Saturday, December 26, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
You know Nat loves historical parallels. Barbara Tuchman, you are missed. This is an age of celebrated ignorance (I should show you the emails and texts…not to mention the essays, they’d only make you cry I get from 18 to twentysomething students…even Georgetown students. Credibility has come to mean with you mindlessly agree and who you hate. It used to mean critical thinking, preparing a researched position that is supported with logical appeals, emotion, evidence, and the ethical treatment of other points of view. It was about dignity of accomplishment, rather than splatter. It embodied a time where even Huey Long was somehow more palatable, credible, than Sarah Palin.
I’m thinking of doing a long essay on how 2008-10 is really 1867-1876 (Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction), in a snow globe, at light speed. Hey, 50% of the treatise would be dismissing the redneck myths about that time when America was truly made. Here’s a little warm-up, and little discourse for shits and gigs, with another parallel as model. Remember my Busboys & Poets encounter, above…
When Obama ran, when Obama was elected, some supporters and detractors spoke of him as a newfangled JFK. Sorensen’s analysis and analogies where thoughtful though a tad rose-colored. Most of the statements entailed ill-informed second “Camelots” or Michelle as a 21st century Jackie, or “empty suit” talk; some comments were paeans to vigor (“viggah” in Kennedy-ese) and a new age, some were truly loony “ACORN as Joe Kennedy and the Mafia stuff.”
The parallel cures and solidifies when you look at their presidencies with a historian’s eyes, both one year in. Huge promise, yet huge divisions and mistrust. Enemies of all stripes thinking neither deserved to be in the Oval Office. Big missteps, small victories. Bold ideas, small and sickly conventional follow-through. Two men in charge who were/are products of their upbringing in the most pinpoint sense of that admittedly hackneyed term. You lay the outlines side by side and say…whoa.
So here’s my cryptic measure of Barack Obama’s first year: What would the Obama White House—this supposed “Change” movement—be like if Barack had true counterparts to P. Kenneth O’Donnell by his side. And a Robert Francis Kennedy. If Joe Biden was more Lyndon Johnson and less, well, Joe Biden? Hell, if Glenn Beck et al were less clowns, and more like James Reston or Walter Lippman? If Al Sharpton was more Roy Wilkens, and Hillary Clinton a younger Eleanor Roosevelt in her? Beyonce was Eartha Kitt. Blake Lively was young Helen Gurley Brown? Or if Joe Lieberman was less a tool, and little more like Everett Dirksen?
Would this nation, the world, be a better, safer, more just place? Probably not. Would there be Tea Partiers? Likely more so. Look at what was happening in the South then. Made the “Don’t tread on me” nonsense look like a Victoria’s Secret show.
But I’d feel a lot more comfortable about things. I was an infant when Sorensen and this person’s famous granddad were in there where Barack, Rahm and Eric, Susan and Hillary were in 1962. Now I am middle age. I wish I were a baby again, yet with adult ears and eyes.
I hope for the best in 2010. That word hope hasn’t been cheapened. Not yet...
Mrs Nat and I live in this general neighborhood cluster of Columbia Heights, U-Street/Shaw. It is amusing that a bunch of yuppies would take time off from cross-country skiing or shovelling their sidewalks to pelt each other with snowballs. It's not so funny when folks paste passing cars...cars driven by folk who are already agitated by dangerous conditions (I don't care if you are from Rochester or Chicago--24 inches of snow in less than 24 hours is still a bitch! So stop grousing, Mr. President & Mrs. First Lady!!!).
And it would have been quite another thing, my children, had these people been black or Latino teenagers, pelting cars as well as each other. Yeah, Nat went there. He likes going there. Feel like grumbling yet, or agreeing? Read on...
African American cops I know in this sub-district--and you gotta know the cops when you live in the cit-tee--suck their teeth and shake their heads when I ask them about this incident. The detective was pissed off and dead-ass wrong they say. What was going through his head, they ask? He often does undercover work in a city that's still resembles Mordor despite gentrification. But, Lord how these same yuppies would have demanded MPD guns at a snowball fight had the shoe been on a "local" teenage foot they say. Nat agrees.
Indeed, what's interesting is that while the footage was all over our local news and displayed on national outlets...it downright hemorrhaged from right wing outlets like Fox, Reason TV et al. More evidence of evil black Obama ciphers oppressing good and true whitefolk. Even my mole at the...[edited] [Group/Foundation/Network] hahaha confirmed this. A Reason TV young Republican was on hand at the snowball event to record. [Oh don't worry, my man/woman is in deep cover, Donnie Brasco style. Now if I can only get someone into Fox. Maybe put a microchip in Juan Williams' head and a minicamera in his eyeball?]
A neighbor who's co-worker and co-worker's boyfriend were present broke it down this way: "She[the cowroker] admitted then when they started throwing snowballs at cars and a couple of pedestrians who weren't part if the 'event' [ah those young folk and their Twitter] , that was noot good. I could then see maybe one cop showing up to break the thing up and everyone goes home for hot toddies or coco. But this guy [the 25 year veteran undercover dick] created a potentially deadly situation."
Now that's pretty straightforward.
MPD Chief Kathy Lanier, ever eager to please a vengeful public in areas of high voter turnout, quickly put a foot in the gun-brandishers butt. We won't really know the extent of the disciplinary action; you never do when it comes to cops. But quite a few folk want this kept quietly in the family. No harm, no foul, I suppose? Concurrently, however, no one seems to want to ask why it's okay to have a melee, no matter how good spirited or organized via Gen Y social networking media rather than urban pay as you go cell phones...on a public street...a busy intersection in the middle of a snow emergency in a city that doesn't do snow? Had it been young Pookie with braids and droopy jeans, or callow Esteban with his hand-me- down Redskins jacket just wanting to have a some winter fun, we'd have gotten a definite answer...
Stay tuned for the infamous Christmas post.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Yes, Schmuley Boteach has "branded" himself, in Dr. Drew Pinsky style, as "America's Rabbi." You've seen him on TV, in print, on his glossy website. From Oprah's guest chair to canting the An'im Zemirot, he's everywhere. For ten years he's been the most visible cleric in Hollywood, out-positioning even TD Jakes. Call it a calling. Call it rank self-promotion.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
It's tough to convince white people to open their ears and brains and shut their mouths with this Ellis Close-esque Rage of the Privileged Class stuff. Especially when they see Lebron, Beyonce, Lil Wayne and OchoCinco and Oprah, of course living well. Now, 20 years ago, during fact-finding on the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and anti-redlining hearings (uh-oh, better cut down ACORN!), similar trends came to light, backing up what we already discussed around the dinner table: blue collar uneducated white couples where getting bank loans easier than professional, uppity blacks (must be our extravagant spending on cars and hair weaves?). In other words, banks were more likely to "work with" them folks. Even them folk with credit blemishes. That stuff's long buried. Reviled, even, by GOP zealots and a citizenry that still wants to blame everything on behavior, not structure, because that's easier to swallow.
The Washington Post has ressurrected this monster and put it on the front page. Uncaged, here it is: per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, joblessness for 16-to-24-year-old black men has reached Great Depression proportions, 34.5 percent in October, more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population, The Washington Post reports Young black women have an unemployment rate of 26.5 percent, while the rate for all 16-to-24-year-old women is 15.4 percent. If you've listened to NPR today, you see things are horrific for Latinos as well--the folk who supposedly will take jobs blacks won't. There's another myth, broken.
Read the article and hit Nat with comments.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Now I no longer think Adrian Fenty is an empty track suit. He's Nixon, and Peter Nickles is John Mitchell.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Been watching "Brick City" on Sundance? It's a documentary series on Newark and its mayor Corey Booker; akin to Season 3 of The Wire without the fiction (sorry The Root.com and others, but Nat minted that analogy, not you). Corey Booker--Ivy League mayor, bald-headed and piss colored like yours truly Nat--is the central character, and if indeed fiction scribed by The Bard, he'd be one part Hamlet, one part Henry V. "Once more into the breach/To be or not to be/And Gentlemen in England now a-bed will think themselves accursed and hold their manhood cheap." And he is counterpoint to the Sharpe James paradigm of old school ghettofab urban power politics. Brick City gets its name from, well, bricks of crack, not aging masonry of the projects. Sorry.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
Thursday, October 08, 2009
The Teachers Union files suit (see here in Washington Post). I'm usually not a fan of the WTU, but clearly, this was either an utter lack of planning on the City's part, or a plot. Even the DC City Council is saying um--this just doesn't add up. Indeed, the schools ended up with a surplus when Stimulus funds were added to the pot.
Could it be the only reason we support DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is that we fear going back to the Barry days? It's like choosing between a yeast infection and a bacterial infection...
Sunday, October 04, 2009
+fiction. michael a. gonzales
+click image to enlarge theking of broadway+story copyright 2005, Michael A. Gonzales+art copyright 2005, Larry Scott
The gray sky over Harlem had been crying since noon.
Swaying from a dead tree inside the stately uptown cemetery, Blaze Garcia was still dressed in his shabby Catholic school uniform and Pro-Keds sneakers the autumn afternoon the fuzz discovered his dead body. Besides the muttering of cops, the only sound heard in the quiet block was his haggard mom’s shrill screams as she stared at her son’s corpse, strange fruit swinging from a thick oak tree branch. Below his dangling feet, Blaze’s black graffiti sketchbook laid open in the brown grass.
Hours earlier, me and the crew had waited for Blaze at Jose’s Candy Store over on 150 th and Broadway. Rowdy as usual we were, in our own minds, a combination of the Wild Bunch without horses, the Wild Ones without motorcycles and the Dirty Dozen without a war.
Clad in our St. Catherine’s monkey suits and rain soaked sneakers, we ruled the candy-shop that had been the crew’s official hang-out spot since forever. Between the flashing lights of the KISS pinball machine and the hypnotic bleeps of the newly installed Space Invaders, shiny quarters flowed like a glimmering river from our hands into the slots. “What’s taking Blaze so long?" Smokey asked, his long fingers flicking the pinball flippers. “I done spent most of my change and I'm 'bout ready to roll."
“He had to finish that damn high school admission essay,” I answered. “Sister Marquez was helping him out.”
In the next few months all of us would be graduating from St. Catherine’s, traveling miles away from home on rickety subway cars or overcrowded buses. No more would we saunter to school together in the chilly mornings, ranting about bony-booty J.J. on Good Times episodes, cool ass Fonzie on Happy Days or riotous Walt Frazier busting butts on the Madison Square Garden court.
Already, I had been accepted into Rice High School, while Voodoo planned to go public domain at G-Dubs and Smokey was going over to Cardinal Hayes to shoot hoops. Crazy about drawing pictures, both Blaze and C.C. had developed elaborate portfolios which they later presented at Music and Art. Of course, we had hoped to occasionally hang-out, playing basketball at the Battlegrounds and popping shit in our favorite movie dive The Tapia. Still, we were well aware that this was the last year our lives would be so simple.
Graffiti comrades Blaze and C.C. often chilled in the scruffy 145th Street station. The sullied porcelain walls were a testament to their personal rebellion. With a small army of virtuoso vandals, they boom box-blasted Grandmaster Dynamite mix-tapes while bombing the underground. In their private world, bombing was the equivalent of breathing; as long as there was a steady flow of paint, the world was a perfect place.
"If you dress flye, you can fool the cops," Blaze advised. "Them pigs think that all graff writers got to look all busted, so ya’ll put on them party clothes and make them walk right past you. While they thinking bombers are bums, we’ll be wreakin’ shit."
Sharply dressed in sheepskin or Corderfield coats, straight-legged Lee jeans and stylish suede kicks, they trooped boldly through the dark, dank tunnel where the subways were laid-up. An underground train yard that extended from 145th Street to a 137th Street, it was where they both painted their first whole car.
With stolen cans of Krylon, Red Devil and Rustoleum, they avoided the 11,000 volts of the third-rail and a loco spic gang that called themselves The Ballbusters. With paint and Pilot markers stashed in their pockets, they inhaled toxic fumes while creating elaborate masterpieces. Caught-up in a desperado mindscape, Blaze and C.C. existed in an alternative universe where aerosol artists were royalty and the rest of the world were merely toys.
Afterwards, chilling at the 125th Street el station, the boisterous boys crowded the splintered platform bench. A few held boxy Kodak cameras, snapping shots of the multicolored pieces when the subway finally roared into the station: Sky High 149, PESO 131, STAN 153, MAG 151, LSD 3, Lee 163, Crash, KOOL AID 131 and countless others. "You watch, one day I'm going to be one of the kings of Broadway," Blaze declared. Dude was pumped with adrenaline during those bench sessions.
"Niggers soon gonna be talking 'bout my style. I'm on some McFadden & Whitehead shit now," he joked. Bugging out, Blaze stood-up and spun on his sneakers like a Soul Train dancer. "No stoppin', no stoppin', no stoppin'...no-stop-in!” Everybody laughed. Blaze might have his problems, but that crazy bro always had jokes.
Inside the warmth of the candy shop, I hungrily munched from a greasy bag of Wise chips.
"Maybe Sister Marquez wanted him to do more than make-up that test," Voodoo Ray sniggered, his mouth full of chocolate Hostess Cupcake. Sloppily spraying moist crumbs onto the Space Invaders screen, Voodoo’s teeth were turd brown, but that didn't stop him from shoveling junk food into his trap.
"Have some respect," Smokey snapped. "Don't you know you can go to hell talking bad 'bout a nun?” For a stone cold player, Smokey acted more like a protective priest whenever anyone ranked about Sister Marquez.
Staring at Smokey with amused eyes, Voodoo remained silent. We all knew that dude was like a short fused firecracker, and it didn't take much for him to explode. Crumbling the crinkling chip bag, I said, "You know Blaze could be anywhere.” Everybody nodded. Hell, it wasn't weird for Blaze to drift away on a solo mission, his smooth face lost in a crimson cloud of red spray paint vapors, eyes hovering in front of a blank wall or subway car like a ghetto Picasso.
Blaze and I had been homeboys since the days when we both reeked of spilled milk and soiled diapers, which made me well versed in the sordid history of his bugged-out family. "I’m just tired of all their shit," he once confessed. "I wish I could get away from all the screaming and arguing. You know, do some Huck Finn stunt and just sail down the Hudson on a raft."
On those few occasions when I trooped upstairs to their sloppy sixth floor apartment, angry screams erupted through their dented bedroom door. Over the din of salsa blasting from a battered stereo, Blaze's drunken parents argued about money, the smell of whores on his pop’s body and their two bum sons. Once his bitter mother began ranting that God in heaven was punishing her, Blaze packed his sack and fled the house.
Silently we walked to a 153rd Street, towards Blaze’s sanctuary under the dead oak tree inside Trinity Cemetery. Constructed over a century ago, the gray stones still sparkled under the glimmering sun. Wild ivy scaled the graveyard walls from Broadway to Amsterdam, and a rusty wrought-iron design on top was supposed to keep the riff-raff from climbing over.
Many a twilight, Blaze and I roamed the ancient burial sight, throwing rocks at vicious squirrels and puffing potent bags of Buddha Bless. "Don't you think this is kind of ill?" I asked, as we strolled through the labyrinth of grassy paths. Carrying hefty school bags, we looked for the perfect spot to park our butts. "Why you wanna hang-out in here all the damn time is a mystery."
"You sound like one of those punk kids from a Disney movie," Blaze teased. "Don't worry D., I got a ghost repellent bop gun stashed in my bag," he snickered, squatting next to one of the decayed mausoleums.
"Yo, I'm not afraid. This shit is just weird."
"Chill out," he mumbled, tossing a few new glossy covered comics in my lap. "Shit, it's spookier in my crib than it is in this motherfucker."
"All right, sorry.” Instead of talking, we flipped through the four-color wonderlands of his newest comic books, sharing a taste for the angst-ridden universe that Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack Kirby had constructed. Lately a crew of new jacks that included Berni Wrightson, Jim Steranko, Barry Smith and Neal Adams had taken the graphics to a different level.
Studiously studying their styles, Blaze later incorporated bits of the comic book art into his own pieces. Pulling out his black sketchbook and a pack of magic markers from his bulging book bag, Blaze experimented with different (robotic bubbles, wildstyle characters) letters. The more weed we smoked the crazier were the graffiti theories that tumbled from Blaze’s tongue.
"It's all about style you see," Blaze schooled me, passing me his sketchbook. "Brothers that don't experiment with style just taking up space on the cars. Like that cat Vulcan once told me once, 'Style is the thing that separates the men from the toys.' Maybe all that ordinary shit was cool in the days of Taki 183, but I want to change the world."
"You gonna pass that joint first, ya klingon?" I joked. Although I did my share of scribbling, for me graff writing was not really my can of Coke. Unlike Blaze and C.C., the art thing was lost on me. "Yo, what's up with that scrub Blax 178? Heard ya'll still had beef?" Not that anyone we knew ever saw that dude Blax 178, but for some reason dude had started crossing out Blaze’s tags with his own infantile scrawl.
"Man, that toy scared to surface," Blaze laughed. "He crossed out another one of my pieces on the number one train. Nigga got nerve to put crowns over his name like he thinking he a king or something.”
“Smokey thinks he might be down with the Ballbusters,” I said, referring to the notorious Rican street gang known for jackin’ brothers in the shadowy train stations.
“Man, that punk ain’t down with no Ballbusters,” screamed Blaze. “He just another chump trying to absorb fame off my name.” Blaze beat on his chest like Tarzan. "Man, there can only be one king in this jungle, man. That’s me."
As the sun began to dim, Smokey won another free game of pinball, but passed it off to some goofy kid wearing a Planet of the Apes t-shirt. "Maybe we should walk over to the school and see what the problem is," I suggested.
Moments later, we were standing outside. "It’s freezing out here," C.C. sneered, buttoning his sheepskin coat. “At least the damn rain finally stopped.”
It was almost four o'clock and darkness slowly spread across the dreary sky. Yet, no matter how frosty it might have been, our neighborhood still managed to sustain a festive flavor where hustlers lounged in gaudy rides, grandmothers dragged shopping carts spilling with groceries and sharp dressed corner boys shot dice against a tenement wall. A grisly bum trapped in a trance of intoxication stood next to the Chow Wong’s chicken wing joint, with its sticky bulletproof glass and soiled floor. Bopping in beat-up shoes, the destitute dude weaved in front of a raging bonfire.
"Wait up a sec," shouted Voodoo, stopping in front of the weed spot. His older brother Red had recently moved up in the world from a loose joint hustler hanging in pissy doorways to opening a small black door storefront that specialized in the uptown highs Buddha Bless and Panama Red. It only took a few minutes for him to make the transaction.
"We got that shit now," Voodoo howled, and even Smokey smiled for once. We walked down the street smoking the thick joint as if the shit was legal, yet it was C.C. who first spotted the police cruiser parked on the corner of 153rd Street. A red siren light atop the car rotated in its glass dome.
"What the hell is going down now?" I wondered aloud, and flicked the reefer roach into the gutter. The quiet block was littered with chubby cops and a wagon from the coroner's office.
"Those are his friends!" screamed Mr. Mancini, the Italian janitor from St. Catherine's. “Dese boys…dese boys are his friends.”
Staring at our blood-shot eyes, a baby-faced rookie sternly ushered us through a blue barricade into a surreal circus of chatter and tears. Quietly, as we moved through the whispering crowd, I peeped the swinging silhouette of Blaze's skinny body hanging from the tree. Like one of Smokey's beloved pinball machines, our perfect world slowly tilted.
Vomiting on sight, pieces of potato chip bile splattered on my Pro-Keds.
"My baby, my baby, my baby..." Blaze’s mother babbled madly. “Please God, please God, please God…” Breaking away from her strong husband’s weakening grip, Mrs. Garcia flung herself to the ground, her claw like finger nails scratching the concrete. A few feet away, Sister Marquez stood, silently clutching her rosary beads.
"Get these damn kids over to the side," a gruff black detective snarled. "They don't need to see this shit."
Before we were led away from the rustic gates, a beautiful gold and black butterfly fluttered above Blaze’s head. An exquisite powdery dust shimmered on the bug’s shuddering wings. Indeed, if only for a moment, Blaze had finally earned his shiny crown. "All hail the King of Broadway," I whispered, wiping away the tears.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Enjoy, wingnuts--and hopefully that nigger will vex you no more...
Obama poll (taken down at facebook, finally)...the ex-Governor of Alaska ain't giving us her opinion, though asked today at a pre-pre-press event for her memoir, Going Rouge.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
So congrats to Mad Men for the Emmy wins.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
[from a dream I had]
Talking points memo from strategic communications/public relations firm, to Whitney's translators: toss that nigga Bobby unda the Newark ta East Orange express bus, gurl! Run ya mouth about bein' a good wife. Takin' careya baby Bobby-Christine. The womens'll cry, nod. Uh-uh, we can relate gurl. Blame the drugs...hell, call Bobby the drug. We can relate, gurl...eEven the white housewives will related. Indeed in this sham of a post-racial millieu, hook them by saying hey, I'm just an E-OJ tackhead with a voice conferred by Jupiter, God, Vishnu and Allah...I'm not the gowns, the cutsey image, the Star Spangled Banner or The Bodyguard. I'm a "jeans and tee shirt" girl. They'll relate. I'm a sassy ghetto girl who was pressured into meeting your middle American expectations. Yes, they can get with that excuse. They love thatGet them to relate. Buy. Hell, I Do Bad All By Myself is Number 1 at the box office. Gullibility, retreat to rote, is what sells. What do you think branding is all about?
So fanboys & girls, Oprah set the stage, literary. Just she and Whitney, one on one. "Hard" questions. High ratings gimmick. Whitney Houston as first bit of pay-off and cross pollination between Clive Davis and Harpo Productions. Yes, folks, it's all artifice, all planned by white people sitting around tables with notes, iPhones and Blackberries, dead Fiji Water & Starbucks soldiers strewn before them. Yet we think it's chance, extemporaneous, even. Hearts, being poured out. Our idols, humanized.
What could be more humanizing that Whitney describing how to sprinkle crack into a joint, torpedo style. Oprah cracking up when Whitney recounts lolling about in bed all day, high and stink. Or both "powerful" women sharing a moment--what to do about their kept, less than successful menfolk, wink wink. What could be more contrived than Whitney's saga of darkness. It was better done, and funnier, when lampooned (like Walk the Line, Ray and any other damn biopic) by John C Reilley in Walk Hard.
So what's your take, folks? Perhaps it's rote: she's nuts, but she still's got that voice. And in the end, isn't that all we care about? Me, you, Clive, Oprah.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
News flash: BET is planning to redo August Wilson's Pulitzer winning plays featuring Perry's character"Brown."
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Check him out here each week, whether you're a DC resident or not.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
But then his actress daughter (the teenager in the family in Poltergeist) died at the hands of her supposedly upstanding boyfriend, and that murder sent real life barreling into Dominick's chest. He became obsessed with the true crime genre; he covered some of the most gaudy, sensational investigations and trials in American legal history--without further sensationalizing them. Paradox? Nope. It's called skill. He became an uber-correspondant for Vanity Fair and Salon.com. My dream gigs. And he was the ultimate glam mole: showing us the ugly side of the celebrities we claim we don't worship.
I own a pair of glasses just like his. RIP Dominick. Hug your daughter, and ask Nicole Simpson if OJ really did it...
A word on Edward Kennedy. I wonder if his decades of public service, his statesmanship (to the point that even John McCain, Nancy Reagan, and George HW Bush refered to him as an "ally"), his balls--all was penance for Mary Jo Kopechne...or in spite of her?
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
"If you all didn't have it coming, it wouldn't have happened."
--translated from Latin, a rebel slave under Spartacus to one of Pompey Magnus's soldiers, 70 B.C.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
John Wasik, financial columnist for Bloomberg News, is like "Moe" in the "Three Stooges." He's lined us all up, and I do mean all of us, and engaged in one looooooooong slap. But unlike Moe, he gives us options after "Curly" does his signature bark and whine.
Regard: "One of the primary causes of the housing bust was that homes cost too much to begin with, forcing Americans to take desparate measures--getting subprime loans, lying on loan applications--to secure financing. Everyone, from the southern Californian desparate for a tiny starter home to Wall Street billionaires, was complicit in the crisis."
But according to Wasik, there's a another more troubling layer under even that nasty loam: our fairytale notion of the American Dream. The Cul de Sac Syndrome. The fairy tale becomes nightmare: of sprawl, traffic, pollution, land use decision based on politics, sucking up natural resources, emotional (and intellectual) detachment, de facto race/class segregation, mindless NIMBY-ism. To Wasik, it's about ecology. That's not moonbat environmentalism; ecology means us as humans, too.
This is no screed. Wasik produces a scholarly, expository narrative supported by stats and quotes and non-partisan reasoning. Anyone who isn't a banker, urban planner, architect, environmental engineer, etc. can follow it; even if you disagree, you can nod your head and say "Ok, I see his point." That's all to rare these days (and that's not the fault of authors like Wasik).
The material and data is not dated--it may have been overtaken by other issues, or our own fear, but it's as apt in August 2009 as it was when it went to press this past Spring '09.
As Wasik warns, the future of the American Middle Class, and the planet, is entwined and at stake. Let's not get distracted, or drown ourselves in ignorance & jingoism, as a passive shield against that reality.
First is reporter/columnist/commentator and former NPR host Farai Chideya's debut novel, Kiss the Sky. Buy it here. The plain vanilla: This is Farai's semi-(...quasi-?) autobiographical reflection on the music scene of the early 1990s. From the death of 80s pop to the transition pangs of Hip-Hop from Bronx party music to something meaner yet money-making. Sophie is Farai. Raised in Bo'mo'City...Bawlermer--Baltimore for you uninitiated. And Sophie's family is the embodiment of the prosaic clan limited not only by the hood but by their own myopia. There's nothing beyond Greenmount Avenue. Certainly not Harvard. Or the recording studios, clubs and label offices of LA and Manhattan, or Harlem's new black bohos, or London, or Tokyo, or Paris and a video channel that's BET and MTV combined (for better or worse circa 1995 or thereabouts). This world as alien to Sophie's genesis as Farai's NPR is to Glenn Beck. Sophie must navigate this void between the worlds, literally and figuratively. But that's not the whole story...
...that's the plain vanilla. Here's the flava: Yes, Sophie is metaphor for Farai. Yet the story is allegory for universal cultural truths we in or at the edges of her generation have lived. Beautiful and fulfilling on both counts; excruciating, exasperating on both counts. Being a journalist also means being a storyteller. Thus the story is grounded in Farai's experience--and not just memories, but lessons learned from other people, events. Kiss the Sky shows just how cosanguine real life and well-crafted fiction can be. It's all about how the outside affects our insides. We're Sophie, too.
This stuff is in the same genus, and perhaps same species, with Martha Southgate and Lise Funderberg. Or Eisa Ulen Richarson, Tina Mclroy Ansa, Arminatta Forna, Marita Golden. Or Cleage and Files, Tademy and McFadden. Not quite romance, or church-set aspirational drama. Not black chick lit (and you know I love to get the inside scoop on black chick lit!). It's nowhere near ghetto or ghetto-ish melodrama or BDUSSY romp. I'll go out on a limb and say these women and those in close or near orbit who I haven't named for lack of space, not respect are continuing a paradigm set a long time ago in both Western and non-Western prose and poetry. As for the former, I take you back to Dickinson, Austen, the Brontes. Boring English class crap? No. Frilly dead white chicks? No. Like Farai, these women wrote about the outsides affecting our insides. That's what makes it classic.