors did when they secretly concluded Concordates with Hitler and Mussolini...and then disavowed them.
Oh yes, your office is one of conflict, too. Perhaps it might help you get inside our heads, as well as our spiritual cores? On the surface, we are all promise and glitter. Underneath, there is an ugliness that no one wants to own. Yes, welcome to the United States of America. Ave Maria.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Stop the Madness

I've said it on other blogs, right and left, redneck or black revolutionary. You ain't "better" than the so-called "main stream media" (as if that term means anything other than whatever negative nonsense the writer wants to characterize). You deal in "soap opera," overly personal/provocative situations and statements, not real issues. Not helping us make a better community, nation, world for EVERYBODY.
I have a solution, and I think it'll be cathartic. Once done, we can move on to McCain, to real issues.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Oh to be Young & Passionate & Dumb as Nails Again!

Alicia, Alicia. Looks like your publicist and your mom are going to beat you ass when you come back from "vacation." If this is a stunt, the old "street cred" bromide is over and done, sweetheart. And you've been looking so sexy YET NON-ETHNIC lately, though your music's been a bit Top 40 cheezy. Then again, at least you haven't gone totally rancid commercial like Snoop. See parody in 4/10 post. From Blender magazine:

There's another side to Alicia Keys: conspiracy theorist. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter tells Blender magazine: "`Gangsta rap' was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. `Gangsta rap' didn't exist."
Keys, 27, said she's read several Black Panther autobiographies and wears a gold AK-47 pendant around her neck "to symbolize strength, power and killing 'em dead," according to an interview in the magazine's May issue, on newsstands Tuesday.
Another of her theories: That the bicoastal feud between slain rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. was fueled "by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing."
Keys' AK-47 jewelry came as a surprise to her mother, who is quoted as telling Blender: "She wears what? That doesn't sound like Alicia." Keys' publicist, Theola Borden, said Keys was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Friday Funnies--April 15th

As D.C. readies for the Pope (he's not coming to Georgetown--the Vatican's been hating on the "liberal," intrepid Jesuits since Ignatius Loyola decided it was better to explore, teach, build than sit around whipping yourself or burning women at the stake 500 years ago), I thought you'd enjoy this for the OTHER event next week.

Get busy...or just file that extension, y'all...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Less Woods, More Wheatley

The Root, Prof. Henry Louis Gates' online progeny, has been hailed as the first, best step in claiming (reclaiming?) some semblence of real news, intellectually-stimulating debate, etc. from the usual trope (LeBron, College Hill/Hell Date, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Simon Cowell & Flavor Flav...etc. etc., blah, blah). Punchy articles on practical topics and with actual, practical themes (like this month's "America's Embracing of Ignorance, and Why Blacks Need to Let Go"). Indeed, "Skip" Gates has peopled the site with New School journalists like Rebecca Walker and NPR's Michelle Martin, and his humunculi from the academy: i.e. Prof. Marc Lamont Hill, Princeton's Melissa Harris Lacewell (contributing when she's not otherwise on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher as seen in a previous post); Melissa's a whole lot easier to look at and listen to than Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi--I think I my wife will allow me that one fawning statement.
And speaking of HBO, it is a major advertiser for the site, and underwriter of Gates' ancestry tracing efforts based at Harvard. Hence, Paul Giamatti's meaty face, prominently displayed. I have been following Tom Hanks' production of John Adams like a hungry dog tracks a porkchop, and yes, I actually read David McCullough's ten pound book and even met and had a danish with the author at Book Expo America at Chicago's McCormick Center a few years ago. Nice guy. Easy going. Not a dick-knotted old white man in the John McCain stereotypical vein. He asked me if I read Gates' edit of The Bondswoman's Tale (a novel written by a freed slave some 150 years ago). I said hell yeah! He asked how it was received in the African American community. I snickered. See, they don't talk about stuff like that on Charlie Rose...or even Tavis. After I composed myself I tried to limit the "hating" and the "elitism" and the "dirty laundry"to a minimum, and I told him of our illustrustrious bards, such as Terri Woods, or Darren Coleman, or C-Murder...of coldest winters and ghetto girls, of authors and poets named not Zora or Langston, but rather "Relentless." Of Madea. "You mean Jason [of the Argonaut's posse]'s wife Medea?" the white haired historian asked before his publicist whisked him away for a photo op with Oprah and fellow superstar author Isabelle Allende. "No sir," I sighed. "M-A-D-E-A. Tyler Perry." "Oh," said McCullough--and this was likely the first and last time I'd get to see him. "I heard he was funny." As McCullough shook my hand and was about to vanish, I called to him, "Yes, a bamma Benny Hill...dude in drag." He knew who Benny Hill was (the madcap limey comedian). Hadn't a clue what "bamma" meant. But then he said, "Has anyone done anything on Phyllis Wheatley...slave who became our first true poetress?" Then he was gone. Yes, there have been papers, journals etc. on Phyllis--a contemporary, more or less of John Adams and her idol, George Washington. Can't recall them. Indeed, anything that embraces history, whether nonfiction or literature, is hard to recall in our circles.
OK. Maybe the Root needs to sponsor and present these works: prose, art, performance/stage, poetry, documentary film. Hit HBO up for the cash, eh? It likely won't come from publishers. Terri Woods gets a million bucks from Warner for more hood fantasy (yes, fantasy--this is NOT about The Wire or The Corner on DVD for reality). How much did James McBride get for Song Yet Sung? The Pulitzer cash award to Edward P. Jones was enough for him to buy a TV, some clothes, put a little bit in the bank but that's about it. Would love to James and Edward figured prominently on theRoot. Would love to see their work adapted and splashed all over HBO...or Showtime for that matter ("The Tudors"--screw 'em. See A Man For All Seasons or Anne of the Thousands Days doing it without the straining cod pieces and bare titties). Or The Pirate's Daughter, excerpted? Or Phyllis Wheatley, acclaimed and adorned by the denizens of Def Poetry Jam online?
For now, I guess Paul Giamatti's interesting mug will have to do. A few blog posts and a cool article here or there on theRoot. Otherwise I yawn or scowl through the Web, through TV, through bookstores which may or may not be open next week. But at least Terri Woods is happy, and isn't that what it's all about? I think Skip Gates should approach her about being a regular contributor. Would open up theRoot to all those "real folk" who couldn't give a damn about Phyllis, about John Adams, even. A bridge between David McCullough and Tyler Perry. "Madea & Missy Ann Go On A Roadtrip," starring Tyler and Laura Linney. Can't you see the ads on HBO now, and the traffic that would pour into theRoot? Ha! Skip--make it happen, bruh!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hold that Tiger

My wife's a George Clooney fan, so luckily there wasn't a lot of resistance to us seeing Leatherheads, Clooney's third effort behind the camera and latest showcase for his comedic touch. Her affection for the man is a little deeper than simple movie-star hots. She loved him in "Michael Clayton" and "Syriana." The dramatic roles. Grizzled men who become heroes. Of course there're the comedies, and I don't mean the stupid Oceans flicks. Think the Coen Brother's iconic "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." The man's a damn good actor. Got a good eye for story and composition as well. I loved his portrait of Edward R Murrow in "Good Night and Good Luck" (frankly David Strathairn was as dead a ringer as Tobey Jones was of Truman Capote in "Infamous"). Indeed, Clooney--a stalwart Obama man--is my new archtype of the Hollywood liberal--a cool guy, a progressive guy. A dude you could hang with (and I did at the Mercer Kitchen in NYC way back when he premiered Out of Sight...we beheld in mute horror as Chris "Mr. Big" Noth set fire to Brazilian bombshell Sonia Braga's hair. But that's another story...). Look, even if you're a right wing tool, you must admit the guy's a lot better to stomach than douchebags like Alec Baldwin, right?
OK. But here's the real reason I wanted to see this movie, and the reason's as corny as an Iowa dawn in September. It's Princeton. Yeah, I was feeling nostalgic in an F. Scott Fitzgerald sorta way. A fellow author who frequents the Hoya campus had coffee with me near The Exorcist house at 36th and Prospect NW in DC and told me that Duncan Brantley and former Sports Illustrated writer Rick Riley had peppered the screenplay with all sorts of references to Ol' Nassau, to Palmer Stadium, to the double wing offense and Hobie Baker' 14 and Tiger Inn (no, not Cottage, not Ivy! Tiger Inn, cradle of Princeton football...and thus ALL college football). I've been a fan of Riley's intelligent sports writing for a decade so I was hooked...
...and of course my hero, Mr. Clooney, goes and dumps most of this Princeton material for the final script! See, Riley and Brantley wrote this thing on spec over TEN years ago. Sold it for a pittance to Clooney's other influential director pal, Steven Soderbergh. On the shelf it sat. I know the feeling. Now, this is not meant to be a critical review, just some reflections. Yes, I loved the 1930s Gable-Lombard madcap comedy aspect of this film. (which is why the average ignorant 19 year old stayed away from it like Sean Hannity to the truth). No, I do not think Renee Zelleweger is hot. The lemon-suck pout thing has indeed morphed into the shape of an ardvark's snout a la "Family Guy;" she was attractive in Bridget Jones due to some meat on her ass and boobs and face and hey quite a few white guys have backed me up on that. She jocked Clooney to the point of stalking him and he had to call the cops. (in real life). "The Office" star John Krasinski was perfect as Princeton star "Carter Rutherford." Yes, there were and are people with names like that at Princeton. Wanna hear Tigerhawk's real name, for example? And I was tickled by the subtext of pro football as carnie sideshow to college the point that they even In real life people like Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson donned the leather helmet and slipped on the high topped cleats. Indeed, the fact that there were few rules didn't make the game corrupt (as is the the closing credits...of major league baseball). It made it fun. NFL, time to go old school.
All that I could channel and devine from the movie to feed my inner orange and black was the opening sequence. And lord, what a wonder is CGI! The Princeton-Penn game, 1925 season. 40K fans screaming and locomoting in old Palmer Stadium. Authentic gear. Authentic cheers, and Randy Newman's score including "The Princeton Tiger" (actually and old African American jazz tune, circa Jelly Roll Morton's time...called "Hold the Tiger"). If you are a Princeton booster, that first two minutes are worth the $9 ticket. As for the rest, well, it's up to you. Nice flick for an evening out with your spouse, as long as dinner at Applebee's is the follow up. But don't mull over the lack of Princetonaria overload in front of your HBCU (Historically Black College/University for any uninformed whitefolks) -grad partner as she eats. "OK, y'all invented football...we invented the Battle of the Bands, so we're even. And I don't want you ordering onion rings--you're supposed to be loosing weight."
Sigh. Still, even a dab of orange and black is a great thing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Funnies

Sorry Sean Hannity fans--no clips of Obama's lameass gutter ball. Actually the joke here is on my wife. Last week the DVD of No Country for Old Men dropped into Netflix. On April 8, There Will Be Blood (my fav), and on April 22...Hurray! CLOVERFIELD! Hours and hours of dark vexation, and me cackling at the horror. Pray for my family as I indulge myself!

COMING NEXT WEEK...interviews with authors Mat Johnson and Gary Phillips, and check out the lovely endorsement of The Darker Mask from Tom Fontana. (Note the pub date's been moved up to July, in time for Comic Con)

"This collection of smart and raw stories out marvels Marvel and makes me want to strip down to my inner tights. “The Darker Mask” cuts superhero mythology to the bone; leaving neither the characters nor the reader invulnerable to its mesmerizing power."
--Tom Fontana, Emmy-winning Writer/Producer of HBO's "Oz," NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street," and NBC's new hit "The Philanthropist."

Have a great weekend...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Black Cat

This weekend in NYC, whilst attending to book biz, hanging with my aunt on the Upper West Side and visiting my 95 year old grandmother, my wife (Mrs. Nat Turner) and I scored second row seats at the Broadhurst Theatre to view Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Yes, starring Mr. Babywipes himself, along with a cast only seen lately in "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" or "Meet the Browns:" Phylica Rashad as "Big Mama" (as in the peckerwood meaning of the term), James Earl Jones as Big Daddy (reprising the Burl Ives role as a nasty old fart rather than monsterously cruel fat ol' cracker), Giancarlo Esposito and Lisa Arindell Anderson doing good imitations of my brother and my sister in law (smile)...and Anika Noni Rose of Dreamgirls as Maggie the Cat. Note to the world: Anika makes the play. Period.
I guess I can try to be diplomatic and say this: no, I wasn't disappointed with director Debbie Allen's vision, for it was Debbie Allen's vision. Circular comment? Nah. I think her direction is the factor that could have morphed Tennessee Williams' genius into something just above a Tyler Perry bama-ass "stageplay." Couple with that--or is there cause-effect?--the loud cackling, gasps, mewls, coos--that's how many black folk cheer in the theatre. Laughing at stuff that doesn't need to be laughed at. It's a gut-wrenching drama, after all, not Madea. OK, OK...lest I sound too siddity, when Shakespeare's plays debuted at Stratford on Avon, folks were in the front cheering, jeering, gasping, tossing rotten eggs--and that was during the serious tragedies and histories, not the bawdy comedies!
The PERFORMANCES truly save this production and make a classic. The cast stepped up their games. And as I said, Anika blew me away ( Beyonce would have ruined this play). As for James Earl Jones and Mr. Babywipes, they sucked me in, gave me doubts, riveted me...their interpretions of Brick and Big Daddy where as complex and satisfying as I have seen or read any father-son characters. Of course some morons would be satisfied with Morris Chestnut as Brick (rippling-pec Boris Kodjoe joins the production in another week) and Cedric the Entertainer as Big Daddy. But this is the stage. The REAL stage. The pinnacle of our first form of human expression.
So take it from me, it wasn't celebrity-worship or having an icon like James Earl Jones look right at me and smile that makes sway me to thumbs-up this play. This was a show that redeemed itself through its actors, through the craft. Too bad the audience still measures this stuff against "Norbit." Too many of us either look like or have tastes like "Rasputia!" When we got home (we drove) we unwound watching Chris Rock's "I Think I Love My Wife" on HBO. The flick was a box office flop. I thought it was entertaining. A thousand insipid white movies like it are made. But we didn't support our one pleasant and indeed (at times) realistic black version. Not enough buffonery and loud talk, melodrama a la The Browns. Hmmm, if Tennessee Williams had been a brother coming up today and not a mincing gay redneck pet of the jet-set (who could rival Truman Capote in that?), would he ever have been published and produced? Yeah, you know the answer.