Wednesday, September 27, 2006

McGruder & Chappelle: Grow Up

As the lawyers say: Res Ipsa Loquitor. What is up with these negroes? Taking themselves a tad too seriously? Erratic genuises? Too much weed? Oh well...all glory is fleeting.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Zane's Birthday Party--the aftermath

I thought I had signed up for a mailing list, until Zane's sister Charmaine reminded me that this was the sheet for Freak Dating. I am married but somehow at Zane's b-day, that was superfluous. There was an 8-1 ratio of females to males, and of that eight, I'd say 6 were pretty damn good. Even the old chicks (ie my age) looked good in the murk of da club Zanzibar. By the way, there were no Africans or West Indians in there that night, which is why the place did not smell of incense and hyperdrive cologne...

A male "model" who looked like Starr Jones' likely soon-to-be ex-hubby and a female with a name like "Sepia" demonstrated the proper Freak Datinf repartie, e.g, "I'm firm. You wet?" Poor Michelle Wright--a classy DJ with WPGC in D.C. She had to "moderate." In essence, Freak Dating, and the party itself, had this sort of "Eyes Wide Shut" vibe, complete with the sequined, feathered masks. Okay, then imagine Jamie Foxx instead of Tom Cruise, and Alize and watered-down scotch instead of champagne and decent whiskey. You got it! Zane was radiant. I guess divorce and MILLIONS of book units sold become her.

Comedian Chris Thomas was raunchy as usual yet strangely compelling. I was good to see Jon Luckett and Rique Johnson again. Two classyguys writing some great stuff. I even met a porn entrepreneur with a very successful booty fetish site and DVD company based in Maryland, NOT the San Fernando Valley. The dude has the access to the talent as well. Look, it may sound gay as hell, but Lexington Steele, the biggest brotha in porn, is a personal hero of mine, and we'll see about collaborating on some things. Maybe Mike Steele (his cousin? hahaha) will have him on one of his hokey commercials (see last post 9/22/06). An endorsement from a black porn star might actually be a good thing...

Best of all, Bern Nadette Stanis was there selling her book, Situations 101. Oh hell yes I bought a copy. "Thelma" from Good Times was the undercover fantasy of me and quite a few thousand other thirteen year old boys back in the day. She looked good...gave me little wink. Lawd, I was singing all the way home. Who needs Freak Dating?

Just lookin' outta the window/Watching 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 ripoffs (Good Times)
Scratchin' and survivin' (Good Times)
Hangin' in the chow line (Good Times)
Ain't we lucky we got 'em...Good Times yeaaaaaaah-aaaaah

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Book Pictures

The Provost at Georgetown University, Dr. Joe O'Donnell, asked me where I got the pictures on my site for the new projects. Paul Gulacy is the artist who allowed us to use the African American "conflicted super hero" artwork for the Darker Mask promos. Hopefully he'll do the cover art. Tell me what you think. The portraits of "Yella" Patsy Shoup and one of her sons, Henry Dashiell, come courtesy of Audrey Mosher, professor of art history, Maryland Institute of Art. Again, these aren't book covers ("Mistah Charlie" in New York makes those decisions!). But they help illustrate a feeling.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Zane's Birthday Party

I'm giddy. I'm going to Zane's birthday party (the big four-oh) here in D.C. this weekend. Lawd, she's a Virgo like my wife and my nephew and my grandmother...I'm an Aquarius. Virgos are obessive and nitpicky. Aquarians are obsessive and nitpicky about things that aren't real.

Terri Woods will be there, queen of the Triple Crown "street fiction" empire.

I wonder if the ghosts of Hughes, Wright, Hurston, Himes & Goins ( whom they claim to emulate), Hansberry, Haley, Bontemps, Octavia et al will follow me in there? Or will be there spells and hexes on the doors to da club, like in the shitty horror film "13 Ghosts."

Maybe I'll carry a 20/20 or Dateline NBC hidden mini-cam in there for Nick Chiles. Have you read his now famous New York Times op-ed piece on what he says is the woeful state of black literature?

I've been on panels and have talked to death on this topic. And I should copyright my statements, because I'm started to hear and see them all over the place, all over the industry--with attribution sometimes, sometimes not.

Look, I LOVE street fiction. I love the garish covers and crazy-ass titles. Futher, I LOVE the erotica out there and even the cheesy fake ghetto love tales. And Zane is better than all of them, the way the 1979 fratboy movie Animal House, as gross and base as it was, was also enough to bring tears to your eyes from belly laughs, make you quote now iconic lines or await cult classic scenes with baited breath. Animal House spawned a lot of imitators, including Porky's and a whole genre of humor. But nothing came close to the original.

Here's the gist. I love street fiction and this whole crass ghetto/bama fable genre like I love coconut layer and red velvet cake. Y'all know I am a dessert (primarily cake) fiend. But that's the rub. It's dessert. A treat. Something you taste after a hearty nutritious meal; something you relax with a big slice of and a cup of coffee.

Now the script's flipped. Dessert is dinner. Dinner is meaningless--almost pointless, we're told. Nutrition is hating. Nutrition, the art of preparing a warm meal and tasting it's nuances--that's "not want the people want." Borders lumps this stuff in with the ghosts I named above, and often those ghosts' works aren't even on the shelves, nor do our folk--and let's not lay all this blame or young people or women--even know where to look. And the authors see nothing wrong with it. Hell with Zadie Smith. Hell with Alice Walker--I've sold more books outta a Buick hoopdy in College Park, Georgia than Alice Walker. Miss Celie my ass...but every woman on the Metrobus is reading my new book Dicklickin' & Trigger Clickin' hahahaha.

But do you see the white equivalent of Dicklickin' (yes I made it up) mixed in the stacks with Dickens? Oh hell no. Mr. Charlie wouldn't stand for that. He'd much fill us with platitudes about our "raw and edgey" material. If you do nothing but shove coconut layer cake or red velvet cake down my throat, and offer me nothing else, and even disparage real food, I will eat it. I will not ask if there's anything else. I will not be tantalized by whole other worlds of food open to me. I will get fatter and fatter. My teeth will rot. I'll get diabetes and heart disease. I'll die.

But hey, "Cake speaks to me, my experience. Broccoli don't!" Bullshit. Let's not confuse escapist fables of thugs and loose women for nonfiction. You want "real?" Go watch The Wire on HBO and that will destroy all of your crazy show you how it's done RIGHT!

As a reading audience, we have to grow up. Nuff said. If that's elitist, well--what's the flipside of elite? Poor? "Mediocre-ist?" We're in a pandering culture. I suppose publishing is the last media to finally embrace that. Colin Channer drew an analogy to the unspoken battle between amateurish "spoken word" and serious poetry, i.e. poets who hone their craft. The former is viewed as more "real" by the masses and the latter something only vegan folk with natty dreadlocks embrace. And as for the authors--I suspect that you have to write one book every six months if your advance from "Mr. Charlie's" multinational media conglomerant which measures division and affiliate budgets in billions is barely enough to buy three pairs of average Italian gators from Stacy Adams? And that's despite the platitudes (Notice that the editors and PR folk at the big houses always look,act and sound like Charlotte on "Sex & The City?")

That brings me to the most insidious aspect of this switching from dinner to dessert, and the irrelevncy of dinner. Not that we have bought into this crap. We buy into a lot of nonsense because all we see is short-term. How can get paid? What little nugget can you give me so I can shout to MY folks "Look what I got for you (and me)! Look how I'm livin'! I make paper for myself and Mr. Charlie!" OK. Look at the Flavor of Love. Flav buffooning. Women of color acting like whores and feeding every stereotype. Guess who produces the show, writes the material? White boys. And it's on VH-1--part of Viacom (like BET hahahaha). What's next--"New York" and "Nibbles" as novelists? Sign 'em up Mr. Charlie, before Teri or my boy Carl Weber does! All that, and Tavis Smiley is on PBS, at what--11pm on Sunday nights? There's a place for Flav. We love to see the trainwreck. I knowI do!!! But lets give equal, MORE friggin' what real, what's informative, what's special. And FOR GOD'S SAKE let's at least not allow white people to spoonfeed the garbage to us!

All things in balance. Your diet. Your reading. Your life. This shit is totally out of balance now. Although maybe I will roll up to the club and get some Dizzy Gillespie-sized mouthfulls of cake. Then I'll fast and eat a marinated pork loin of Small Island, or some oldtime favorite comfort food: The Last of the Mohicans.

My wife just wants to see the male strippers. Talk about pork loin...

Shakespeare and Bahama Bob

I just spent over a grand-and-a-half on a leather recliner from one of the top furnituremakers in the nation. Ahhh, I wish I could marry it, too. Supple, moist, warm...and it doesn't make me pick my socks up off the floor or whine about depletion of a joint checking account. I'd gladly move to Utah with my wife and my chair and live in blissful polygamy...

I start with this ode to leather and reclining because I broke the thing in today by reading a few passages from my wife's gi-normous Shakespeare tome. I love the histories (like Henry V) and the tragedies (like MacBeth). The Comedies are tough because the poetry lays the double-entendres on way too thick. I like my porn and slapstick without garnish.

Anyhow, I put down the heavy book for my inaugural nap--farting of course, to mark this chair as mine--and I gently recline to astronaut position. Suddenly the Washington Post Metro section comes into view, and I scoop it off the floor. Now, the bloodier and more conspiracy-ridden Shakespeare is my thang. Think Titus Andronicus or Richard III, so I was truly aroused when I scanned a truly horrifying policy statement by the Governor of Maryland, Robert "Bahama Bob" Erlich. As you know, in Maryland we had a little Palm Beach Co, Fla. ca. 2000, Georgia ca. 2002 and Ohio ca. 2004 voting machine drama last week in the primaries. Software erasing results, card chips arriving late, old folks not kowing how to insert the cards, wardens misreading the printouts, folks' names not even being on the damn printouts...what a way to run a beacon of democracy, eh Mr. President? It's Henry VI all over again. The war of the roses, Capulet versus Montague, rapier-fights in the street..."They have made worm's meat of me..."

But, like Pericles, Prince of Tyre, along comes Bob to preempt the Democrats and save the day. He says these machines, all provided by Diebold, suck. Diebold needs to show cause why we shouldn't deep-six the contract. Bring back paper ballots. Diebold can't be trusted. Now, Diebold is the same company that's run by an avowed right-wing nutcase who's on the record with bizarre comments about "assisting" the GOP and the President. Bravo Bob? Good Prince Harry V? Oncemore into the breach?

Not so fast. I went to law school in Baltimore with his wife Kendall, a fairest Hermia beautiest nymph she was (and, ironically, Katie Curran O'Malley was also in school with me--wife of Martin O'Malley, mayor of Baltimore and Democrat who seeks to unseat Bob as the Earl of Richmond battled Richard III). A person close to Mrs. Erlich says that Bob is adamant about ensuring the integrity of the system and restoring faith in the process. As for enlightened self-interest, he clearly doesn't want a torrent of scary lawsuits pouring down on the state and muddying Maryland's reputation. Indeed, there may be ones planned now among Democrats!

Alas and tut...this source confides however that such is but A Midsummer Night's Dream. Today, Robert Andronicus, Erlich of York announced his true alternative to the machines: Marylanders would be best to just stay home and fill out absentee ballots. Uh-huh. This is the same guy who vetoed the early voting bill, and the moto-voting registration, etc etc. Now he does a 180 degree turn and says "stay away from the polls." Really, but those of you who support me, I'll make sure to bus you in with step by step instructions as to how to use these diabolical Diebolds! The rest of you (who tend to vote Democrat, or who plain can't stand me) just don't vote. So what if the absente voting requirements are arcane and deadline loom? So what if a Johns Hopkins poli sci professor can't even figure out the system--better still if an elderly black women from West Baltimore can't figure it out either, or forgets to mail the damn thing in.

Think I'm being as unfair as Shylock? Look, would any responsible public servant--especially one with this dude's record re: voting and elections--float this as a serious policy option?

Speaking of floating, has anyone in the DC-MD-VA area seen the campaign commercials of Bahama Bob's loyal Banquo and Horatio: Mike Steele? Lawd Lawd Lawd--it's something they could parody on SNL or MadTV. He neglects to tell the viewer two pertinent things.

First, he's a Republican.
Second, he's Mike Tyson's ex-brother in law.

Despite the TD Jakes-like realignments, black folks generally do not vote Republican. Mike Steele's a good guy, and I had even signed up to write speeches for him. But then he slipped in is old team--the ones who indeed kowtow to Karl Rove. And, in Rovian style, they come up with these silly Hollywood PSA style commercials. Better to gloss over his party ID. And how better to hide the fact that the dude doesn't have any legislative or policy milestones then to have him act like Montel Williams on camera?

And yes, he's Mike Tyson's ex-brother in law. What were Labor Day barbeques like? Ears (of corn) on the Weber grill? Lithium cole slaw (to keep Tyson's crazy ass from killin' y'all)? Pick-axes in the garage (from the former Dr. Mrs. Tyson's golddigging...apparently she was a fiend for brothas with much cash and little brain...meaning athletes and "contraband marketing representatives").

Still, I'm ambivalent. I'm not a big Ben Cardin fan, either. But hey, I don't want to see a seat enhanced with honor and distinction by Paul Sarbanes (Princeton, of course), go to someone who'll have to (1) learn governing and legislating from scratch and (2) talk like John McCain in public and vote like Clarence Thomas in private. Is that Mike Steele? We just don't know, given these silly-ass commercials.

Enough rants. I must now lay-on, MacDuff...or lay-down, upon my lovely new chair...maybe it's all Much Ado about Nothing. Or maybe yeah, we should beware the Ides of March, and hold these m-fs accountable.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nat's praying & hacking...

"I stopped and looked back. 'Die, God damned your white soul,' I wept. 'Die!'
'Oh Nat please kill me...I hurt so,' I heard her whisper.
The sword fell from my hand..."
--William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner

Welcome to Nat Turner's Revenge...I'll get to the Pope, the mysterious (yes mysterious) freefall of gas prices pre-election, attaching battery cables to "detainees'" scrotums, Uncle Sam bugging your phones a la that Will Smith-Gene Hackman movie, Hugo Chavez, our GOP Governor Bob Erlich actually wailing on the right wing tool who builds voting machines, the new Mayor of D.C., egg fertiliation after age 40, Baltimore, Murderland, black megapreachers in love with George Bush and their hatred of "lezbos & faggots," and those n**gahs in Pittsburgh who tried to smoke the Duquense basketball team after a beef over a girl (and speaking of a girl--is that not typical of that little thug groupie chick who allowed them into a campus party, armed!).

But first I want to hawk our new project, THE DARKER MASK, a collaboration with Chester Himes reincarnated: Gary Phillips. Tor Books bought it after Doubleday just didn't quite understand what we were doing and "how to market it." More on the arcane publishing industry later.

Comic/graphic novel lovers, mystery lovers, sci fi lovers, gamers, bloggers, ballers, cellblock maulers--tell me what you think. It'll be out right after Christmas in January, 2008...close to the date of my new historical novel, YELLA PATSY'S BOYS.

This is what's running in Publisher's Weekly and Black Issues Book Review
"Trade paper of original adventure stories, illustrated by the most EXCITING young artists of our time in that old "pulp" retro style...recounting the derring-do, the triumphs, the failures of beings we call SUPER HEROES. They are regular folk. They are swaggering adventurers. They protect the weak. They are the weak--invisible, poor, alone, despised. Mowing lawns, hemming clothes. Sweating in factories, suffering drug rehab. Reluctant Gods, perhaps? Yet they share one thing beyond extraordinary powers. They wear...

...The Darker Mask"

Our authors are: Walter Mosley Tananarive Due Steven Barnes Naomi Hirahara Eric Jerome Dickey Peter Spiegelman Mike Gonzalez Jerry Rodriguez "LA" Banks Gar Anthony Haywood Alexandra Sokoloff Ann Nocenti Wayne Wilson Reed Farrel Coleman Dossel Young Victor LaValle Myself & Gary

As "Omar" on The Wire would say: "Now this be some righteous sh*t to fret, son!"